Published on June 21st, 2012 | by weapon x0
What Does It Take To Be A Good Captain?
By: Weapon X, Dallas Derby Devils
We were very lucky to have Teflon Donna, long time member of the Philly Liberty Belles and also a team member of Team USA. I have looked up to her for a long time. She brings intensity and smarts to every game she plays. She has been leading the Philly team off and on for a few years now. If you haven’t heard of her, research it. She is a great role model for any derby player! Please enjoy her insight on being a Captain, and you can see her in action this weekend at ECDX- Sportsplex in Feasterville, PA!
WX: How long have you been playing roller derby?
TD: I joined the Carolina Rollergirls in August of 2004. So I’ve been playing for about 8 years now.
WX: How long have you been captain of your team?
TD: I’ve captained the Liberty Belles on and off since 2008 – mostly on, but there was a small period in 2010 where I couldn’t juggle the demands of work, school, derby, and captaining.
WX: Can you give the story on how you became the captain?
TD: I’m not sure there is a “story” behind it. I joined the Philly Roller Girls in February 2007. I spent the first year of my derby career with PRG as a skater learning about the operations of the league and the team. I was also led by two excellent captains, Mo Pain and Violet Temper (now goes by Castro). I wouldn’t say during that time that I was a quiet observer, I’m never really quiet. I had been elected to the WFTDA Rules Committee in 2007 and I had always thought very critically about the rules and the game. I think it was my strategic mind as well as the derby skill I had developed over the early stages of my career that led to a nomination for captain in 2008. The cool thing about the way the Philly Roller Girls’ Liberty Belles operate is that our charter is voted on by all eligible league members. The charter then votes for the captains. We have flipped between 2-4 captains to lead the team, currently we have 3 captains and 2 managers. Every time there is a new charter submission, we conduct a new captain vote.
WX: What do you think are important attributes for being a good captain?
TD: There are so many important attributes to being a good captain. The one I would stress the most is that you don’t have all the answers and you aren’t expected to have all the answers. You can’t lead with a mentality that you are always right, but there are situations where you are going to have to make a decision and go with it for the time being and be confident in your decision. Don’t every be afraid to question your decisions – its how you grow as a leader and it helps you make better decisions down the line.
Flexibility is important. The game is constantly changing and what appears like the right strategy in one game, might be the wrong strategy in the next game. Also, in derby you are dealing with teammates that have a background in sports and others that have no background in sports. You have teammates that don’t want to hear what they did well and only want to know how to do it better and then you have teammates that will shed a tear at the first sign that you think they made a mistake.
Just like you never stop learning as a captain you need to encouraging your teammates to remain hungry for the game. Its fun to be on a team among skaters that desire to improve and continue learning and those that think critically about the game, the rules and our opponents.
Ultimately you should lead with confidence and accept that you don’t have all the answers. You should be flexible and you should encourage your teammates to think critically about the game, your opponent, and the rules.
WX: How has being in this leadership role changed your life outside of derby?
TD: I can’t say that this leadership role is solely responsible, but roller derby in general, has showed me that if I’m passionate about something I can acheive anything. I think that’s an important reminder right now as I try to figure out what my next steps are in my career. The diversity of individuals, emotions, and talent that I’ve dealt with as a captain has made me less judgemental of others and if anything makes me want to know more about what makes people tick. Its made me more tolerant of others (at least fake it – and sometimes you have to) and appreciate the small things they offer the team, the league, and/or the community.
WX: From writing lineups to ordering uniforms to comforting a panicked skater to contesting a call to a ref, what do you feel is the hardest part? Favorite part?
TD: The hardest part for me is by far dealing with teammates that have difficulty receiving feedback. Its funny because I was a very emotional athlete when I was younger. I didn’t like to disappoint and was quick to shed a tear when I didn’t do something right. I can only imagine now how frustrating it was for my previous coaches to deal with me.
My favorite part is watching a new skater coming into their own on the team and watching how their enthusiasm for the game and elation of making the team infects the rest of the team. Its fun to watch the veterans find renewed spirit and desire to train when this happens.
WX: The captain must make a great example for her team. How do you mentally prepare for this task?
TD: I’ve learned as I’ve gone and I’ve made plenty of mistakes. It all starts with practice! I approach our league trainings as a way to work on my mental strength as a skater and a captain. There are days when attending practice is the last thing I want to do, but on game day you don’t get the choice to have a game on another day. So on those days I really get to work on my mental strength as a skater and a captain. Also having a good pulse on how your actions and lack of action impact the mental state of the team. As a leader your teammates and leaguemates are always watching you and often relying on your actions to indicated their own actions. The best advice I ever read was to “fake it, until you’ve got it”. That has helped me through a lot of situations when I lack the mental or physical fortitude needed at that moment.
WX: Describe a typical bout day for you as the leader of your team.
TD: As a leader it starts long before bout day. I learned from the team that they enjoy a lot of structure on bout day, but also a little bit of down time to do their own thing. So the captains and management provide, in advance, a schedule for the team letting them know about team meals, meetings, warm-ups, etc.
I’ll usually start the day with a text message to team getting them pumped up, but I also believe it starts getting them to focus on whats ahead. Then its important to me that I get myself ready early on because there may not be time later, but also because its part of my mental preparation. Its not long after that, that its go, go, go for the rest of the day.
WX: Do you have any advice to give skaters thinking about taking on the leadership role for their team?
TD: It’s a very humbling experience. Be prepared to learn a lot about yourself and others. Search out assistance when you don’t know how to deal with a situation. Read about the subject. I’ve read many books about coaching, captaining, and mental training. Get to know your teammates and let them get to know you. It’s much easier to assume good intentions when you have a healthy relationship with your teammates.
WX: Do you have any people that have influenced you along the way?
TD: Definitely my teammates, co-captains, and managers have significantly influenced my leadership skills along the way. It’s their honesty, openness, and enthusiasm for the success of the league and the team that have encouraged me to grow and learn as a captain.
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