Summertime is here, and with it comes warmer weather, beach days, kids home from school, and the midseason drag. Even though many of us still have a month (or more) before we’re out of our “main season” of roller derby, it can be hard to keep the motivation going. If you have been a little less eager to participate in your normal routine, you are not alone. People’s first reaction will be to say, “Just take a break! You deserve it! Relax!” but for those of us who have tournaments and games that play into rankings yet to be played, we know we cannot rest yet. And for those of you with family and friends outside of derby, you’ll know that they will be resistant to the idea that you have to hit the gym instead of the beach. I have been dealing with this mid-season slump for the first time this year, despite a season with my biggest gains. Gains and results should equal motivation, right? “Look how good/strong/fast I am, let’s keep doing it!”; wear and tear on the body and mind are real. But what does the mid-season slump mean? It feels different on everyone. For me, I continue to show up to the gym and to practice, but I have a harder time convincing my muscles to do things. I never feel like I’m firing at 100%. Mentally, I lose track of long-term duties as well. Our coaching group went quiet for three weeks and we didn’t even realize it until someone mentioned it at practice. I also have also been struggling with the feelings of inadequacy, unable to see the forest for the trees, and wondering if retirement is the better choice than continuing to pour in effort. I’m not alone in this one. Friends have said they lose sight of their goals, or they just don’t care what their goals are. They get senioritis of derby. They think of what they’re going to do outside of practice while in practice. I have also heard it described as a simple full body and brain exhaustion. I have been crowdsourcing for the last few weeks to see how other people deal with this, and here are some things we’ve come up with.
Shake up your workout routine
So many of us have a pretty solid workout routine that we go through. I’ve been using the Tactical Barbell program for the last 16 weeks (breaking into 8-week clusters) that incorporate endurance, strength, and conditioning training in progressive units. While this has been a very successful program for me, swapping the gym for the rock wall has got me excited about my workouts again. Finding something new and fun to try as part of your cross-training can give you new vigor for exercise. One of my league mates brought up paddleboard yoga. Even just teaming up with your friends for HIIT workouts, trail skates, or swim days can add a bit of fun into your routine while keeping you focused on goals. If you don’t have a workout routine, that could be part of your problem! Get on one! Going to the gym and “figuring it out” gets tiresome and you’ll never feel like you’re getting any better. Starting a fitness challenge in your league with a pre-made schedule can help everyone stay on the path of strength.
Learn something new
Maybe it’s a language, a craft, or a skill, but learning something new can help your brain stay sharp. While some people might think, “Oh great, something else to work into my schedule,” taking 15 minutes to yourself each day (even if it’s right when you wake up or go to sleep) to do something new for yourself can do loads as far as overall mental health. If your brain is healthy, your motivation will be healthy. Just adding something new in makes life feel a little different sometimes too.
How’s that nutrition plan of yours going? Don’t have one? Get one. Have one but maybe you’ve been slacking on tracking? Create an accountability chart that you will see before bed so that you can log all your food and exercise and make sure you are getting what you need. It could be your calorie count has slipped, or you’re eating less fat than you should be, or your sugar count has gone up without you realizing it. Or maybe you have just been eating the same things for the four months and need to have something else work its way into your food schedule. Variety is the spice of life, right? As a side note, if you are super diligent about your nutrition, but don’t have a fitness tracker or use a scale it might be time to increase your level of involvement. Most of us improvise our calorie intake or use a blanket calorie burn from sites like MyFitnessPal. I know that my assumptions of calorie burns were way off until I actually started using a heart rate monitor. Once I understood that I was actually burning 3000 calories a day on a regular basis, I knew I had to shake up my 1500 calorie meal plan! Everything felt better once I got my food back on track.
Do something fun with your team
Do a beach day, a painting night, baseball game, or a comedy club night together as a team. Do something that is mentally recharging, and not too physically demanding. Remind yourself why you like hanging out with these folks so much. Yes, it means one more thing on your schedule, but if you do it with team-themed merch on, it can double as a promotional event for the team. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your friends to pass out flyers though, the goal should be for you all to relax for a night away from the rink.
Re-evaluate your duties
Have you been stretching yourself too thin with your league? Some of us pick up a lot of work for our team without even realizing it. If you have put yourself onto multiple committees, or into multiple leadership roles, maybe it is time to step back. It’s ok to put yourself above the needs of your leagues for a minute. In fact, if you’re juggling so many balls that you keep dropping them, you’re not really doing anyone any good. It’s better to hold onto one ball than to always be picking up the five others that you keep losing.
Sit down with leadership to talk about goals
There are times where we don’t even know what we’re good at anymore. Getting a little extra perspective never hurts anyone. Especially since the beginning of the year, the whole team has probably improved. If you’re feeling stuck it may have something to do with your team improving at the same rate that you are. When our friends are on the same improvement trajectory, it feels like we’re just not getting better (when in reality, we’re all getting better together). If you are an official or an announcer feeling this kind of burnout and don’t have direct leadership to talk to, reach out to a mentor or someone you respect. Express how you’re feeling and see if they’ll do a phone or video chat with you. It can be really invigorating.
Learn a new skill in roller derby
Ok, so I’m not going to lie: I have done my best to avoid NSOing in the past. I’m not great at math and I prefer to be on my roller skates OR in heels. I have justified my non-involvement in NSOing in the past with “Well I do so many other things that I don’t NEED to NSO”. I recently stepped in to help at Midwest Brewhaha with a few Penalty Box Timing shifts and something really neat happened. I discovered that the new role made the game seem fresh again, and it gave me another perspective on how the whole game goes down. Instead of getting annoyed about more OTOs happening, I ask myself “How can I make this run smoother? What can I do to help?” Now that I’m back at home, I’m eager to learn more about the positions so I can be a better on-skates official, head ref, and announcer.
Get out of your comfort zone. I’m not talking about grabbing a whistle and skating in circles at practice. I’m not talking about hanging out in the penalty box now and again during scrimmage. For players, I’m talking about applying for local tournaments. ???? The sport is desperately short on officials and most tournaments will be more than happy to coach you on NSOing, announcing, or have you as an alt ref with little or no experience. ???? Are you an announcer? Maybe ask to fill into an NSO slot in-between your calling schedule. As a ref, offer yourself up as a substitute NSO after you have gotten your letter of acceptance. As an NSO, maybe you can pick up a mic at your next home game (please keep officiating tournaments in this role, we need you and they don’t often allow time to cross train). Are you a non-player that has not been through the new player training program of your affiliated league? If you’re allowed to be on your skates, go through the training so that you can understand what challenges the skaters go through. All is one, one is all. Not only could learning a new skill reinvigorate you, but it will give you the empathy and understanding needed to work better with all the roles of the derby community.
Does your team have an offseason?
If it doesn’t, raise your hand and ask leadership why. Many leagues will take breaks in July, and the winter, to let league members recoup their minds, bodies, and family relations. We need this. The first three years I played derby I did not understand why everyone clamored for an offseason, but I am older, wiser, and desire longevity with new understanding now. Off-seasons can help us recoup, and also can also help many leagues reduce their rental costs (as an added bonus). Sometimes even just visiting a new league, planning (or unplanning) a trip, or watching some non-local streamed derby can help you remember why you love this sport. It’s always tempting to ditch practice for Netflix, but EVER FORWARD! Know that you are not alone, and all of us are excited to get past those last few games of the main season and embrace a little summertime relaxation.