Keating, Kirk, Cook, America and Sparrow - it’s not just spiffy
outfits and fabulous hair they have in common. They are all great captains;
Fearless, full of heart and utterly dedicated to their cause.
When I was voted in as the captain of Riot Squad (Croydon Roller Derby's A-team) in 2012, I was filled with a strange mix of emotions. I felt honoured - I would be following in the
footsteps of derby greats such as President Garfield and Ghouldielocks! …But
there was also another feeling lurking under the joy …and that was fear. Great big throbbing fear – the kind that
makes you want to casually sneak off for a quick little vomit.
The responsibility and trust that my team mates presented me
with was wonderful, but genuinely daunting. Could I really do this? Did they
pick the right person? Either way it was going to be a challenge.
Two years later, that underlying fear is still a great
motivator. The badge of a captain is not an empty decoration, and at every training
session, every game, I feel that I constantly need to earn it and to deserve
the trust that my team mates placed in me.
In terms of the role, games actually tend to be the easiest
part. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no
means a cake walk. The captain plays a pivotal role - first and
foremost being there for any concerns their team mates have or support they
require, and then working closely with their bench, the referees, and the
Captain of the opposition to ensure that everyone enjoys an entertaining and
Personally though, the bit I love, and the toughest part is the
journey. Everything that leads up to the
game. That is where the hard work lies
and that is when you need your captain to come through for the squad.
Riot Squad have been on an exciting journey since first forming
in 2009, and in the last three years we have really hit our stride. Playing all available challenging teams, and
slowly progressing up the rankings. To achieve this, we have worked hard to
create a collective mind-set amongst the team members, and as a captain, I feel
it is my challenge to constantly cultivate that mindset.
It can be hard for everyone to keep up morale and motivation for
2 sessions a week, 50 weeks a year – so that’s where I come in.
To be part of a competitive bouting squad, when it comes to
training it's not just about attendance or attitude, it's about pushing. Pushing yourself as hard as you can, and
never settling for your current level. Working with our ever patient head
coach, Herbielicious, I try to help maintain a supportive environment in which
people feel they can push to the limits-and beyond occasionally ( hey come on
we’re feisty women playing a competitive sport, an occasional meltdown is
normal right?!). Most importantly, I
don’t want people to be afraid to fail. I want them to be brave and try, no
matter what the outcome. To do that requires creating and maintaining an
environment that encourages that attitude. It is a continuous job - a bit like being a janitor for the sporty mind,
but it is entirely worth it. Seeing the
results that this bravery elicits is incredibly rewarding.
The Cheese may well stand alone, but I don’t think a Captain
ever should. I couldn’t do what I do
without support - which usually appears in the form of my vice-captain, Do Or
Dyduch, and of course Coach Herbie. The
three of us are usually in contact most days, discussing team progression,
concerns, plans of action and ways in which we can help individual team members
improve with their own goals.
The final and most important part of what enables me, and
perhaps all, to Captain well is the team that you’re working with. And in all honesty I'm extremely lucky with
Riot squad. Their tireless and consistent dedication never fails to amaze me. They
regularly turn up to training fired up, excited and positive - ready to push
ever harder to see just how high we can go.
‘Because Carpe diem.
Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.’ John Keating