Apr 282010

So this week, I wanted to talk about distraction. And then here comes Heidi Volatile with her post on the same subject, and Tank Goodness, according to her comment on said article, waiting in the wings with another post about the challenges of maintaining focus when non-derby life is a mess. We’ve all  sort of showed up to the party in the same dress here, but I guess I should find it heartening that we, as teammates, are on the same wavelength.

But back to distraction, right. Let’s go ahead.

Last weekend, RSRD played Auburn, Alabama’s Burn City Rollers. Now, this is a team that I really, REALLY wanted to beat. They were my first opponents ever, when they hosted us for their first home bout ever, in the Spring of 2009. RSRD was a scrappy team then; our intense, derby-passionate coach Elton put me on the roster with only five weeks’ experience, and even then we only brought eight girls. Still, we won – my wife, Moxie Balboa, even got a grand slam on her first jam ever. I, however, fell during my intro lap (oh, how it still makes me wince), and felt generally useless. But I had fun, and the Auburn girls were SO incredibly nice – our gifts bags contained all sorts of sweet, handmade things in our team colors (red and black), and the after party was full of warm derby love.

My glorious wife, vs. BCR's Babe E. Quakes. Look at that FACE!

The second time we played Auburn came about six months later, when they came to us. As we had predicted, they were considerably more ferocious this time around, with stand-out performances by Cho Cold (an incredibly fast jammer), Babe E. Quakes (another very solid jammer, a hot blonde with a scary death stare), and G Love (oh god, the pain). The mood was, well, different. The sweet girls we’d seen at their debut bout brought considerably more attitude, and someone called me a c*nt on the track. Now, of course, I understand that things get intense out there, and I actually don’t mind that the epithet was hurled at me, but it allowed me  to drum up a feeling of rivalry towards Auburn. Because, really, I like hitting a bitch as much as the next bitch, but I have to kind of psych myself into it sometimes. That second  game against Burn City was close and dramatic, and although we ended up winning, I think a lot of us wanted to be sure to really give it to them the next time around.

I was thinking of something like this...

Last week I was given the perfect opportunity: a bout against a team I felt especially passionate about beating during a time of emotional, post-breakup fallout. I wanted to HIT. SOME. BITCHES. But when I got out there, my previous mental intensity just didn’t translate into results. For one thing, we had such an all-star roster that we had the luxury of really specializing positions. I discovered the morning of that I would only be jamming. I hadn’t really prepared for this, although if I’d really been thinking about the game in an intelligent manner, I would have predicted just that.

I think I had been so focused on what I wanted out of the game that I had failed to think about what my team really needed from me. And what they needed were some points. Unfortunately, at least in the first half, I failed to deliver them. The stats have yet to come out, but I think I jammed 3-4 times in that first half, for a total of maybe 5 points. I’m positive that I got zero points in my first two jams, and I got so frustrated that I punched the bench. Hard. I could feel all of my mental static and emotional bullshit welling up and threatening to drown me, and I know that my baggage was slowing my feet and blinding me to holes that I should have been able to pushthrough.

In the second half, I managed to do a little better, and at one point, earned much-needed applause with a quick evasion of what could have been a devastating hit by Cuban Crush Her, the last blocker in that pass. Finally, I was playing some derby, and even enjoying it. The game was a nailbiter. and we won by only seven points. My happiness at our victory was tempered by the fact that I felt I should have contributed more points to that lead. As soon as the bout was over, I did my best to celebrate our win, to focus on the success of my teammates and try not to dwell too much on my own performance. But I’m still left with this question: what happened to me in the first half, and how did I manage to fix it, to some degree, in the second?

I think the answer lies in the scope of my focus. In the days prior to the game, I was thinking of myself as an individual, focusing on those big hits I was going to land and how good it was going to feel to just devastate some people with my surplus of energy and frustration. I should have been more focused on my place within RSRD, should have logically analyzed our various strengths and seen that it would be my job (along with our other jammers) to use speed and grace to put those points on the board. Another mistake I made was thinking that once the game began, I would be sharp and focused and unaffected by the sadness I’ve been feeling. When I felt it chasing me down out there, it was like another blocker had jumped onto the track with Burn City. And I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t speeding right past her.

At halftime, I looked around the locker room and got my head together – I saw the faces of my teammates and I wanted to do what they needed me to do. So, in the second half, I was thinking more about making them proud and less about having a cathartic athletic experience, and I was better able to focus on the details that would translate into results. It also helped that they kept putting me back out there despite my poor performance in the first half. Their faith really bolstered my own. In the coming weeks, I hope to work hard in practice and continue to honor that faith.