In my experience...
My body felt heavy, as if it wouldn’t do what it was told. Yet my head felt even heavier, my mind was full of emotional fog with hot liquid pools welling up behind my eyes. I took a deep breath and channeled aggression and speed as I approached the pack. Juking left, right, left and a power hit from my shoulders, which still couldn’t crack the wall of 4 solid skaters. The blockers closed in around me forcing me outward as I continued to fight. Pushing with all my strength, they drew my momentum and forced me out. With my reaction speed from beach flags, sometimes I was quick enough to sneak back in-bounds before the skater when back behind me (a roller derby strategy used to draw penalties), but not this time…’CUT’ a penalty was forced as the aggressively spoken word echoed in my brain and I skated to the penalty box feeling stupid that Id made that mistake again for the third time this practice.
Four and a half years of Roller Derby had lead me to this place. I was a chartered skater for the Victorian Roller Derby League who ranked 2nd in Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby. I felt like a nobody in the Roller Derby world despite making it this far. The skill gap in Australia is still so great that the opportunities are few and far between. I'd ditched my ‘flashy’ name after leaving Canada and my beloved Avalanche City Roller Girls. I don’t like the way Roller Derby is sometimes still seen as staged entertainment like its revival in the 80s and 90s. The sport is real now.
The back story...
I remember how challenged I was in my 2nd year, mastering my skating skills, learning rules and strategy. Knowing what was going on with everyone on track (and their next move) at any given moment while trying to transition to backwards staking or avoid a hit from the opposition. I'd fallen in love with the challenge. Your constantly thinking, assessing and making your next play. Polar opposite to beach sprinting my former sport where optimal results were best achieved with no thinking and a skill second nature to all humans… running.
Look at whats really going on...
Back on the track, I knew something wasn’t right as I seemed an emotional mess. Not being able to focus clearly on the game and rules and forcing silly mistakes. This was so foreign to me in this arena. Competition and sport has always been front and center in my life and as I often said, my “rock”.
Training and competition was a place where I could escape, a meditative state where nothing else mattered but doing the work. The world outside could be falling down for all I knew, this was my way of getting present in life. Right now this was all falling down and I didn’t know what to do.
Other things were not lining up for me too. I hadn’t played a game for quite some time now due to miss timing and injury. I was spending up to 4 hours on the road just travelling to a practice, sometimes up to 4 times a week. Nothing was working out. But I didn’t want to believe it, so I forged ahead regardless. Time went on and I was able to slightly tame the crazy mental chatter in my mind, but things still weren’t lining up, the feeling was not quite right. I wasn’t ready to face it because it seemed like Id be turning my back on my identity and everything I'd ever learned about sports, training, hard work and the never give up attitude that seemed ingrained in soul.
The penny dropped when I realised that tears were being forced out of my eyeballs whenever I hit the pack with speed. What was I doing this for? Being a target to be hit at ever angle and every opportunity. Every time I took the track I was putting my mind, body and soul on a battlefield it just didn’t want to fight. This had to stop and it did as I finally took myself away. My body and mind breathed a sigh of relief as I started to turn inwards to see what was really going on. Piece by piece, I started to pull apart my Roller Derby puzzle, the goals Id set, the work Id done, the progress Id made, the opportunity, the circles and support around it all and everything else that had led up until this point.
With sport comes the physical training; the greater influence is the mental training. Commitment, resilience, goal setting, visualization, day in day out. If your going to the top you need to commit to all of that. But with it also comes flow, ease, enjoyment and most of all something that has dropped into my consciousness in the last few years, intuition. The instinctual feeling and knowingness that so often so many of us choose to ignore. In my mind, this is the most importance part, above all else. You’re guiding light, subtly directing you where to go. You can push and resist it all you like but eventually the signs will scream so loud that you have no choice to pay attention.
How to follow the intuitive signals...
So how can you do that? Firstly as hard and uncomfortable as it may seem you must lean in and look at these feelings. Face what’s really going on. Stare your fear head on and sometimes, that’s what it takes. You may need to remove yourself from the environment and situation to get the perspective. Clear your head and your mind and return the playing field to equilibrium.
Ask yourself some questions.
- Does this make me happy?
- What is this worth to me?
- Am I getting out what I'm putting in?
- Why am I doing this?
- How does it make me feel?
- Is this what I REALLY want?
The answers can be quite revealing and show some areas that you find hard to face and even accept as your own. But it’s a worthwhile process. You can think them out, but go a step further and write them out and share them with those around you. The reactions will be interesting and also signals for you to read. But ultimately what you choose to do next must come from your feelings. They’ll probably be some ego-minded thoughts and talk arise. For me it sounded like this
- “Are you just gonna quit because its hard”
- “This is the time when your ment to push past all of this”
- “Maybe your just not cut out for this”
I have to understand that my ego is hardwired for this, its only concerned with keeping me safe, keeping me on track to do “what I think I know is best for me.” The trouble is, I think I know better. But then I look back to my questions and can give answers to the ego.
Look at deeper at the answers to your questions...
- I'm not quitting because its hard, Ive been in far harder situations than this.
- Push past what? At the end of the day I didn't feel like I was getting out what I was putting in. Its not about pushing.
- Ive been here before and I don’t need to prove what I'm cut out for.
This time its intuition. I'm actually not meant to be here right now, cant you see Abby, the harder you force, the harder it becomes, no flow, no ease, no fun. Id have to admit this whole ordeal was a bit of an identity crisis for me, but I know the drill, sometimes you have to leap first and let the net appear second. So that was it. I stopped and the moment I made the decision, everything showed up for me and I felt better about life after sport. I was confident I was done with Roller Derby.
What happened next...
After not missing the track my skates and the hours of driving every week there was one thing that caught my eye a few months later. The application form to try out for Team Australia. I tried to ignore it but it seemed to pop up constantly during my online social media scrolling. Followed by a casual chat with one of my team mates, no matter how hard I tried to 'forget it' the thought niggled in my mind. At the last hour I complied an application and shot it off, I don't have anything to loose and just because I applied didn't mean I had to show up.
Well, I did show up, just this last weekend. Seven grueling hours over two days in the summer heat. With limited on skates preparations in the last four months I drew from every aspect and experience I could, mentally, physically and emotionally. No crazy mind games and no hot pooling tears. I would be crazy if I said I don't care what happens from here - I absolutely do. This time Ill pay more attention to my feelings, my intuition and know that whatever happens it will be the right path for me.
Cover photo: NikkiBee Jungleland (Nikki Boltz)
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