Two weeks ago my team had a big roller derby game at the Bayou Music Center here in Houston. We lost. The next day I sent out an email newsletter with a few real life things I’ve coaching roller derby. You may not realize that roller derby has a lot in common with real life, but it does. Here are a few more life lessons learned coaching roller derby.
You Don’t Always Get What You Want.
Sometimes you win the game and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you try to buy a house with a pink bathtub, and sometimes that doesn’t work out. Sometimes you get something BETTER than what you want. But many times I think we find ourselves faced with an outcome other than what we hoped, prayed, or waited for. Life doesn’t hand us what we desire, nor always what we deserve.
You Can’t Control Other People.
As a coach, my job is pretty much to be (one of) the brains behind the operation. We have a lineup caller telling people to get on the track (holla, Shank!), but my job is to watch, communicate with those players, and to help make decisions about who should play when and where. But even our best and most trustworthy players sometimes end up in the box. Or our newer players have a surprise stellar game. In derby and in real life, we cannot control or often even predict the way other people will behave. Whether this is in traffic or in your own home, people are going to do what they do and this will mostly have bearing on you and your life.
You Can’t Control the Outcome.
Even if I do a perfect job coaching (which, as a human, I NEVER do), the outcome of the game comes from a lot of variables: refs, skaters, the track, and even things like new skates or wheels. In the same way, life is full of variables. The way they fit together doesn’t always make sense to us, though sometimes later we see a bigger picture. I definitely see the way God has worked in my life many times, but in other cases, I’m left scratching my head. I do believe that he has sight of all those tiny variables and that, in a mystery we won’t get this side of heaven, he does hold all things together. But we can hardly hold the tiniest things in our hands and manipulate them—whether this is a game of roller derby or in the lives of our children. Heck, sometimes I can’t even follow a recipe without starting a fire.
Having a Family Can Help You Regardless of the Outcome.
Our derby teams are like family. We sweat together, bleed together, win and lose together. We help each other through births and deaths, moves and surgeries. I have personally taken several girls to the hospital and stayed there until the wee hours of the night. I’ve had people visit me, help me financially, cry with me, and talk me through hard times. On and off the track, derby teams are family. Win or lose, hard times or good times—that family is invaluable. Whether your genetic family or your support system, the same is true: family gets you through the good and bad times. Even if they are also sometimes a little bit crazy, without a family to have your back, you will feel the sting of pain more and the brightness of joy less.
No Matter the Outcome, You Can Respond Gracefully.
There is a theme through these lessons learned coaching roller derby. That theme relates to the idea of disappointment. When our dreams and hopes are waylaid by reality. We often see this in big ways—whether or not we sell our house and get the house of our dreams, for example. But the past few days I’ve been noticing the ebb and flow during each day. Being interrupted by the kids when I’m trying to make an important phone call, by example. Or the flash of joy at seeing Cooper’s bright smile, or having any of the three tiny hands reach up for mine. In derby there are large and small moments of greatness and difficulty.
Wouldn’t it be a world-changing thing if we all responded the same way to joys and struggles?
I know that I don’t. I called Rob after our recent loss and all I could say was UGH. I spent a few hours wallowing in disappointment. And yet…the way we respond doesn’t change anything about our circumstances. As pretty much all my points reiterate, we control about nothing in our lives. Except the response we have to those events.
I don’t mean that we should seal off emotions, denying ourselves a chance to mourn, or to simply say UGH after a bad game. Take a beat. Take a breath. Say a prayer. Do all three if you must. And then hand it over. (Repeat this process if necessary.) For me this is an act of both prayer and will. (And often a lot of repetition.) For me it involves actively handing things over to Jesus, to reminding myself of truths I may not feel or experience in the moment: that he is real, that he cares, that he is involved and is somehow involved in the intricate, often confusing and difficult circumstances that unfold around us.
There Are a Lot of Chances to Reset.
As I’ve already admitted, I’m not so good at all this stuff. I try to control circumstances, people, my feelings, the outcome—everything. Though I really should have learned by now it doesn’t really work out. The more I try to control, the more I’m disappointed at the outcome. But you know what? A derby game is an hour long, but made up of tiny periods called jams that are two minutes long, max. A whistle blows and you play your hardest for that minute or two, then another whistle blows and you either hit the bench or reset on the track for the next jam. Win the jam, coaches and captains will say. Don’t think of the one before or to come, but win that jam. When I mess up and get frustrated by lack of control and fall to pieces over life’s events, that doesn’t have to be the end. Just like in derby, I can reset.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope. The idea of a fresh start. It doesn’t have to be the start of a new year or even a new week. I can reset right in the middle of my day, in the middle of falling apart. Reset. Such a small word with a huge impact.
I’ve learned a lot about derby as a skater and now as a coach. Whether or not you’re familiar with roller derby, I hope that these things I’ve learned might speak to wherever you are in your life. If it seems overwhelming, take it in baby steps: just win the jam. And anytime you need it, even if it’s fifty times a day, you can always reset.