Find your motivation

When we look at motivation in cognitive theories it is said to come in two forms: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the act of doing something because a person enjoys it or acting from internal interest. Whereas extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. Intrinsic motivation for a roller derby player would be that they like the sport, or they love the challenge and want to become better. An example of extrinsic motivation is wanting to be called a roller derby player for social status. In other words, a skater that is not concerned with finding joy in playing roller derby but rather concerned with the outcomes associated with playing roller derby. Either way, motivation is what drives a person’s behaviours and actions.

Now that we have a brief overview of the cognitive approach to motivation, let’s take a further look into this in terms of motiving roller derby players. In my outlook, I believe you can fall under either category of motivation and still be a fantastic roller derby player. A successful coach in any sport takes time to get to know their skaters and what makes them tick. If a skater is not already aware of what motivates them to play roller derby it can be as easy as asking the skater. Then as a coach, possibly reading between the lines of their explanation and their actions. As humans we are not always cognitive of where our motivation comes from and it can change over time.

At the beginning of each season I have my skaters fill out a goal sheet; I take a copy of it and then return it to the skater for their reference. This goal sheet helps me become their accountability (and hopefully extrinsic motivator) to achieve their goals. Furthermore, it can depict where their focus or intrinsic motivation lies. As I get to know the skater on a more personal level I am able to better understand their motivation. Coaches pay special attention to the subtle signs the skaters give you to better understand where their motivation comes from.

Skaters, if you are reading this and are not sure where your motivation is, in terms of roller derby, sit down and think about why you act? What thoughts go through your brain to get you moving when it’s a cold or rainy day? Think about, why you gear up? Why you go to the gym? What pushes you to go the extra mile to be the best? And where do those thoughts and actions stem from? On the other hand, if you are having a hard time getting your bum to practice, if you think maybe it’s time to quit roller derby, if you aren’t eating well or going to the gym even though you know you need to (not just for roller derby but for overall wellness) then explore that, too! It is not always easy to sit down and shuffle through our thoughts and actions; I assure you it will make you a better asset to the team if you know why you are there and what makes you tick. If you can vocalise your motivation to others specifically your coach and teammates that is just one more form of accountability you will have to achieve your goals.

I challenge you to take some time to better understand your motivation, what motivates your teammates and even your coach to come to every practice and go above and beyond. The transparency of motivation can truly help everyone grow together. And while I am challenging you to do things I would ask that you please share your motivations with me. One thing that drives me is other’s stories of grit, dedication and tenacity, so please share your stories with me and enjoy your enlightenment while exploring your own motivations.

Mo Payne #80

Sioux City Kornstalkers Coach and Skater

Photos by Kevein Tobey Photo Gone Mad

Mo has been skating for 9 years and coaching for 7 years. Last season she transfered to MRDA and has been playing men’s roller derby. She has founded two skating charities; Sk8 the State for MS is a small group of skaters who pick a new state each year and skate across it to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis research. And Sk8 to End Sex Trafficking a group that travels to different countries skating and raising awareness of sex trafficking. She is also a massage therapist and a professor at the University of South Dakota, USA. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Human Development and Educational Psychology. Her research focus is substance use behaviors and knowledge in college students.

Train your mind

A while ago I saw a list of the ‘ten most physically intense sports’ and to my surprise the rather unknown sport of roller derby was listed at number ten. Don’t get me wrong, I found it quite accurate. It is definitely intense for the body. It is the reason for me training at least 3 times a week, to be able to trust my body to respond accurately in a game. That’s why I gather information about food and hydration. Why I want to learn about building strong muscles and healthy bones. That’s why I love to do drills on repeat, to create a winner body. But besides that there’s the mental side of the sport. Everybody has to work with what’s happening in their head as well as putting their body through the wringer. Be it practicing falls as a rookie or taking big hits in a high level game, the mind is involved too. I know. Been there, done that!

I wanted to become better and learn how to create a winner’s mindset, how to train my mind. The game brings a lot to wrap your mind around, with rules, teamwork, strategies and the opponent. That alone is quite challenging and needs a lot of attention. But I think it all starts with how you relate to yourself.

What is happening in your head anyway? How is your brain wired? What do you say or think to yourself when something goes right? And when it goes wrong? Would you say you are more your own ‘fabultastic fan’? or the ‘cold critic’? Are you aware of your thoughts? and your emotions? How does your mind work for or against you? What is blocking the way to be better? And how does all this affect your performance in roller derby?

These are pretty hard questions to answer. That’s okay. Try it anyway. I did. The answers gave me some interesting information about my mindset. The more aware I am of my thought process, the more I can choose the thought of a winner. Think like a winner. How would a winner answer the questions I mentioned before? How does the mindset of a winner, a top athlete work? In my view a winner’s mindset works towards motivation, dedication, self support, self reflection, physical control, confidence, courage and most of all joy. A winner is their own fabultastic fan!

Now the question arose how to bridge the gap between my critical mindset and the mindset of a winner. What are the ingredients involved? Are there any ‘muscles’ to build? What kind of ‘food’ does my brain need? Can I do any exercises? After researching and studying this for a while, I realised I already had a lot of knowledge of some of the most important ingredients of the mind. Thoughts, emotions and imagination. I have been up close and personal with emotions. I have a Bachelor’s degree from theatre school. I know how to use my imagination to choose a specific thought, to create a feeling to express into behavior for a role. Been there, done that! So when I learned that our thoughts feed our brain, I knew how to do that. But how can I override the existing thoughts and limiting beliefs though?

The experiences we have and the meaning we give to these experiences, are what creates thoughts, patterns, the pathways in our brain. I like to visualise it as some sort of Matrix or a jungle. Everything that happens is fed into the Matrix. The experiences in the first seven or eight years of your life create the very first pathways, the default is set. The rest of our lives we respond according to those settings. Through big emotional experiences, or by focussed repetition, you can cut a new pathway through the jungle. You have to level up first to see where you can alter the pathways, how you can change the meaning on a lower level and reprogram the settings. A pathway needs to be used to stay clear. Unused pathways become overgrown again. This knowledge helps you to train your brain. By focussing on the meanings and thoughts you do want, the pathways you don’t want lose attention and start to overgrow.

It is a simple concept, but we are not used to it. We haven’t learned this in school. Our society is not supportive of it. We are taught to compare and fit in. We are trained to look for flaws and faults. We are uncomfortable with compliments. We can easily name ten things about ourselves that are not good, but we have a much harder time listing ten good things. With total awareness, care-full attention and creative imagination it is possible to turn this around. Start by asking yourself these two simple, but very powerful questions: What if I was a winner, what would I think/feel/do/say? What is blocking me from that?

This process of strengthening your mindset can totally be done by yourself, as I have done. It is also possible to learn from me. I have collected my most important lessons and made it into an online mental strengthening program for roller derby. Last November I launched DerbyMental. Live audio and interactive exercises to train your mind. It was a successful pilot, done in Dutch, and I will be offering this program in English this spring. You can count on being notified through the interwebs! For more information click here or send an email to derbymental@progressofie.com

Sofie Wentholt, also known as Whippin’ Red Siren, is a founding member of Rotterdam Roller Derby (September 2010). She skates for the Rotterdam Death Row Honeys and Team Netherlands (Co-captain, Dallas 2014). Usually she is put on track as a jammer, but she can rock as a blocker as well. She gives training to all levels within RRD and is the bench coach for the Rotterdam Killer Bees. You might also find her somewhere in Europe, next to a roller derby track, talking through a microphone, giving the audience her look on what happens in the game.

Break a Leg!

Derby is a fickle mistress, and one that is difficult to hold on to. She’s demanding, punishes without mercy and if you don’t pay attention you will be totally swept away and you will never want to do anything else or meet anyone who doesn’t understand your complete devotion to what is by outsiders still referred to as ‘that crazy sport you’re doing’. I have had a short, torrid love affair with derby that is far from over but will need to take a different form. I have been fresh meat since April and will have to get off skates more or less permanently more or less immediately. This article is an attempt for me to come to terms with that and for others to realise that there are other ways to belong to the beautiful crazy derby community and that skating doesn’t have to be for everyone.

It was just after my birthday, at the start of April, on a beautiful Tenerife spring afternoon that I let my colleague and friend Peekaboo Panda convince me to go with her to derby practice. I’ll admit I was kind of sceptical. I never really saw myself as the type to try and hit other people off their feet. I had hopes it would help with my assertiveness though and I have always strongly believed that you won’t know until you try and that everything is worth a try. So we went. I borrowed an old pair of skates and other gear from the team there and I made my first bambi steps on the track. I can’t say it was love at first try, but I can say that after that first hour and a half my legs felt like jelly, I was smelly and sweaty, and my head was clearer than it had been in weeks. I decided to come back.

From there we can say I had a pretty typical fresh meat experience: sometimes I felt like I could do nothing, like I was making no progress, and sometimes I felt like I was flying around the track like a bird in the sky. I learned to do crossovers, I skated on one skate, I fell a lot, and got back up a lot too, slowly speed up my transitions and dreaded to practice my 27 in 5. There was nothing to indicate what would happen in May. ​

We’d heard there was a good skate park in a town on the other side of the island. One Sunday we decided to go check it out. Peekaboo Panda and me on skates, Panda’s boyfriend on a skateboard. It was hot out, but the north of the island was cooler and we had fun, we practiced the ramps, Panda taught me how to skate up in the bowl, turn around and glide down to go up the other side. She had also said that if I didn’t dare just rolling down the side of the bowl on my skates (which I didn’t, I mean, have you seen how steep that is), I could try gliding down on my knee guards. I tried to do this, obviously wrong, my toestop got stuck and I slammed over my ankle. From here ensued a crazy adventure including several different hospitals, pizza delivered to a gas station and enormous gratitude to all my sweet friends. The verdict: a hairline fracture in my ankle would put me in a cast for a solid 8 weeks and recovery would take even longer.

In the meantime I was introduced to NSOing. We had several tournaments and I wanted to be part of an event like that. Considering I wasn’t anywhere near passing my test yet I couldn’t contribute on skates, so I learned to help with the organisation. I learned quickly and I liked the rush of organisation and crisis management during a tournament in November where it rained so much that the roof leaked and we had water on the track.

Backtrack a little to the start of November, we were doing 27 in 5 and it was the first time I was doing speed skating again after being back on the wheels. I was desperate to at least get close to the 20 laps I was able to do before. I didn’t watch my form well enough, I fell and twisted my knee. Not as bad as the ankle, but I was off skates again for a good two weeks. This was the first time I thought that maybe it wasn’t worth it. I decided to give it one more go. Tentatively I went back to practice and as soon as my wheels hit the wood I knew I would continue.

It’s December now and I feel like I’m finally in a good place with my practice and I’m on track to make it to pass my test in February. It’s the day before I travel back to see my family and friends for Christmas, I have two weeks full of running around and fun planned. I’ve been looking forward to this for months. One more practice before my holiday. The practice goes crazy well, my cone weave is down to 7.5 seconds, my transitions are better and better, I’m even managing a derby stop at a reasonable pace. Towards the end of practice I’m standing still, watching the others, I don’t pay attention for half a second, my skate slips, I stumble backwards I fall and I hear a crack.

I’m on the floor, dazed, confused and in pain. Almost the entire team comes running my way as I sit there hugging my ankle and crying. A very similar hospital adventure commences, this time without the pizza at the gas station but with the gratitude towards everyone helping me in a country where I don’t speak the language. After a sleepless night, a slow morning and a two and a half hour long operation I’m in a hospital bed. The verdict: the other ankle broken in three places, patched up with screws and a plate. A cast for at least 4 weeks, more operations and a long way to recovery in my future. For a minute there it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas at all, but the doctor clears me to fly for the Wednesday, only a few days late.

This is where I really need to start thinking about this derby thing.

I have always had weak ankles, I’ve always been clumsy and accident-prone, but have never broken anything before. Now two ankles in a little over half a year. This second one really pisses me off. It’s so unfair. I hate being dependent on anyone, I pride myself on being able to do stuff for myself. I know there’s lessons here, but is there no other way to learn those?

Getting injured in derby is next to inevitable, breaking something while playing almost a given. The question I feel I need to ask myself is: is it worth it? It’s worth the occasional hurt. I can deal with bruises and scrapes. It is worth the occasional pulled muscle. I could even get over a broken bone now and then. But two broken ankles in the span of half a year when I’m not even playing yet … I don’t think it’s worth it. In the short time I’ve spent with derby I’ve come to love the tight-knit community and the sense of belonging to something. I wouldn’t want to give that up. Here’s the silver lining: NSOing. You don’t have to be on skates to be able to be part of this wonderful group of people.

When I first heard about the NSO thing I figured they were less important people in a game, that they would be below the refs in a ‘pecking order’ or something, but I had momentarily forgotten that the derby community doesn’t work like that. NSOs are important to a game, there is no ‘one is more important than another’ between refs, NSOs and players. In our mens team we also have a guy who decided that skates weren’t his thing. He is our regular head NSO and I don’t know what we would do without him.

After about nine months, two broken ankles and realising that I like walking, I am glad to have found something that I enjoy doing that allows me to be there in the midst of all the excitement, a way to contribute to this ‘crazy sport’ that we’re all doing without having to endanger any more of my precious bones. I guess what I’m trying to say is: if skating is not your thing, don’t worry. We’ll love you anyway and there are other things you can do that are still important to a game and will allow you to stay involved.

Now excuse me while I go buy a pile of plain shirts. You haven’t seen the last of me.