Zombies ate my… bout day
So a couple weeks ago I played my first bout with the new league. I’m on the (bteam) team. I was really excited, like I always am before a bout, but also feeling quite uneasy about what the experience might be like with a new team. I don’t get nervous before bouts anymore, I’m a pro like that, but I had apprehensions about what to expect. In my previous league, we had a plan, we had direction. It was CLEAR. Not so much with the new team. Why? Not sure. I can’t really understand why they do some of the things they do. I’ve not really asked the right people perhaps. So, here’s where my confusion is coming from.
Old league bout prep looked like this:
Upcoming bout is announced. We do some reconnaissance, asking other leagues what they know, search YouTube, draw from previous experience playing that team. We assess what our short comings are and what our strengths are. Then we work on a custom plan or just use the strategy that we know works for us. We work together. We work hard. We don’t give each other a break, we go all out at practice. We scrimmage every practice (for 30-60 min). We keep track of major penalties, we use a penalty box, we use refs. We go into the facility on the day of the bout and we huddle. We talk about what the plan is. We get pumped up. We kill it on the track. We put in the best players, utilizing everyone on the bench but some a lot more than others. We get it. We want to win. If you suck, you don’t have the same playing privileges as someone else. Guess what?! Makes you want to kill it at practice to prove you can be more of an asset to your team. Makes you want to work harder. Makes you want to be one of the key peeps. Anything wrong with that? Nope.
New League bout prep looked like this:
Upcoming bout is announced. We all say yay. We talk about how fun it’s going to be. We talk about who made the roster. We talk about what color jersey we’re wearing. We talk about skating surface. We continue practice like normal. We don’t have a strategy, plan, or know anything about the other team. (Keep in mind this is from the perspective of sock monkey who has only skated with this team for a month and a half.) We don’t work on special skills that involve other team’s or what they might do. We just do our thing…. Skrills, weaving drills, endurance, and other things that have positive but minimal impact on how this bout will go down. We take it easy on each other. Only use a percentage of your hitting strength. Concentrate on chest blocks instead of the ever so popular shoulder checks. Use practice time to execute drills that involve lots of perfectly planned and controlled skills. Show up to the game facility and have a team stretch. Warm up time is spent doing silly weaving drills. No pep talk. No game plan. No togetherness.
Don’t get me wrong…. No one is perfect. You cannot have it all. But this is derby, people!!! Get with it! It’s a team sport. We will only work well together if we feel together.
We lost. Bad. Like World Cup epic bad. It sucked. I got mad. I laid out a couple jammers. I was growling. I was NOT happy. I was embarrassed. I was truly embarrassed. Was I the best player on the team? No. Was I super almighty derby chick? Nope. Did I do my best the whole game? Probably not. It just wasn’t jelling for me. I wasn’t feeling it.
I was reflecting on this game, why I didn’t feel it. Why it sucked. Why I have not been back to practice since then…. Those are loaded questions. In my state of reflectiveness or whatever, I did think about other times I played bouts when I was new to the team. I then compared them to this experience. My first bout ever, was an invitational mash up bout. I had just passed or was about to pass skills when I signed up. I remember having a bit of communication with the league president, Red. She was encouraging and made me feel like part of the group even before I ever met her. I drove the 2 hours up to that town with my family. We ate at the big Texan and drove down Route 66. Super psyched, I showed up to the fairgrounds ready to get my first bout ever under my belt. I was greeted by friendly volunteers that checked my name off, told me where our ‘locker room’ was and informed me that I would hear later if I was a white or black. I brought both colors just in case. At this time I’d been skating for about 3 months. I was super duper newb. I was also still super duper shy monkey. It took a bit, but I eventually talked to some other girls, asked them where they were from and how long they had been skating. (not really conversation, just wondering how badly I was going to be beat up…hehe.) I met chicks from East Texas, West Texas, and New Mexico. Once I was placed on a team, we talked about what we knew about the opposing team, what our strategy was, what positions we played best, and if we jammed. It was fantastic. I LOVED my first bout. I was on the winning team (YAY!) and learned soooo much. At one point, I was so oblivious, the jammer was on my right and I was looking left, that Red picked me up and threw me at the opposing jammer. It was epic. I fell. I got sent to the box. It was derby. At any rate, I had a great time, didn’t know these girls before I showed up, by the end I knew what each one was good at where they played best, and how I could play with them to make a good team. Some I’ve met and played with again on occasion, but most I haven’t. BUT if I did, I’d remember them. My LONG winded point here is that I didn’t feel that. I’ve played in many many many mash up bouts with all sorts of skaters from all over the globe and I have never felt so out of my element, disconnected. Weird.
How do we fix it?
I don’t really know. Leadership? Team building activities? More scrimmaging? I don’t really know. I do know that something has to give. I don’t want the next bout I play in to be another episode from the twilight zone. My first plan, is to have a sit down with the training committee and see if I can get some feedback. See if I’m the only one (I’m the problem) or if this is an actual problem that needs addressing. I’m happy to help make things better, always.