Published on September 25th, 2014 | by Em Dash1
Em Dash by Hale Yeah
Why Am I Not Improving? AKA: The Plateau
When you first start playing derby, it seems like every practice brings major breakthroughs–from getting lower to learning how to cross over properly to the first time you take a hit and stay standing. So even though it all feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, it seems worth it because you can see and feel yourself getting better.
But after a while, you might find yourself working your butt off but feeling stuck. You just can’t nail that hockey stop and your thighs are bruised with the evidence of your attempts. Every time you think you’re sitting on the jammer, she pulls some tricky move and skips away, or worse–you go to hit her and whiff horribly.
Naturally, you’ll get frustrated, because it seems like you’re putting everything you can into this. You might even wonder if this is it–have you maxed out? What if you can’t get any better than this? Is it all worthwhile?
Take a deep breath. This is totally normal. You’ve hit a plateau.
This is something that happens to skaters at every level of the sport. Sometimes, annoyingly enough, it happens when you’re working your hardest and you feel like you should be seeing the greatest return on your efforts.
But improvement in derby is not linear or predictable, unfortunately. And after the initial stages, once you’ve learned the basics, skills can be really hard, and that’s frustrating. It especially sucks if you’re comparing yourself to other skaters. She skipped practice on Monday–how is she picking up that skill so fast?
Stop comparing yourself to other skaters, ‘cuz that way lies madness. Everyone comes to the sport with a different body, background, and learning style. If you do see a friend who’s totally killing it at a new skill, ask her for tips! She might explain things in a different way than the coach does, which might help things click for you.
Beating the Plateau
Plateaus suck, but there are a few ways to get past them. First, if you’re dog tired and find that you’ve been skating 10 out of the last 11 days, slow your roll and give yourself a night off. See a friend, do some laundry. (If you’ve been skating that much, you probably need to!)
Giving your body and brain a little rest can help you come back to derby fresher, with a better attitude and more energy. And I find that my mind keeps working on a problem while I focus on other things, so sometimes when I return to something that’s been difficult for me, I’ll make a new connection that I wasn’t seeing before.
Try setting small goals for yourself at practice. Don’t set a big goal like “Get awesome at blocking,” and don’t set competitive, achievement-based goals like “Score at least 30 points.” Instead, set small, concrete, achievable goals such as “Get lower in the paceline,” or “Stay with my partners in a wall,” or “Take a breath and reset if I’m knocked out of bounds,” or “Keep my arms tucked against my body when going for a hit.”
When you’re working towards a small, focused goal, it’s easier to notice success and improvement than if you’re thinking about your overall performance. You’re not going to improve your entire game every time you step on the track, but if you make a little progress on a small but important skill each time you skate, pretty soon that will add up to a lot!
Another thing you can do is to ask a coach or a veteran skater that you admire for tips and advice. You probably ARE improving, but it’s hard to see your own improvement. A coach or vet might even offer to watch you for a few practices and give you suggestions. She will be able to see your progress much more clearly than you can.
Finally, focus on having fun. Improvement will come with time. If you’re having fun at practice, you’ll stop noticing the plateau and feeling stressed about it. When you’re least expecting it, you’ll probably rocket forward, and one day soon, you’ll totally nail a skill that you remember struggling with just a few weeks ago.
Excerpted from the book Derby Life: Stories, Advice & Wisdom from the Roller Derby World.
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