Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learning through Failure

Yesterday morning we got word via email that the roster for our game against Texas in Boston in June would be posted by the end of the day. Instantly, I got butterflies in my stomach and became incredibly nervous, which ultimately lasted right up until I read the roster before I left work. Anxiety was quickly replaced by that feeling you get when you get dumped and you REALLY liked the person. I was sad and I felt like a fool for even thinking I had a chance to be placed on that roster.

We’ve reorganized how we’re positioning some of our players in an effort to really delve in and train them for one or two specific positions that they would play in games. I’ve been placed in the front of the pack, as either the pivot or other front blocker. The reasoning was that I know the game well and I theoretically know how a pack should be controlled in response to certain instances. My game play up there last night certainly wasn’t reflective of me knowing the game or even really knowing where I was most of the time – it was a bad night for me.

Because of my recent front-of-pack designation (which not many other players are assigned to) and because I was told to go ahead and order myself both a home and an away jersey, I had some false hope that I might be placed on the Texas roster. As the day went on, my confidence grew, so you’ll understand the initial shock, pain, and sorrow I felt when I didn’t see my name on that list yesterday evening. I had opened my email one last time before I left the office, and that’s when I saw it.

Trying not to cry at work, I just kept telling myself that I just had to make it out the door and I could cry in the car if I wanted to. Choking back my emotions, I packed up my things and said goodbye to my assistant, almost not physically getting the words out: “Have a good night.”

My instant thought was “Fuck it – I’m not going to practice tonight.” I was already good on attendance for Carolina, and I wasn’t in the mood to face anything or anyone derby related. Those thoughts were immediately met with, “There’s only two scrimmages left before Carolina, and I really should practice with my team” and then, “But I don’t want to.” Knowing I had to go, and telling myself that after tonight I would have at least three derby-free days to sulk, I went immediately home and got dressed for fear that if I sat down in my work clothes first, I wouldn’t get up.

As I was getting dressed, I knew the night ahead of me was going to be hard for me mentally. I grabbed a bandana to wear around my neck, not for sweat, but in case I started crying. To me, it meant that I was allowing myself to cry if I needed to. “Tonight surely won’t be my best night,” I thought, “but at least I’ll be there participating.”

I made it through practice without spontaneously combusting from my emotions, scrimmaging first with my home team, Speed Regime, and then with the All Stars. I jammed a fair amount for Speed Regime. I didn’t get lead jammer but maybe half the number of jams I was in, but I don’t think I lost any of those jams either. One was a draw – zero to zero; Joy’s ass was glued to my stomach and I didn’t get through once, but neither did her jammer.

I wish I could say I had as good of a performance blocking as I did jamming. My head was not in the game last night. I was not working with my teammates, not looking behind me like I should, and not remembering a lick of strategy. I was frantic instead of calm. I was wobbly on my feet instead of secure. It was bad. Finally that last whistle blew in the All Stars scrimmage and I was done. Having taken off the bandana from my neck because I was too hot with it on (I swear I had beads of sweat forming at my neck and running clear down into my ass crack all night), I had tied the bandana to my water bottle, not needing it after all.

As I was driving home I thought about that Texas roster and how I really could not argue with it at all. I’m not there yet, and let’s face it, we’ll likely face Texas at Nationals so the people who would be in that game to play Texas need to experience playing them now. I felt dumb for thinking I had a chance, but I’m a hopeful person (who also lacks patience).

Pulling up to my house, I looked down at my water bottle and the bandana tied around it – a bandana that used to be my dad’s that I have no clue how I wound up with – and I started to cry. My dad, and incredibly fair man, was the kind of person who felt that while good actions should be praised, constructive criticism should also be given when it was needed. I remember my mom telling my dad to “let her win” when we were playing a marathon game of checkers once. I must have been 7, but although I was frustrated I knew that winning because I was “let” win wouldn’t feel as good as really winning. My dad told my mom that most certainly not would he let me win! And he never did. At anything. I didn’t deserve to win, just because I was his daughter, but in a way my perpetual losses to him have made me a winner in life.

If you’re constantly told only good things about yourself, you can become disillusioned with who you really are – thinking you’re better than you really are. By losing I’ve learned what I should have done to win, and after I lose enough to be able to put that learning into practice, I do win.

When I thought about it last night, I realized that I don’t have that many people in my life who give me an accurate depiction of “how it is” – my friends and family rarely tell me how they see me falter. My dad used to, and although it sometimes hurt, I respected him for it. Those times that he did dish out praise, I knew the praise was really warranted and that I had done something to earn it.

There are a lot of theories about how derby leagues should be run – should they be all about winning or should they be about equality and fun? Well, I’ve always believed that derby’s a place that helps women grow, and I’m proud that my league has allowed our All Star team to be competitive and to go for the win, because like it or not, you learn something from it.

I haven’t “won” at derby yet, but that’s okay. I’ll continue to try and give it my all, and when I do secure a regular spot on the roster and play well in games, that praise I hear will be so much sweeter, because I know it will be true. Until then, I’ll keep an open mind and learn from my mistakes.


anik2 said...

Oh man, not making it into something you're really hoping for... that is some tough shit.

The only words I can share are that I often don't feel like going to practice (grumpy, sick, lazy, sad) but I never regret going. At the end, even if there is drama or other crap, I know that I have pushed myself physically and mentally, and that's really all you can ask of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Good luck in Raleigh Tomorrow!!!