Improve You Derby Mindset: Adapt, Reject, Add

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is not and add what is specifically your own.”

Have you ever heard that quote from Bruce Lee? It’s a really great quote that I think can be applied to SO much of life, including… roller derby!

There is A LOT of information about roller derby out there. Off-skates training, mental toughness books and programs, a million videos on different skills…

It can sometimes feel like you need to be doing all of it otherwise you won’t improve or you aren’t a serious athlete.You need to do crossfit at 6am every day, spend at least 2 hours a day on skates, practice visualisation for an hour every day…

It is overwhelming and confusing and can be just way too much on top of practice, games and everything that comes with being part of a team.

Take mental toughness for example, I wrote a book all about it and its full of different elements and strategies for improving your mental game from setting goals to meditation to changing your self-talk. Reading it, you might get the impression that you need to do everything in order to improve your mental game and if you don’t, you’ll never be mentally tough!

But that is not true at all. Not everything works for everyone and some things will even be detrimental.

More isn’t always better

For example, last year I was all over journaling and mental prep for games – I was writing down goals, writing out pre-game mantras, using my journal to visualise and basically trying my best to be a Good Athlete and take this mental prep thing seriously.

The problem is had the exact opposite of the intended effect. Instead of taking away my nerves is made me feel MORE anxious and completely drained my energy before I even hit the track. I felt more pressure than ever and if the game didn’t go the way I hoped or it didn’t feel like I expected it to, I would lose it.

If you have anxiety, you’ll know that we are essentially over-thinkers… well all the mental prep I was doing was like over-thinking on steroids!!

The pressure and anxiety I created for myself completely robbed me of enjoyment and contributed greatly to my mini roller derby breakdown I had at the end of last season.

New season, new goals

So, this year, my aim is to essentially not think about the game until I absolutely have to. I need to save my energy for the game and not waste it feeling nervous and I do this by not thinking about it at all!

That’s not to say I am not preparing at all – I have mental contingencies for if things go to shit on game day,  I use visualisation before I warm up to get my head in the game, I’m watching footage to get a feel for the other team. But in general I am trusting that the work myself and my team are putting in at practice will show up on game day.

My only goal is to be calm and focused and from there, the rest will follow.

All of this is to demonstrate that you have to find what really works for you, not just doing it because someone told you to or because you need to be the “perfect” athlete.

But how do you know what works for you?

Well you have to test it, experiment and collect the results somehow.

How that manifests itself will vary:

If you’re doing a new off-skates program, pay a lot of attention to your energy levels at practice and during games. Do you feel sluggish or spritely? If you’re a jammer, are you seeing more or less success? Perhaps you can use game stats or feedback from your coaches.

What about your mental toughness work? Pay attention to your arousal levels. Do you feel focused or over excited? Do you feel calm or stressed? Do you feel energised or drained?

Your own personal sweet spot will differ from others – some people need to be fired up and get the adrenaline pumping, but for someone else that might mean they get reckless and end up getting loads of penalties (Hi, that’s me!)

What should you be working on skills-wise? There are fundamentals that everyone should probably be doing: We all need good edge work and track awareness…. But is working on loads of toe stop agility beneficial for you right now? It might be fun to do but is it actually going to make you a better player in the position you play?

Just because your favourite skater does it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for you.

If your aim is to become a better skater, then you should only be doing things that genuinely help you improve and if it doesn’t, throw it in the bin! Simplify and distil everything until you’re only left with what works for you.

It’s equally as important to collect lots of sources of information as it is to discard or reject what doesn’t work for you. Each source will have their own unique twist or technique and you can pick out what works and throw away what doesn’t. And what’s left over will be what is uniquely you.

Learning is never one-size-fits-all

We are all unique and come with a whole range of quirks – physically, mentally and emotionally – so we must absorb what’s useful, reject what is not and add what is specifically our own.


P.S This video was originally made for the Derby Strong group & leads really nicely into the recent guest post Prime for Iron Octopus Fitness did for us! Come and join us to watch the video and find out more.