Warning! System critical! – How critical is too critical?

In roller derby, we are striving to do things to the best of our abilities. We turn up, we learn things, we practice things, we keep going until we can do them and we continue to use them in drills and game play.

At the end of the day, roller derby is a sport. It is a high level, adrenaline filled, strategy integrated, full contact sport. And as with any other sport, each player has different desires and ideas on what they want to get out of it. In this sport we have a variety of personality types, different people with different wants and dreams and goals are attracted to roller derby for a variety of reasons, and they stay and eventually fall into player categories.

  1. The player who strives to be the best they can possibly be

  2. The player who is happy being at their level

  3. The player who loves plays for enjoyment rather than athletic outcomes

There are obviously more categories and you can break it down into many more groups (such as players who want to reach the next team up but cannot commit the time due to work or family etc) – but I’m not necessarily going to focus on these.

My main focus in this post, is on the players in category 1. Why? Because a) I can relate and b) so can you – more than you realise! When I say I can relate, it is not because I think I’m this awesome skater – in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth, I do in fact think very low of myself and my ability as a skater. I am very hypercritical person.

The main reason? There are two types of people in category 1.

  • Type 1: The optimistic reaper of rewards

  • Type 2: The pessimistic perfectionist

Type 2, Cat 1: the player who strives for perfection, more often than not is like me. They work hard, they ask for feedback, but they are always looking too far ahead and are never happy with their performance. By continuing to strive for the next possible level, very little do we look at where we are, what we have done and how what we have done has helped or even hindered ourselves or our team.


I have known for a long time that I am mean to myself, I do push myself and I am way too hard on myself. As someone from a gymnastics and competitive figure skating background, this has been the norm for me. I have had people be hard on me and never really give me positive feedback or even acceptance. Very recently I have been given the amazing opportunity to finally represent my league. After the hard work and effort put in, to nearly skate for my league then break my ankle, to come back from that and push hard enough to get back to a positive level of skating and player ability… I am so excited to skate as a Harlot and am so determined to make this count. As part of my aspiration to be a better me, I have been working on positivity and moving forwards, this has seen me using my training diary to look at what we have done, what I can work on and what I think I did well. But picking things that you did well? For a Type 2, Cat 1 person, this isn’t particularly the easiest of things. Type 2, Cat 1 players can sometimes forget that there is always room for improvement, striving to nail something without consideration that it could be improved to form another move or drill. Instead of focusing what they did well and why or how it was good, Type 2, Cat 1 players instead look at what they did not so good and are the far end of the scale when it comes to being critical.

“Critical: Expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgement”


Being critical can be useful, for instance you need to use constructive criticism to help you improve and move forwards. If you were to not be critical of your performance, then you would continue to stay at the same level or taking backward steps. But how critical should you be?


I am personally very much a hypercritical person. I don’t often think I did anything good and I certainly am no good at accepting compliments without considering them to be pity compliments. I know that this is way too critical. There are Category 1 players who do have it sussed, the Type 1 players. These players find a healthy balance between being constructive and being too critical. So how can you keep your levels from being critical!? Make a table, a little bit like pro’s and con’s, try where possible to find a good thing for every not so good thing in order to keep it balanced and also not make it look like you have too many not so good over good.

  •          What did you do good?
  •          How did that affect those around you?
  •          What can you do to continue or improve this?
  •          What did you feel was not so good?
  •          How did that affect those around you?
  •          What can you do different / how can you improve this?


A very recent example of my Type 2: category one-ness… I watched myself back the evening of a scrim practice. I had chosen to focus on my blocking skills and try to implement the things that we have learnt in training in the last month or so, I jammed a couple of times but my mind wasn’t particularly game. I came away from scrim being content with my blocking for the day, feeling as though I had been useful to my team, a very rare feeling. But as I watched the footage back that night, I broke down. What a mess, lost my balance here, messed up there, got in peoples ways there, just an absolutely mess. Do I actually know how to play roller derby?! I carried on with my evening, moping on the sofa and speaking with my overseas Ohana – Mika – about how I felt and how I’d messed up. She gave me a stern kick up the backside, told me to sit and watch myself again, look at how my actions helped or hindered my team and what I need to work on or change next time. With that I went to get a good night’s sleep.

After sleeping on it, I manned up and decided I needed to face up and watch it again. And watching it again with Mika’s instructions in my mind, I breathed a sigh of relief. And then kicked myself. Watching myself back and looking at how I worked with my team, I realised that I had upset myself for no reason. I actually did do good. There was room for improvement, but I did good. Whilst I sat there watching it again and eating soup, I made notes in my training diary, noting down what I did good and what I need to work on. An example of this is offense for instance, in my return to roller derby, at my last league I was pinned as a fulltime jammer with others not wanting to step up. I had not dusted the cobwebs off my blocking box so I never really got to work on my offense before joining the Harlots. In becoming more decisive I am starting to make those moves, but as part of my balanced criticism, I made the note to work on my offense in scrimmages. Now there are various ways to improve offensive play, however I noted down a way which I have practised in training and felt worked for me, so to integrate it into scrimmage would be a big jump forwards. In order to work on my offense, I was going to improve on picking people off. Whether that is on my own or working with a teammate, I will improve my offensive blocking by picking off and holding a player.


You may use a table, you make use bullet points, you may write things in big elaborate paragraphs, but you simply need to do whatever works for you to ensure that it doesn’t become a chore. And the same applies for when you use your training diary and do your homework!!


When you feel like being overly critical? Ask yourself, do you really mean it? Were you really that bad? Am I just being mean to myself? Remember – there is always room for improvement. Something I have always reminded myself whether it be singing or derby or work, there is always something you can do different which improves things, and by improving the smaller things, it really helps improve the larger outcomes.

So instead of kicking yourself and saying I should have done this or what if… be critical, but don’t go into meltdown.

Til next time little blue monsters x


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