Archive for February, 2009
This topic came up on the Roller Derby Coaches yahoo group. I’m amazed (not really) how quickly coaches are ready to drop this brand of skater.
I’ve successfully turned some low self-esteem skaters around. As with all ‘problem’ skaters, the solution lies in taking the time to talk with the skater, identify the underlying issues they have, really listening, and addressing those issues.
The low self-esteem skater likely has issues that are not directly related to derby and probably the biggest pile of non-derby crap weighing on their potential success. It will take a while to find the one or two issues that really need to be addressed but the time invested will be worth it, not just for the individual skater but the team. EVERYONE can rally behind the underdog succeeding – more than any star’s success.
The low self-esteem skater will likely act out when confronted and it will be uncomfortable. I come from the school of thought that everyone has something to contribute to the team – and derby is a fantastic place to figure out what that is.
My favorite story is from a skater who was really quite resistant to skating and was thinking about reffing – a train of thought I despise because I firmly believe refs must be the BEST skaters, not derby ‘rejects’. She was angry watching fresh meat pass her by – not just on our team but on her team before. I think she thought changing teams might help her – but attitude of the team alone is never enough. She was angry with me for a bunch of things and one particular e-mail rant she wrote to me “I’m tired of not being respected as a skater” all in relation to how much other work she did for the league for which she felt she was getting no respect.
I printed that e-mail out and said we had to talk – which we did, one on one after a league meeting. I apologized for and clarified the things she was angry at me over – none of which were really real, but it helped put her at ease. Then I got her e-mail out. She was floored I had her e-mail. I said “There’s a statement here I want to address. You say you feel you don’t feel respected as a skater.”
After a moment for that thought to just sit there between us I put it right on the line “I think the person who respects you least as a skater is you. It starts with YOU. If you respect yourself as a skater, then others will too. When you’re out on the track, you’re timid. You come to the track with all these fears – fears you don’t seem to have off the track. Clearly you can grow some and speak up – so skate like that. Yes, you’re going to fall. Yes, you’re going to get hurt. But being timid will only make you fall more and get hurt worse. So get your ass out there and be the skater you want people to see.”
It worked wonders. At the end of practice our trainer actually went up to her and said “I don’t know what got into you, but I’ve never seen you skate like that before.” Made me proud, because mine was not an easy speech to give.
If a team, and most especially a coach, lets on to the rest of the team that cutting someone loose because they are “uncoachable” is the solution, it will slowly eat away at the team. There will always be the question lingering “am I next?” The team can handle one or two of those, but it will always leave scars. I hate to generalize, but women are catty enough usually to blame others for the team’s shortcomings and will accept jettisoning one or two skaters better than a team of men ever would.
It takes a lot – money, desire, time, self-image – to get ones self to the first roller derby practice. To return a second time means all those huge personalities didn’t scare you away. If a skater is doing that, then there’s something there and it should be up to the coach and the team to find out what they can do to contribute and make them part of the team. Teams that do that are the best teams in the world – teams with heart, not stars.