Is Practice a Waste of Your Time?

I’ve been feeling a little grouchy/grumpy/anti-social/etc./etc. this week. It’s not a particularly fun state to be in, for me or anyone else, because everything starts getting tarred with a disillusionment brush. These are the weeks when I wonder if I shouldn’t just quit roller derby. The weeks when I **really** regret getting pregnant and the perfect, little terror that it brought into my life. The weeks when I’m tempted to actually slap that guy at the gym that keeps staring at my chest. Ugh.

But sometimes these periods teach me things, too.

This week I was running a practice with low skater turn out and even lower effort (or at least what I perceived as low effort). My disillusionment brush was there and it started painting everything black:

  • It’s so frustrating to be a part of team where not everyone takes it as seriously as I do.
  • I just want everyone to cross train so they can keep up in the paceline.
  • I’m wasting my time (and energy) at practice because we are going too slow/too easy/too basic for my skating level.

And you know what? Feeling that way about your team and your teammates is shitty.

Even if I would never, EVER say that out loud to anyone — it’s still shitty. I don’t get a dose of relief when I feel that way. I’m don’t get self-righteously vindicated when I think those shitty thoughts. And really I’m just being selfish, right? It’s not about me all the time. Hell. As a mother, I know it’s not even about me most of the time. Any of the time.

Then it hit me. I was wasting my time at practice. But not for the reasons I thought at first.

When I have my skater helmet on (as opposed to when I have to wear my coach helmet), I don’t go to practice so that everyone else on the team can get better. I go to practice so that I can get better.

It actually is about me (SURPRISE!). It’s a subtle difference. But it makes a big impact:

  1. Instead of a leisurely skate around the track where I shoot the shit with everyone before practice starts, I specifically practice my weak individual skills. Yes, I practice those skills at home too, but this is my home floor. I want to be in tune with it and I want to execute when I’m skating on it. I’m preparing for practice as though it’s game day. A situation when I have to come in and have very little time to warm-up before I’m expected to be at my best.
  2. Instead of standing up straight in the paceline and glaring at everyone because the pace is too slow for me, I focus on being present in the paceline. I focus on my own skating form. I focus on staying in control of my form at this slow pace. I focus on my breathing. I practice my game day mindset. And my left sided plow stop when we slow down.
  3. Instead of laughing and chatting while we wait in line for a drill, I use that time like the 30 seconds in between jams — mentally prepping for the next time I’ll hit the track, planning with my next wall, and assessing how I can improve. I also use this time to watch my teammates skate. I’m going to need to rely on them when we play together and I want to know who can do what well, so we can make the best use of everyone.

It sounds a little anti-social — I promise I’m a little more friendly while I’m gearing up or down. But here’s the deal: focusing on myself and what I need to do to get better at practice is how I’m going to actually get better at practice. An article I read a LOOOOOONG time ago talked about the idea of Deliberate Practice — that only through being intentional and fully present during our practice times will we actually improve to mastery. People that just go through the motions don’t get any better. People that are unintentional about themselves during practice don’t get any better. People that are intentional about others (but not themselves) during practice don’t get any better.

Focusing on others and what THEY need to do to get better as a skater IS a waste of my practice time.

So. Are you wasting your time at practice?

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About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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