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Published on January 25th, 2012 | by Brianasaurus


Coachability: Doing Your Part

Roller derby attracts strong women – athletically and emotionally. Many of us don’t naturally or easily respect authority figures. Some of us, me included, even border on insubordination from time to time.

Off the track, I am an educated woman who is professionally a consultant and instinctively a control freak. As a teen, I was never one of those popular girls and, like many other derby girls I’ve met, lack a history of lasting female friendships. My controlling nature is a protective mechanism to keep me safe from the unexpected and those proverbial “mean girls” of the past. Professionally, I am a subject matter expert, always in control and expected to confidently think on my feet. Nearly every facet of my life happens on my own terms. This controlling nature has generally served me well – I have a successful career, I have a keen sense of observation (if you’re going to control the world around you, you have to be acutely aware of it) and I blaze trails professionally. These same defenses, however, have not served me well when it comes to being coached in roller derby.

After struggling with my first coach’s approach, I conducted some self-analysis, and have come up with some key points that allow me to be easier to coach without sacrificing the control.

Learning Style – Rollergirls come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Each coach is responsible for helping players individually find a way to play at their maximum potential. With so many learning styles, the coach is challenged to determine whether a player learns best by demonstration, explanation or repeated one-on-one instruction. Understanding and communicating your own learning style will take the guesswork out for the coach and help to set proper expectations for you during training.

Rapport & Trust – There’s seldom enough time in the lives of derby girls. Whether you naturally share hobbies or despise that some believe every practice has an “after party,” it’s important to make time to spend with your coach and teammates off the track. This assists in building trust and rapport. Your coach doesn’t need to know every facet of your life nor do you need to know which skater is the favorite. Shared experiences, however, build a trust that affirms a shared belief in common goals.

If you can recall that afternoon you rang bells together over the holidays or the time you road-tripped to another league’s bout, you will have stories and laughs that create benefit of the doubt when the coach later pushes you too far or makes a decision you don’t agree with. In reverse, if you find it impossible to give 100% at practice, for any reason or circumstance, it helps for your coach to have an idea of who you are in order to avoid earning a reputation of being a “half-asser.”

Soft Skills – It is your coach’s responsibility to know the game and help you positively progress in skill. The biggest parts of roller derby, however, can’t be taught by a coach and are your responsibility: Dedication, Patience and Attitude.

Dedication to individual goals, league goals and the sport of roller derby is something that will carry you beyond a frustrating practice, a bruised tailbone or missed block.

Attitude is the difference between a good and bad practice. Most of us joined derby because it looked fun. Some of the practices during which I struggled the most are my favorites because my attitude was upbeat and I was determined to have fun. Attitudes, positive or negative, are contagious on the track.

Patience will become your most needed soft skill – especially if you’re new on skates like me. On the track, we must appreciate our individuality and avoid the trappings of comparison. Without patience in your own learning process, it’s easy to see only excellence in others and failure in ourselves, resulting in washing out. Patience allows me to capitalize on my strengths, baby step through my struggles and celebrate each success.

Being mindful of these concepts has nearly eliminated my internal power struggle. It’s unrealistic to expect a coach to understand the baggage we walk in the door with and equally unrealistic for us to divorce ourselves of our pasts. Taking responsibility for your emotions, needs and goals will allow your coach to meet you in the middle and ensure shared success.

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