Tomorrow will be the first game of 2016 for my team. It is also the first game with our new line up.
This is a bit of a weird situation to be in – half the team have been bouting for 3 or 4 years and for the other half, this will be their first open game!
It’s made me think about my first game – I don’t actually remember much about it except being ridiculously nervous. In fact, most of my first year of games are a blur of nerves and low blocks! I want my new teammates to remember their first game with pride so here are my top 10 tips for my new teamies (and everyone else) for their first bout!
- Be prepared. Get all of your kit ready the night before, pack your bag, lay out your uniform including socks and underwear. Make sure all your essentials like spare laces, lip balm or skate tools are already in your bag. Basically make the morning of your bout as stress-free as possible!
- Eat all the food! Drink all the water! Even though it might be a struggle due to nerves, make sure you get a good breakfast loaded with carbs and protein. You don’t want to run out of energy mid-game! Hydrate the day before and keep sipping water regularly before the game, nerves and exertion will dehydrate you fast! Make sure you replenish your energy post-bout with lots of protein to repair your muscles.
- If in doubt, find a friend. If you get out on track and feel totally lost, find a friend! Two blockers are stronger than one and she can support and guide you and use you to stop that jammer. Be useful to your friend and support her, cover lanes and communicate where the jammer is!
- Don’t try to do it all. Just focus on doing one thing; there will be so much going on your head will be in a spin so just concentrate on one specific thing – keeping your lane, communicating, bridging. Setting one goal will give you a much better sense of achievement once the game is over.
- Practice jamnesia. Last jam didn’t go so well? Forget about it. Got upset by a ref call? Wipe it from your memory. Live in the moment and focus on the task in hand instead of worrying about what just happened.
- Use your ears. Listen for your bench coach when you’re on the track, he knows whats happening behind and in front of you. Listen to your teammates as you are waiting on the bench, they’re discussing the plan! Listen for your jammer, she might be behind you. Listen to your blockers, they might be doing offence for you!
- Reality check. At the time it can feel like a life or death situation, making you feel extremely nervous and stressed and scared. You start thinking, “Why has the coach asked me to play? I’m just here to make up numbers! I’m useless, I can’t do this! I’m not ready!!” Remember, this is just a game. It’s what you’ve been training for so you know what to do. Your coaches obviously think you’re ready so believe them!
- If it helps, break it down. When I first started bouting, to deal with my nerves I would break the bout down into chunks. “It’s one hour of my life, I can do that. I’ll at most play 11 jams a half, thats 22 minutes max but probably less. I can do that. I just need to get through these 30 seconds, I can do this. ” Chunking the game made it seem less scary and more manageable. You train for much longer than you are ever on track in a real life game so, believe, you can do this!
- Its a learning experience. No one is expecting you to go out on your first game and be Bonnie Thunders. Every game is a learning experience, no matter what level you’re at. Whatever the result is, win or lose, use it as an opportunity to learn what you do well, what you need to work on and what you want to acheive.
- HAVE FUN. You haven’t trained this hard and put in this many hours to be miserable! Enjoy every second because and hour absolutely flies by! And you won’t be able to play roller derby forever so make sure you squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of every single moment. Be fucking proud that you made it this far and that this bout is the first of many.
Now go out there and KICK ASS!