Derby is as much a mental game as it is a physical game. As a blocker, I love messing with other blockers. I know I’ve successfully gotten into the head of the opponent when she focuses all her energy on hitting me instead of keeping an eye out for my jammer. But when it comes to practice, my struggle isn’t getting into someone else’s head. It’s getting out of my own head.
As soon as I lace up and hit the track for warm-ups, I start looking around and talking to my teammates. My nature as an introvert means when things get tense (like in a scrimmage) I stop talking. In order to overcome my nature, I push myself to get out of my head before anything happens.
Learning new skills brings its own set of problems. It’s really easy to think you are the only person who can’t execute a turn-around stop or that you are always the weak link in a wall. The truth is that you aren’t. Others on your team are struggling just like you. I can plow stop, t-stop and turn-around stop on my right side all day long. The moment you ask me to do a turn-around stop on my left, though? Get ready to see some world class stumbling. I could get down about it and give up, but I just keep telling myself that I’ve figured out how to do everything else. One skill won’t kill me.
Positive thinking not doing the trick? Try looking up instead of staring at your feet. One of my past coaches once said to look up because the floor wasn’t going anywhere. He’s right. I find it’s much easier to concentrate on the skill if I’m not preoccupied with what my feet are doing.
Pain can also be a big distraction on the track. I know shin splints and blisters suck. You have two choices: concentrate on the pain or concentrate on actually getting something done. If it’s a scrimmage, think about strategy. If it’s a drill, try singing a song. I usually go with “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.
These are just some of the things I do to get out of my head. They don’t work for everyone, but it’s a place to start. What are some of the things you do to get out of your head?