Locker Room La Dolce Beater (Photo: Newcastle Roller Girls)

Published on February 20th, 2013 | by La Dolce Beater

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La Dolce Beater (Photo: Newcastle Roller Girls)

The L Word

By La Dolce Beater, Captain of the Whippin’ Hinnies, Newcastle Roller Girls (B-Team)

It is really important not to have a white elephant in the room. They just get in the way of the telly, take up room on the sofa, and force you into a corner of your emotional living room. Confront that Nelly, pack her trunk and send her off with a trumpety-trump, trump, trump, trump.

So let’s talk about losing… We all deal with losing in different ways – mentally, emotionally, physically. But how do we cope with losing as a team and where do we go after a loss?

Losing is always a possibility when you are about to take on tougher challenges. Someone has to lose – we play a competitive sport. There is no second or third place compensation (and even they aren’t first place). We either win or we lose. Yes, the taking part does count, but we all know that winning counts just that little bit more and losing hurts so much! But we want to be challenged, to push ourselves as far as we can, to develop and progress and with that comes the threat of losing. We need to be prepared for a loss and talk about it – how we deal with it on track when we feel points skating away from us, and afterwards when the war paint is washed away. Now I’m not saying that we should go into bouts thinking that we are going to lose. Oh no! We go into bouts as we always do: prepared, ready for the fight, knowing our game, staying strong and focused, enjoying every minute, trusting in our teammates, knowing that so long as we play as a team and to our best abilities then we will come out as winners. Positive Mental Attitude.

Losing is just that your opponents got more points. Maybe they played better, were stronger and faster, or had the tactical edge. Take a moment to think, what does losing mean to you? How do you feel when you lose? Contrary to popular belief, losing is not a mark of inadequacy, or not being good enough – that is just you beating yourself up, killing your confidence and sapping your motivation. We all do it, don’t we? But let’s stop. Losing holds the key to succeeding and winning. Now, take another moment to think about the opportunities that losing allows: reflection, evaluation, motivation, bonding, something to improve, something to prove. So long as you go forward from a loss, so long as you take something from it, so long as you evaluate the loss and learn from it, you will not be defeated by losing – it will become your progression ally.

“While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.” Amen to that, Maya Angelou!

Losing is one thing. There is another feeling that comes from losing, but even that is a way forward. Positivity can be found in failure (there I said it, that damning two syllable word: failure). Failure is about not meeting your goals. Mia Hamm, the amazing USA footballer, wisely said, “Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it”. Think about it, when you get hit to the floor by one of your hardest blockers do you lay there and hang your head in shame or do you get straight back up and keep going with determination? You get straight back up. You succeed. This feeling should carry over into a competitive bout. When a jammer skips by when you looked the other way or when you get stuck behind a wall and repeatedly knocked down or when your opposition has a 100-point lead, you readjust your focus, look to your teammates, change strategy and try so hard to make it different next time. The same applies to afterwards too, when your pads are off and the adrenaline has dropped. Do not be defeated by failure. As the greatest basketball player Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”. Fail, assess, move forward stronger.

How can we overcome our fear of failure, our disappointment in losing? Strategy. A big part of playing derby is the mental game. You have to believe in yourself and in the fact that you have trained to get here. You have to have trust and confidence in your teammates, as they do in you. You have to know that you can do this. You have to wipe away any negative feelings, focus, feel positive, support each other and enjoy. So carry these thoughts when we lose, and especially when we fail. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel disappointed, but I am saying that you should turn that disappointment into positive action.

Keeping your emotions in check
Don’t lose it when you lose! Disappointment, frustration, anger, blaming yourself (or worse, blaming others), overexertion, a crisis in confidence are all emotions that you may face when losing. You may fall into a slump after the loss, but take the time to look at the causes, understand them and make a plan to rectify. If you face these feelings in the middle of a bout, when your opponents are clocking up the points, you will not be an effective player or teammate. George Elliott wrote, “Any coward can fight a battle when (s)he’s sure of winning; but give me the (wo)man who has pluck to fight when (s)he’s sure of losing.” Take a moment, breathe, focus, readjust, regain your pluck and never give up. Try to stay positive. No, stay positive! Accepting loss is part of winning. You may be losing, but you will not fail.

We all make mistakes
There is an old proverb that goes, “do not look where you fell, but where you slipped”. Everyone makes mistakes – FACT. But acknowledging it, taking responsibility and correcting those mistakes is the first step. Think about what went wrong and what you WILL do next time. Take it forward, not backward; otherwise you will end in a perpetual feedback loop of negativity. Create a ‘mistake management’ system. This needs to become an automatic response, so plan it in advance and practice it – take a moment, brush it away, laugh it off, practice focused breathing, or start a ritual, anything to bring you back to your focus quickly. Remember, too, that you are part of a team. You are not alone. Think about the team’s performance (but not the individual’s – they can assess their own) and what the team needs to take forward. Taking things forward is an exciting prospect!

Be gracious in defeat, as you would be in victory
Remember, we do this for fun – it means everything, but ultimately it is fun. Both teams playing that day put everything into their performance. Both teams want to win. Do not be a sore loser, take part in the winner’s celebration. Thank the Refs, the NSOs, your Bench and Line-Up Managers and everyone on the other team – and don’t forget your own teammates! If you played your best, worked on any mistakes you may have made, worked well with your team and had fun, then there is nothing to feel bad about. Park it, enjoy the after party and start work on it tomorrow. No resentment, no bad feelings, just acknowledge the great game and your part in it.

Don’t fear failure
Losing and failure are two different things, but both can have positive outcomes. Change how you view them both. When you lose or when you fail at something think about how you deal with it and take a step back. Look at it holistically, confront and banish those negative feelings. Set out clear, realistic objectives for your performance, for your team’s performance, and set about realising them. So you may not have made it this time, next time is different. Beverly Knight was right when she sang, “shoulda, coulda, woulda were the last words of a fool”. SHOULD DO, CAN DO, WILL DO is your new mantra! Failure is a stepping stone to being better.

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