There’s one week left before our new fresh meat test their minimums. We have a great group of girls this time around – super motivated, keen, and really encouraging of each other. The training committee and I are excited to get these girls scrimmaging, and integrating them into regular league practice.
But first, they must pass the dreaded WFTDA minimums test.
I’ve been on the training committee for a few years now, and I’ve administered many, many minimums tests. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if you are the star jammer of the charter team, or the freshest of fresh meat, everyone gets nervous before they get tested. Even those who are 100% certain they’re going to pass. Everyone gets nervous.
Think back to your driving test. You were pretty sure you could drive, right? But when that Ministry of Transportation employee sat down beside you and busted out their clipboard, you panicked. You doubted what you knew, and began to second-guess yourself and your abilities. It took me three tests to get my G licence (a full licence in Canada). I had been driving for ten years, had a totally clean record, not even a speeding ticket. Even so, I freaked out. I drove fine, but I cried the whole way through. I don’t test well – I don’t like to know that I’m being judged, it undermines my confidence and makes me feel all icky. Lots of us are like that. And when it comes to minimums testing, it’s just like a driving test – if you don’t pass, you don’t get to do this thing that means a lot to you. So there’s pressure. And panic. And general badness.
As I said, I’ve given a whole lot of tests. Here are my tips for rocking your WFTDA minimums:
Make sure that you’re comfortable with all of the skills you’re required to do for the test. If you’re not comfortable, practice. Instead of chatting at the start of practice, grab someone and work on your skills with them. Push each other to be better and more confident. Work on skates. Skate outside. Work off skates. Work on your balance – you have no idea how many people struggle with the one foot glide. Maintain various postures on and off skates so that your body knows them cold, and nothing will feel too new or too challenging on test day.
Focus on Form
On test day, your testers are looking for safety, not perfection. If you don’t do something the same as the girl next to you, don’t freak out – as long as you’re safe, and you do what’s written in the test, there’s room for personal style. Perform each skill in the way that you’ve been taught, coupled with what you’ve found works best for your body. You’ll know what that is because of all the practice you’ve been doing, right? There are particular markers that each tester looks for, but the A Number One thing is safety. You don’t need to be a rock star. Your goal, especially in the partnered skills, is for both you and your partner to succeed. Also, if you do fall or miss, you will almost always get more than one chance at a skill. Keep that in mind, dust yourself off, and nail it the next time.
Don’t Over Think It.
This is by far the biggest and most important piece of advice. You know how to skate. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have made it this far in the fresh meat program to begin with. I always tell my girls to find their rhythm. When testing laps, find your stride, count it out if you want, sing a song with a hard beat in your head, recite a monotone play-by-play of what is going on around you. Skate to a rhythm, and then if something crazy happens (you get cut off by another skater, you lose your footing, whatever), you can jump right back in because you have a solid head space that you’re occupying. The biggest obstacle for most girls, whether testing the first time or the fiftieth, is their own mind. Keep a clear head, stay positive, and have fun.
Here’s another thing: Sometimes skaters don’t pass. It sucks. It sucks for the skater, and, trust me, it sucks for the trainer. If you don’t pass, allow yourself to be frustrated, allow yourself to sad, allow yourself whatever emotion you feel. We all invest tons in derby, both physically and emotionally. Not passing your minimums is a crappy situation.
BUT, and this is important, it’s not a permanent situation.
We trainers want you to pass. We want you to be safe, skilled, and ready to mix it up with the big girls. You are the future of roller derby, and it is our job to make sure that you come in prepared. We love it when you take a missed test as an opportunity to develop lightning focus on the skills that need work, fix them, and come back to dominate your next try. Usually, if you miss something on the test, your tester will explain to you exactly why. If they don’t, ask. And then ask them to help you get that skill up to a pass. If they can’t help you personally, they’ll at least be able to point you in the right direction.
Tests are stressful, there’s no getting around it. But practice your skills, be comfortable in your skin and your stride, and keep a positive head space and you’ll be awesome.
Good luck freshies!