Aggression & Roller Derby – How To Control Your Inner Hulk

If you suddenly turn green and burst out of your clothes at the slightest perceived insult or mistake, you may have noticed that, afterwards, your performance is effected. You may also find that, after your Hulk-out, you feel guilty and ashamed for being a D-bag to your teammates.

As we discussed before, roller derby is a fast paced, aggressive game so emotions run high and adrenaline gets pumping, so it’s not surprising that the odd F-bomb gets dropped or that we occasionally raise our voices to above Ladylike Level.

And, as we know, controlled, channelled aggression can be a really good thing for sport!

In fact, being prone to Hulk smashes generally doesn’t mean that you’re an asshole, it usually means that you are highly competitive and that you really care about the outcome of the game or scrimmage. So don’t feel bad about it, just learn to control and use that passion.

However, chronic rage isn’t productive for anyone, it doesn’t help you or your team and can make you look unprofessional and unsportswomanlike!

Rawwrrr, so angry!

Uncontrolled Aggression – The Enemy Within

When you have uncontrolled anger and aggression, it can have physiological and psychological effects on you, here are just a few:

  • Tight muscles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tunnel vison
  • Inability to focus
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaking

As you can imagine, not being able to focus and tight muscles is not going to be very helpful in a sport that requires fast reactions and tough, physical contact! Having uncontrolled anger is like playing with an extra offensive blocker on the opposing team constantly trying to pummel you!

Being Angry Is a Choice

Anger is not about what happens to you, it’s about how you choose to react to things. Anger is what happens inside your head, not what happens on the track or in your car! Chronic Ragers (I might trademark that) usually have negative thought habits formed by repeating negative thoughts over and over. Being angry becomes the default response, a knee jerk reaction, it becomes automatic.

BUT  you can change these automatic thought patterns and learn to use that anger productively on the track.

I'm so scary!

Controlling The Red Mist

  • Look for the signs – learn what things make you get angry and, if you can’t avoid these situations, change how you think about them. Positive mantras can help here such as, “I am calm and focussed!” instead of “Jesus Christ what the hell his her problem, I want to punch her in her stupid face!” 
  • Use your words – communicate – in a appropriate way – that you are angry. This doesn’t mean flipping out in a massive hissy fit but speak to that person, at an appropriate time, and explain what the problem is. Be careful not to rant too much to friends as this can bring your teamies down and foster a negative environment. Get it out then let it go but try to end on a positive note.
  • Take a deep breath – if you can feel your rage-mometer rising, close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale slowly imagining all of the anger disappearing with your breath. Resetting your breathing can help you focus on the task at hand rather than that shitty call from the ref.
  • Let it go – most things are just not worth getting stressed about. Figure out what is really important and everything else, just LET IT THE HELL GO.
  • Preempt the stressor – if you can anticipate the things that might piss you off, you can prepare yourself to deal with them. For example, having a plan to get out of that situation or a mantra you can repeat to yourself or even just taking a deep breath and smiling.
  • Give yourself and others a break – if you are a Type A perfectionist, your rage might stem from not meeting your crazy high standards. Realise that you aren’t Stefanie Mainey (yet) and even she makes mistakes from time to time. You and your teammates are both doing your best and you are allowed to make mistakes because, guess what, you aren’t a roller derby robot! If you don’t ever make a mistake you can’t learn from it which means you can’t improve. Ergo, mistakes make you better!
  • Accept it and let it go – Bad ref calls happen, accidental elbows to the face are gonna happen, people will shout at you, it’s roller derby! You have to realise that shit happens and the only control you have over it is how you react to it. You can’t change it or stop it so accept it and let it go!
  • Use the Rage Monster for good – So that girl keeps back-blocking you and the ref keeps missing it and you are bubbling with rage. Bottle that anger up, drink it in and decide to use that energy to play better, sprint faster or hit harder. It will make winning all that sweeter.
  • Understand your enemy – Realise that the other team are there to try and win too, they’re going to be doing everything they can to gain advantage, including trying to make you lose your cool! The majority of illegal hits aren’t intentional, people aren’t trying to specifically target you, to them you are just The Enemy and if it seems like they’re picking on you it’s because it’s strategically beneficial to their team. In fact, if they do seem to be targeting you, take it as a compliment as you are obviously a threat to them! Now you know their thought process you can rethink your game plan.
  • Flip reverse it – if someone is gobbing off at you or laying pointless hits on you, don’t react with anger, react with pleasure as that means that SHE has lost it, her Hulk has taken over and all of those enemy-within effects have taken hold. Time to take advantage!

Hopefully these tips will help you to control and use your aggression to your benefit. Go out there and kick legal, controlled, ass!

Further reading: If you’d like to learn more about error focussed practice and what it really takes to make a superstar sports person, I highly recommend buying this book – Bounce: The Talent Myth by Matthew Syed. It really made me think differently about how I train and made me believe that, if I put in the practice, I can achieve a lot!


derby brain mental toughness for freshies

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