Sep 182014
 

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You play roller derby. You’re probably kind of a badass. You probably like skating fast, hitting people, and you probably don’t mind the smell of stinky pads. You probably have strong thighs and a killer ass. You are probably 110% dedicated to this sport and love it with every part of your soul.

Rad. I can get down with that.

You probably also have intensely tight hips. Like when you try to sit cross-legged, your knees come up to your shoulders. You probably also have some thing going on in your neck that you can’t quite put your finger on, but sometimes it hurts in your jaw or shoulder, too.

You might have problems concentrating when you’re body isn’t moving really fast. You might not dig sitting still. You might not really want to deal with your lower back pain unless it involves loud music and sweat.  You might need yoga.

But, you might be dubious about yoga. You might think it’s for waify chicks who get manicures and watch the Lifetime network.

It’s not.

Yoga is for people who want to have healthy long-term relationships with their bodies and minds. Yoga is for people who want to feel better, physically and emotionally. Yoga is for people who want to learn to find concentration and motivation in the midst of chaos.

What I’m saying, rollergirl (‘scuse me, rollerperson), is that yoga might be for you. It might be for you, not just as a regular person, but as an athlete. Because I know you want to know, here are some ways that yoga can help your game:

You can touch your toes, maybe just not yet.

You can touch your toes, maybe just not yet.

1. Flexibility. The number one reason people tell me they “can’t do yoga” is because they “aren’t flexible.” That’s like saying you can’t wash your car because it’s too dirty. Flexibility is a skill like any other. You have to learn it and practice it. Unlike some other skills, like say knitting, flexibility can help you become a better player. Muscles that aren’t in a constant state of contraction (tension) are more responsive. Relaxed muscles work when you tell them to because they aren’t already busy doing nothing. With increased flexibility, you may find that your skating improves in ways you didn’t know were possible because your muscles are available to do what you ask them to when you ask them to.

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There is no spoon, people.

2. Focus. The second reason people tell me that they can’t do yoga is because they can’t focus. So, um, you can’t focus when you practice yoga but you are a single-pointed concentration machine when you’re on the track? No. Either you know how to control your brain or you don’t. Sure, the faster your body moves the more your brain will tune out external stimuli, but eventually your body will get used to the speed of the pack and the noise in the warehouse. And that’s good, because it means that your body is no longer in fight or flight mode when you’re playing and you then have the ability to become an intelligent player. But only if you can focus. I watch so many skaters with solid skills get that deer-in-the-headlights look and start making the same mistakes over and over. Why? Because they can’t focus. They look around the pack and they know what’s happening, probably, but their processing speed isn’t quick enough and their response time suffers. What you need is Matrix-like responsivity. You have to be totally in tune with the pack and the game and your body and be able to know what you need to do almost before you need to do it. That takes intense focus, and either you have it and you can turn it on and off at will, or you don’t have it at all.

Be the girl no one can knock down. Not even Krissy Krash.

Be the girl no one can knock down. Not even Krissy Krash.

3. Balance. I could talk about this on a metaphorical level, but I won’t. Being a good skater takes crazy balance. Balance (for skating) takes core strength and ankle stability. The thing is that unless you are always skating in really good form, you aren’t developing your core or your ankle strength. You’re using what you already have and probably learning bad, inefficient habits. The gym can help, but if you aren’t working out in a dynamic way, then you aren’t practicing using your strength in the way that you need to in order use it when you’re skating. Yoga makes you practice using your core to do things you would usually use other muscles to do (like taking up some of the duty in lifting your leg for a crossover). Sit ups will give you muscles, but they will not give you practice using them in a practical way.

4. Strength. I know that the cultural image of a yogi is of a skinny white girl, but most of us don’t look like that. I have thick thighs, a solid ass, and my shoulders are pretty broad for my size. I have an athletic yoga practice and therefore I have an athletic build. I don’t play sports anymore, but I am strong because I am constantly lifting my own body weight, and the more I lift it, the heavier it gets.

Also, a lot of yoga relies on eccentric muscle contractions, which means that your muscles are contracting and being lengthened at the same time. In sports, this kind of activity is called negative training. It’s hard and, in the short term, it hurts because your muscle fibers are always tearing. But in the long term your muscles are rebuilt longer and your muscles become more effective. Eccentric contractions are about 25% more powerful than other kinds of muscle contractions and they lead to finer motor coordination. Power and coordination, isn’t that what it takes to be a great skater?

Oh, look who's not freaking out. As usual.

Oh, look who’s not freaking out. As usual.

5. Calm. I saved this one for last because I think it’s the most important. Is there anything more valuable? People who have a real sense of calm are almost never freaking out. They don’t yell at the refs and they don’t get in fights with other skaters. They don’t freak out when they lose and they don’t freak out when they win. They are able to take what they’ve learned from each game and process it into usable material for the next game. They don’t waste time beating themselves or other people up. Calm people are trustworthy and reliable. They are not the people pushing themselves to the front of the line to become leaders, they are the people you choose to be leaders.

How does yoga teach you to be calm? That’s another mental game. If you spend a lot of time on your mat dealing with yourself you start to notice your personal patterns of thought and habit. Eventually you become aware of you emotional reactions in a way that allows you to predict them and observe them with some degree of objectivity. Once you do that, you have the freedom to pick and choose your responses to things based on how effective their outcomes will be instead of basing your reactions on how you feel in one split second.

 

Here’s the deal. I want to help you be a better skater. I’m retired, but I love roller derby and I want to contribute to the sport. If you live in or near New Orleans, I’m giving a workshop on Yoga & Roller Derby starting September 27th. It’s cheap and all your friends will be there.

If you don’t live in New Orleans and you want to help me think of a way to bring Yoga for Roller Derby to your team or league, email me at duncan.tracey@gmail.com or hit me up on Facebook.  I’d love to help.

If you want to know more about me and my classes, check out my yoga site, More Yoga, Less Bullshit.

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Confidence

 Posted by at 4:10 pm  No Responses »
Oct 182011
 

Buster-Skull-roller-derby-130104706596980000I am a confident person. I am confident in my abilities as a skater, as a leader, as a worker, and in all aspects of my life. I was taught to always do my best and take pride in everything that I do. That confidence is my source of motivation. I know that I am capable of great things, I expect great things from myself, and I work hard to accomplish great things. I recognize and seek out areas for improvement as a skater and in all my roles.

Webster’s defines confidence as belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing. The issue is that many people confuse confidence with conceit. Self-confidence is necessary. However, you have to have confidence in others as well as yourself. You have to believe in your own capabilities an in others’, especially as a member of a team.

Over the years, I have been accused of being conceited, but never by anyone who knows me well. I suppose it is still my fault if I project an air of arrogance, but I truly don’t feel that I do. When I see myself, I view myself as strong and capable. I love what I see when I look in the mirror. If that were the only thing that I said, you might think I’m arrogant. But when I see others, I love them too. I know that sounds like bullshit, but it’s true.

I work as a physical therapy tech and recently I had a patient who was incredibly inspiring. I spoke to her for a solid hour about her love for everyone. She works in maintenance at a geriatric health care facility. To some people that is just a job, just a paycheck. But, she told me that when she comes in contact with someone, she makes a difference in their day. She may only see them for a moment while she is sweeping their floor or changing their linens, but in that moment she brightens their day. She greets everyone with a warm smile and opens a conversation. She takes pride in what she does. If her own mother were at an inpatient facility, she would want everyone there to treat her well, and so she recognizes the importance of what she does.

As a physical therapy tech, I could go through the motions and get by without putting my best into what I do. But, I would never do that. It might seem insignificant to ask a patient how their weekend was, or give them a sincere compliment, but I know that what I do matters. Maybe no one has asked them about their weekend, maybe something really significant happened and they simply want to share with someone. By being that person who asks I have made a difference and I take great pride in that.

My inspirational patient told me that she sees everyone as beautiful. She reminded me to be kind to those who are unkind because they need it the most. Love and confidence may not seem to go hand in hand initially, but they do. To appear confident rather than conceited, we have to remember that there is something to love in everyone. It is hardest to see in people who don’t see that in themselves, but that is when it’s crucial.

Someone who lacks confidence will not take pride in what they do, they may feel insignificant. I would imagine that going through life feeling unhappy with yourself would make you at least somewhat unpleasant. It might be challenging to smile at someone walking by with a scowl on his face, but he is the one who needs to see your smile! That small gesture is a reminder that you see good in them even when they can’t see it.

Of course, there are some people who have confidence in themselves and not in others. Those are the ones who are especially difficult to reach. My personal example of this is a “good old boy,” an older, country raised man who thinks that he knows better than I do about everything because of his upbringing, years of experience, and possibly because he’s a man. He’s not alone. We have all encountered arrogant people. What makes them arrogant is that they have a falsely high opinion of their own abilities and a low opinion of others’. These people don’t seek out areas for self-improvement and they don’t see the good in others.

I’ve learned recently that the best way to approach these people is with the same sincerity as you do others.  Don’t allow arrogant people to cause you to lose site of the good things that are within each person. It may seem counter-productive to look for good in someone who only sees good in himself, but if you don’t you will become him. As challenging as it is, you have to maintain your ability to believe in him. You may never change that person, but they may end up having confidence in you and that is a start.

If you only believe in yourself and not in others, than you are arrogant. If you only believe in others and not yourself, than others will doubt you. You’ll encounter people who struggle with one or the other, or with both. Don’t lose your confidence- you have to believe in yourself and in others, especially when it’s challenging.

As part of a team, especially in roller derby, you have to trust your teammates. If you’re playing defense and you doubt the person you are in a wall with, what happens? You leave them and try to hold the jammer on your own, or you overcompensate and end up leaving a space for the jammer to slip through. If you had trusted your partner’s abilities, whatever they might be, then you would have been better off. If I am in a wall with a brand new girl at practice, I will probably tell her to hold the inside line and guard it with her life then I’ll play defense on the outside and help keep our wall protected. If the jammer is coming up and my partner has left some space on the inside line, I will move her to where she needs to be. If my partner misses the jammer and I don’t have time to re-trap then we’ll just reset and adapt for the next pass. It is okay to be realistic about her abilities, but the point is that I don’t jump the gun and leave her. Instead, I work with her; I know that she has the potential to be a strong member of my team, but not if I don’t give her every opportunity to learn.

As a jammer, I have to be confident in my abilities. When I line up, I see the first holes that I am going to take and I take them. If they close up, I am ready to find another way, or fight through. I am confident that I will get by each of the opposing blockers, and I am confident that my blockers will be able to hold the other jammer so I can get through before she does. As soon as I doubt that, I hesitate. Any jammer can tell you that if you hesitate when you get to the back of the pack you may end up stuck. If you doubt your abilities you give them enough time to wall up in front of you.

An important thing to remember about confidence on and off the track is that it has to be realistic. If I know that I am going up against a solid wall, I don’t doubt whether I can do it, I simply adjust my plan. Maybe I’ll need one person to start on offense to get me through, maybe I’ll need to keep fighting through while my blockers stay on defense, the point is that I won’t back down. For most people, especially new athletes, the problem isn’t being falsely sure of their abilities, it is the looming self-doubt that comes with being new to anything. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about the realistic part. Just know that you can’t fly through a wall of solid blockers just because you are confident. That is called a back block.

Everyone on your team will have both strengths and areas for improvement (including you) but play to the strengths! Remember that off the track you’re a team with everyone in the world; it’s just a much larger playing field!

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