As I sit here gearing up my brain for my teams second bout, I find myself considering what got me into derby in the first place:
People whod obviously trained their hind parts off but still didnt take themselves too seriously.
Real warmth and smiles between opponents before and after the whistles.
Fierce competition and hard physical play between the whistles.
A focus on excellence in a highly challenging sport.
Acceptance. There was no stereotypical best derby player type.
Glorious chaos accepted with good humor and a healthy dose of jamnesia.
and since then the sport has taught me: Inclusion. Its not all about the players on the track. There is a wide variety of important roles.
My message to myself and my team today: Lets go out there and be the excellence we want to see in the world!
Saturday, September 14, 2013
As I sit here gearing up my brain for my teams second bout, I find myself considering what got me into derby in the first place:
Sunday, July 7, 2013
...and human minds in general.
In my cover identity as a student and teacher of the workings of the human body, Ive made a study of how we see and make sense of the world. The truth is: Our brains lie to us.
Its not their fault. They do their best. Our senses give them limited information and our anatomy limits their processing ability, and they have to instantly construct a complete world view anyway. To do this, theyve got to make some stuff up and take some shortcuts. How they do this and what kinds of problems it can cause has been especially interesting to my zebra persona. Heres a Big Three of known flaws and how they show up in derby:
All you see is all there is: We tend to make decisions based on the most available information, regardless of its the only necessary information. Yes coach, I did see that jammers toe tag outside and back in. But its not a cut if the other foot was still straddling. Neither one of us could see her second foot (that downed blocker is not transparent) but from where the leg is it might have been a straddle. No call.
Effects of attention. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo
Was that a high block? Possibly. But the jammer was trying to sneak by on the outside line on the curve, and I took the high probability problem spot and watched feet and hips. Ive had a somewhat harried head ref tell me Remember to watch Everything! and its a goal Ill continue to work towards; but my brain doesnt wanna.
We see what we want to see: Humans love to be right. One of the best ways to feel you were right is to focus on information that supports our views and overlook information that challenges it. So we do that. I recently sat with an off-duty zebra who was watching his loves team play. Under his breath, he accurately reported every call he saw. He identified the same calls as I did against his loves opponents and none of them that I saw against his loves team.
Do I suffer from these flaws? Of course. Im human, and I have a human brain (naysayers to the contrary). What to do about them?
1) Know they exist and undermine their power. Ive worked with the zeeb who saw
only his loves opponents flaws; during a bout when hes got his game face on he calls points and penalties with beautiful fairness. Thats a triumph of forcing his
attention on the action, not on what he wants to see.
Intentional approaches such as remembering to scan head to toe even if track cuts are the most likely problem right this second can keep us out of mental traps. I intentionally run through the phases (Did I see initiation, action, impact?)before the whistles blown. It slows me down half a second, but helps assure I didnt fall for what you see is all there is.
I avoid learning biasing information (what the score is, which player has a history of free-roaming elbows) as much as possible. If I dont have expectations, my brain will have to rely on actual sensory information instead.
2) Have no skin in the game. One big advantage I have is that the team I really care
about most, I skate (not ref) for. I almost always like both teams at bouts I ref, or am inclined to like them. I really dont care a fig who wins. That takes the wind out of the see what you want to see effect. Too bad the people yelling at the refs
dont have this advantage
3) Keep in mind that Everybody in this game has a human mind. Therefore, each and every one of us is prone to these errors. We know youre awesome, we love you, you Are special, but this means you too. So retain a healthy lack of complete confidence in your own perceptions, please.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Eighteen bouts this past month, in stripes. Those tourneys will Really rack them up! I've always loved that derby is a study in contrasts: Demanding and accepting, competitive and friendly. Nothing shows these contrasts more clearly than tournaments.
I've been reffing just over a year now, and I marvel at how much the game has changed in that time. Both the zebra and the player in me very much approve of a lot of it! No minors...I was on the fence on this one, liking the simplicity but a little worried the violence would get out of hand. It didn't. The rules changes that speeded up the game? THANK YOU for those! It's true that never until a month ago had I seen a jammer on her -1 pass, but that move doesn't Feel slow, so it doesn't count.
Some other changes, not as good. I've always despised the rankings systems that discourage good sportsmanship (by rewarding Giant point differentials), and WFTDA's gone that way. The ranking system also makes it hard for not-very-good WFTDA teams to find opponents, because it's better for the rankings for a weak team to lose to a good team than to beat an even weaker team. Let's not shut people out from playing, k? It's really not all about winning championships.
I love being part of such a vital sport; a movement in motion.
What brought this up? This weekend, I saw a real live dinosaur. Saw it with my own two eyes. And a crafty dino it was too, finagling one of its opponents into a one-minute vacation in the scenic Sin Bin.
I saw a pivot line up ... (wait for it)... ON THE PIVOT LINE! And then ... she leaned wayyyyy back so her hips were as far back from it as her leg could reach. And one of the opposing blockers lined up with her hips ahead of the pivot's. And failed to yield when warned. Boom.
Yeah. Seeing a move that was common less than a year ago felt like a complete Blast from the Past, and blind-sided a player who may have never even Seen a pivot on the line before. Here's to Lack of Fossilization!
Saturday, June 22, 2013
... You hear the Star Spangled Banner and automatically start running through your checklist. Where's the penalty box? Which side will my ghost points be sitting on? I found myself glancing at my wrist (what color is my jammer?) and rubbing my fingertips together (taped for visibility?). None of this would have been odd if it hadn't have been the opening ceremonies for Relay for Life.
Monday, April 29, 2013
If a ref hockey stops like a boss, but cant plow stop in the length of the track, he used to play hockey. Do Not try and cut this guy in the concession stand line; he will hip check you into next week.
When a ref zooms by people close enough to tangle arm hairs without concern, she does or did bout skate. If you let her make a demo pack with Hockey Stop Guy, make them wear mouth guards, because they Will start bumping and shoving each other.
If your name is a joke only other gamer geeks will get, youre more likely to be an NSO but lots of people on skates will appreciate the joke.
The skaters dont much care if its just a black vs. white scrimmage to give the refs some practice. Theyre Into it and just wanna play some derby. ☺
Zebras, as a herd, care more that one other zebra they respect might disapprove of a call than they do about being told theyre a blind stupid ox by sixteen assorted random fans, skaters, or coaches.
People who will give up a weekend and travel for hours to study up on paperwork and protocols, knowing they wont even get to skate, are generous souls indeed. Yay for NSOs!
Among the zebra herd, PATCHES are cooler than MOUSTACHES. The reverse may be true among bout skaters.
You know youre at a ref clinic when they rosin the infield and ref lane as carefully as the track.
One marginal call thats made generates more drama than ten blatant fouls not called.
When WFTDAs own trainers cant come to a firm conclusion about how to interpret a clarification it wasnt very clear.
In a room full of people with electronic devices, where the ongoing discussion was about a subtle interpretation of a rule not one could be detected (by a college teacher, mind, whos used to detecting such things) checking their FB or pinning something on Pinterest. Now theres some dedication right there!
Friday, April 19, 2013
Take a Knee!
Thats my least favorite phrase in Derby. With the last two practices including players wearing ice packs, it does get one to wondering Am I being stupid for putting myself at risk like this? Is it too dangerous? (I play as well as ref, which changes the equation somewhat.)
The thing though, is that I know humans are terrible at assessing risk. We pay way too much attention to whats immediate and dramatic, and easily ignore whats more distant or mundane regardless of the actual threat levels.
Im also a pathophysiologist. What kills the most Americans? Heart disease, diabetes, obesity are three of the top four; and derby helps protect us against all three. Sure in theory we Could just go to the nice safe gym for the exercise. We might live to 100 but itd feel like 175. Gym time without the fun and competition as a motivator? DOH I went and put you all to sleep just reading it! Plus derby refreshes our vision of whats possible and brings us confidence, strength, and enthusiasm. Yeah, Ill accept an increased risk of injury in trade for all that goodness, any day of the week.
And to tell the whole truth .tomorrow is Bout Day! Bout Day! Bout Day! and that makes my heart Sing!! and a singing heart is a good enough reason all by itself.
While we live, let us LIVE. See you on the track!
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Most zoos, if you fork over extra cash,will give you a behind-the-scenes tour of how they care for and feed their animals. Welcome to a FREE tour of the various Zebra Zoos!
First, let's just shake the hands of the small teams (who regularly field rosters of less than ten skaters) and send them on their way. These teams really don't have the resources to keep their own zoos. Some of them attract 'wild zeebs' that regularly attend, but if the team is too small to scrimmage, it really has no way to provide the all-important -practice- to train their zeebs.
Of the teams that regularly field a dozen or more on the roster, there's an entire spectrum from ref-hostile to ref-friendly ... And it's not hard to guess where they are.
If a team this size doesn't provide its own jam ref ... Watch that water hole for crocs, zeebs! The thing about Zeeb zoos in derby is that there aren't any fences. Handing someone a rule book, then having him call a scrimmage and yelling at him whenever a skater doesn't agree with a call is mucky water, scanty grass, and black flies. Any zeeb without a strong affection for the team or some particular skater on it will show his heels and head out; and any that are left are handicapped in learning their trade.
So how does the zoo that is a derby league develop a thriving herd of zeebs? The same way they develop thriving skaters. Practice. Feedback. Support and encouragement. Its really a pleasure to work a scrimmage for a ref-friendly team! The scrimmages are run pretty much like bouts (extra time-outs for the coaches to do their thing aside); the zeebs work like they would in a bout. The skaters and coaches dont gripe about calls while the scrimmage is on but do ask questions and offer suggestions in a friendly way during breaks in the action. Feedback to help the ref get better without feeling attacked, HOORAY! (It amazes me how many people who wouldnt think of hassling a skater for an error dont hesitate to jump the case of even a brand-new ref over a missed call.)
Dont like zeebs whose stripes are in Team Colors? Me neither. Homer refs are fortunately rare as far as Ive seen; but they are out there. Every one Ive met has come from a team that came across as being on the ref-hostile end of the spectrum, too. It could be a loooooong bus ride home if you knew your teammates were going to be resenting any calls against them. And while a homer ref does give a team an advantage in a bout what league wants to develop the rep of violating the First Rule of Derby?
Hey skaters, tell ya a secret: We like ya. ☺ That whole Cold Dead Eyes thing? Totally game face. We do the studying and put up with the hassles because we love the sport and the skaters which makes your friendship and acceptance all kinds of welcome. Derby <3, Mutant Gene