I've been playing roller derby for almost 10 months now. I'm far better on my skates than I was 10 months ago, but I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be. Lots of things still terrify me about the game, and the amount of both skill and knowledge that I have to acquire to get there is often completely daunting.
Months ago, a teammate let me in on her personal mantra for derby improvement: Do One Thing.
It's impossible, in the limited practice time my team has, to learn everything all at once. And trying to do so will likely just muck you up on the track, whether you're trying too many things at once, or not concentrating on nuances of a skill, or even just not paying attention to where other people are. You can't do everything. So Do One Thing. Pick one thing, each practice, and make a concerned effort to do that thing to the best of your ability. Maybe it's holding the inside line and not letting the jammer past you while you're holding it. Maybe it's the perfect 180 single knee fall. Maybe it's keeping an eye out behind you while you're skating forwards. Whatever. Do One Thing.
One of my biggest issues on the track is that I get frustrated with myself far too easily, as my knowledge of the game and strategy far outweighs my personal physical ability actually, y'know, do any of those things. (Stop taunting me, Tomahawk stops.) And it trips me up. I start thinking about what I want to do, what I should do, and the next thing you know, I'm in my head not paying attention, and the jammer has danced past me without even a glance from my direction.
Last night, though, I Did One Thing. I made a concerned effort to listen to my teammates, to pay attention to where we all are on the track. By doing that, during scrimmage, I was able to see two of my teammates pull out to the front of the pack, chasing down the opposing team's jammer, and to hear a 3rd behind me, caught behind the other team's blockers. And I was finally able to put listening skills and derby knowledge together, as I skated in between the two groups, forming a bridge that kept the pack intact, and enabled my teammates up front to knock their target out of bounds. It was a tiny thing, a thing that only lasted a few seconds, but it was One Thing. A thing I'd never done before, and my first conscious instance of being able to put all the pieces of the derby puzzle together, at once, on skates, in the middle of an actual jam.
It felt pretty damn awesome.