Derby is a physically challenging sport, but no one tells you at the beginning how much mental stamina it also takes. I ran across these tips on mental fortitude from psychotherapist Amy Morin after Forbes did an adaptation for entrepreneurs, and thought how easily translatable these ideas were to roller derby. I decided to write my own version since I’ve been needing to press the refresh button on my own perspective lately. If you want to improve your mental strength for derby, here are things to avoid. Don’t:


1. Waste time having a pity party

Had a bad practice? A bad game? A bad season? Did a coach or another skater say something you didn’t like? You can spend your time having a pity party or move on, focusing on practice and positive experiences. Derby, like life, isn’t always easy or fair. Get your Derby Skinz out of your crack and move on.

2. Relinquish your power to others 

Mentally strong derby players know they control their own reactions to things, and others don’t have the power to make them feel inferior or bad. You can hold onto that little grain of something that someone said to make you feel bad, polish it like a pearl in an oyster shell until it’s a hard little thing inside you, or you can toss it aside and let it disappear in the ocean. You control your own derby destiny. Make the most of it!

3. Cower in the face of change 

Every new season poses its challenges. There’s always turnover on teams, in league administration and so on, and there always will be in the near future of our growing sport. Maybe you lost your practice space. Maybe your star jammer tore her PCL. Try to find a way to embrace these challenges. Maybe there’s a better space out there, maybe there’s a new jammer waiting to blossom. Thrive in the midst of change.

4. Waste energy on things you can’t control 

You know that skater who will just not shut up about how the floor sucks? Or how she thinks the refs couldn’t make a call to save their stripes? Yeah, she’s annoying. Don’t be that girl. Learn to skate on that crappy floor. Right now. Stop making those multi-players or out-of-play blocks or whatever they’re calling real tight. Right now.

5. Worry about pleasing others 

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones, like me, who didn’t get any resistance from friends and family with regards to playing derby. Or maybe you weren’t so fortunate and felt the need to downplay your passion for the sport to appease someone in your life. Maybe you didn’t speak up at a league meeting or call someone on their bullshit because you didn’t want to cause controversy or hurt feelings. Be thoughtful and kind, but be true to yourself and speak your mind when appropriate, even when it’s the harder thing to do.

6. Fear calculated risks 

Well, let’s face it, getting involved with derby is a calculated risk. You already took it! Congratulations. But to continue getting better, there are so many other opportunities to take more risks. Don’t be afraid to grab that pivot or jammer panty. Call out a play in the pack. Jump that apex. Try that backwards block. Don’t be stupid, but push yourself.

7. Dwell on the past 

Don’t long for the days of different derby, of penalty wheels or tutus or the time before we discovered passive offense. Mentally strong derbyists don’t yearn for the past. We learn from experience, but don’t get mired in mistakes and disappointments. So, you had a bad bout. Heck, maybe it wasn’t your best season. Don’t punish yourself for it endlessly. Make new goals for practice and upcoming bouts. Participate in votes, if you’re a member of WFTDA. Remind yourself that this is fun, and concentrate on creating positive experiences now and in the future.

8. Repeat the same mistakes ad nauseam

This is where that learning from experience trick comes into play. You may be really pissed that your coach keeps telling you to work on the same thing. Or have consigned yourself to never getting that skill down. Your coach may sound like a broken record because she can see something you can’t. You might be the only thing holding yourself back from nailing that skill. Ask for help. Try something different. You’re bound to have a breakthrough.

9. Resent the success of others 

No. Just no. Don’t ever do this. Someone else’s gain isn’t your loss, and stop thinking of the world in those terms. Applaud your teammates who improve themselves, who make rosters, who win MVPs. Give them their propers and learn from the things they do well. They will be side-by-side with you on the track. They are your teammates, your friends, your sisters on their own derby journeys. You’ll be glad when they slap you a high five for your successes. Bitterness, anger, jealousy, resentment ­— these are more harmful to you than whoever their object might be.

10. Give up because you failed 

There will be so many failures in derby. Oh, so many failures. It’s not easy. Don’t let this deter you. Don’t drop out of a drill. Don’t leave practice. Don’t go on a leave of absence because you think you’ve failed. Pick yourself up and keep trying.

11. Fear alone time 

Derby is a team sport, but every athlete needs alone time to train, think and reflect. Don’t fill every moment of downtime on the track by chattering with your teammates. Take some time to practice a skill you’re working on or perfect a turn or stop or transition on your bad side. You can even just get centered in your own body. Really feel what it’s like to skate, think about your form, get in touch with the number of strides it takes you from one side of the track to the other.

12. Believe you’re owed something 

You’re not entitled to make a team, a charter, a roster. Period. Don’t go skating around like that’s the case. Look for opportunities and work hard. Be grateful for the chances you get. That’s all you can do.

13. Expect immediate results 

Do you think any girl you admire was awesome the minute she strapped on skates? Well, she certainly wasn’t as awesome as she is before she went to a bazillion practices in between now and then. Remember how much better you are now than you were on your first practice, whether it was days, weeks, months or years ago.  Nothing good in life is easy. Change takes time.