How to Have a Great Game: The Eye of the Storm

Saturday is game day, week two.  We’ve talked about the time leading up to the game, and how to get your mind and body ready.  How about during the game?  How do you stay ready for whatever the universe throws your way?

Talk it through.  Remember those goals you set for yourself and your team?  Talk about them in your pregame meeting.  Find a system that everyone can get behind.  Maybe it’s a silent bench, maybe it’s a pre-line chat about strategy each line, maybe it’s saying each goal out loud and celebrating when someone achieves one.  Whatever it is, make sure everyone knows the plan and is supportive of it.

Warm it up.  Incorporate an off-skates component into your warm-up time.  Your body will thank you later when it doesn’t feel so much like it got hit by a truck.  Make it fun, be sure to work in all directions, using your whole body.  On-skates warm-ups are as unique as snowflakes.  Each team will have something that works for them.  From my perspective (and I know there are those who disagree), I prefer to go half-intensity during the warm-up.  Think hockey players shooting into the net than instead of full-out checking each other.  A half-intensity warm-up wakes up your brain more than anything.  It gets you relying on your motor learning, so that your cognitive skills can focus on the myriad decisions that come your way throughout the game.  Your off-skates should take care of getting the muscles nice and warm, your on-skates should get you thinking and skating like a team.  If you can, keep your warm-ups as close to game time as possible.  This lessens the chance of you cooling down and getting injured.

Cheer.  Team cheers are amazing.  Find one that makes your team awesome.  All of the above steps should be part of your pregame ritual – find a rhythm that all of your skaters can get into.  The more you can do together, the more together you’ll be on the track.

photo courtesy of Sean Murphy

This past November, TCRG had the extreme pleasure of hosting Bonnie D. Stroir for a bootcamp.  This next part could easily be called “What I Learned from Bonnie D. Stroir”. 

On the Bench.   Your bench should be a safe place – it should not hold any of the negativity that happens on the track.  Once you get there, unplug, hydrate (you should try not to feel thirsty at any point in the game) and reset.  You cannot do anything for the skaters on the track, so let them do their thing, and take that time to get where you need to be.  Treat each new jam as a fresh start and come in with fresh eyes, fresh energy, and a freshly bonded line.  Captains – be the calm you want to see in your team.  If you are freaking out, your team will follow.  There are times to pump your team up, for sure, but there are rarely times for you to be visibly angry or upset.  Also, captains and bench coaches – pay attention to the climate on the bench and keep it where you want it.  We have all seen games where folks don’t get played as often as they think they should.  Have a team culture with an open policy for discussing this outside of game time.  The only reason a player will feel bad about their amount of play is if they didn’t see it coming, make sure they know what will be expected of them coming in.  The bench is no place for complaints or in-fighting.  If you’ve talked about it first, it won’t be an issue when it happens.  If you are a team that advocates equal play time and someone is sitting a lot, make sure that the players know that they should be communicating this with the bench staff.  Again, if we talk about it , we all feel better.

On the Track.  Bonnie D. said it perfectly “Sharks don’t look excited about lunch”.  No one should be able to change your game face – keep yourself cool, calm, and focused.  If you feel yourself panicking on the inside, breathe, touch a teammate and focus on your form.  You’ll be back where you need to be in no time.  Keep in mind that it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about performing at your best, each and every time. 

Halftime.  Go to your dressing room, restate your goals, talk about what you need to do to achieve them, hydrate, and get back out skating as quickly as possible.  A long non-skating break will cool you down – try to stay warm, engaged, and together with your teammates.

In the Box.  If you are in the box, the jam is still your jam.  Your only response should be “how quickly can I get to the box?”.  Give yourself a boring running commentary of the action so that you stay plugged in, but not emotionally charged.  The minute in the box is your punishment, don’t keep punishing yourself for being sent there, it does no good to keep beating yourself up.  Don’t be sad, don’t be angry – be a shark.

On that note, When Something Effed Up Happens.  Things happen in roller derby that we can’t control.  We all have bad games, bad jams and bad plays.  When it happens (and it will happen), don’t indulge yourself and become overly emotional.  That takes your energy away from the task at hand.  When you are back at your bench, unplug and reset.  Bonnie had a great tip – If you start beating yourself up, you are abusing a member of the team and that is not good for the team.  So, when you start to feel bad about yourself, and start engaging in negative self-talk, ask yourself “would I say this to my teammate?”.  If the answer is no, don’t say it to yourself.

So, on game day – Have goals, have a chat, have a ritual, have standards and finally, HAVE A BLAST.    Have a great game, everyone.

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