Sunday, September 15, 2013

Treading Water

I come across a lot of people who never succeed because they undermine themselves before they can even get started. A minor roadblock, an undesirable situation, other people getting in your way-- those are all things that may set you back, but you are just throwing yourself under the bus by saying you “can’t.” But the effects don’t stop there, these Negative Nancys become an energy suck that turn into black holes and start to bring others down around them too. This is incredibly dangerous for team sports like Roller Derby.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Whatever minor challenges you might be encountering lately probably seem like nothing compared to the goal Diana Nyad set out to achieve when she was 28: swim in open water from Cuba to Florida. She not only trained hard for the 110 mile swim, with the threat of sharks and jellyfish in the water, she failed. She failed multiple times. That of course did not stop her, and climbing onto the beach with shaky legs, dehydrated and hallucinating, she finished her goal at age 67.

Nyad’s story is inspiring on many levels. Not only did she accomplish a huge feat with many elements against her, but she failed four times before achieving it. When she finally completed her mission, she swam for 52 hours and 54 minutes, non-stop, throwing up most of the way. She put her body through misery to prove, mostly to herself, that she could succeed.

A lifelong swimmer, her training obviously got her in the water, but it was her mind that kept her going. Her mantra was to “Find a way. You don't like it? It's not doing well? Find a way”.

When I first started derby, I was still in college. I was treading water with an art degree, not really sure which direction I wanted to take. After discovering I liked editing video, I incorporated my other interest by doing a 20 minute documentary on Roller Derby and my league. When I wasn’t in other classes or at practice, I was living at the Studio Arts building, working on the documentary. I was amazed at how productive I really could be when pushed to my limit and striving for something great. It was a hard and miserable process at times, but it is something I look back on and feel very proud of. 
Still from my documentary.

It is also one of the things that makes me feel crappy about where I’m at now. Knowing what my full potential can be sheds a harsh light on what I am doing now. Again, I feel like i’m treading water, now with a degree and thousands of dollars of debt. I am not sure I entirely had a plan for when I finished college, but once I started derby, it became my new plan.

After nearly five years being involved with Derby, I started to think I could do everything and know everything. I have become a little too focused on myself and what I think and forgot that it takes the whole team to be successful. Bringing a bunch of people together to run a volunteer business is not easy sailing. If we want to play the sport we love we have to work hard to make the business run first. There are lots of different pieces that have to come together put on fun events, bring in more fans, to have a working website or efficient practices. One person slacking can make the whole thing tumble. When you are being a Negative Nancy on the track, then it is going to bring the game down for everyone else. Roller Derby can only work with teamwork, on and off the track.

If you're new to derby you need to know you’re going to fall. You are going to hurt. Some skills may not come easy to you. Other people will excel quicker than you. Sticking with it, and pushing yourself will keep you off the floor, it will strengthen your derby muscles to keep soreness at bay, and pass your skills. No one will do it for you, you have to say yes and do it for yourself.

It doesn’t stop there. Experienced skaters need to realize that you will probably plateau. A new skater may rise to quicker and better success than you. You might get injured. Just like your life, your derby career is what you make of it. If you work hard it will show, if you keep a good attitude it will rub off on others. You want your team to do better? Start with yourself. 

Marathon swimming looks like an individual sport on the surface, but it took a whole team to get her to Florida. She swam for nearly 55 hours by herself, but the trainers, navigators and friends cheering her on would be pointless if she gave up. 

It’s no doubt what Diane did was amazing, but this shouldn’t be something to merely marvel at. Be inspired. Take your game, your passion, your life to the next level. Treading water may keep you above water, but you have got to push harder if you want to get anywhere. 

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