Failing to be a Failure

To do anything well you must have the humility to bumble around a bit, to follow your nose, to get lost, to goof. Have the courage to try an undertaking and possibly do it poorly. Unremarkable lives are marked by fear of not looking capable when trying something new”.

I read this recently in a psychology article about something much less interesting than roller derby, and it really struck a chord with me and my experiences of playing and coaching. If I had a proverbial penny for every time I heard someone refuse to try something at training because they ‘can’t do it’, I’d be able to buy us our own Thunderdome! So what is it about getting things wrong that stops us trying? With my psychologist hat on, I wonder about how we are conditioned throughout our formative years to avoid failure and be relatively risk averse. I think it’s time roller derby reassesses failure and starts to understand the positive power getting things wrong should have on our journey as skaters, officials…and fans.

First, the opportunity to fail should be viewed as a valuable means of progress, encouraging ownership of your own achievements and the self-agency to endeavor beyond disappointment and learn from your mistakes. From a coach’s perspective, allowing people the opportunity to fail is a useful assessment measure; not only in terms of skill development, but also in terms of assessing a league member’s resiliency and attitude. League members need to be willing to try new things and ‘bounce back’ when the going gets tough. That doesn’t mean you can’t have one of ‘those’ sessions, but it does mean that you need to take a pro-active approach to snapping out of it, digging in and progressing with the league.

We have right to fail, just as we have a right to try. When we remove ourselves from the ability to fail, or the ability to accept responsibility for our failures, we remove ourselves from the ability to grow. If you’re not failing, you really are doing yourself a disservice. How can you hope to succeed as a skater if you won’t let yourself try unless it seems certain that your efforts will be met with success? How likely is it that every time we try something new we succeed? Personally, I wouldn’t want that. Remember the feeling of nailing that skill that has eluded you for ages, that feeling only came through sheer bloody effort and probably failing a trillion times on the way. If you never failed at anything you’d never feel that awesome ‘fuck you’ feeling of accomplishment!

Failing does not make you a failure, failing brings a sense of hope, a willingness to try again and again and a determination to nail it. So suck it up, get back up and fail some more. Roller derby is hard, but it’s totally worth it and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Written by Dr Blockson – Captain and Head Coach of the Hulls Angels Roller Dames.

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