When people join a league, they come for many reasons. Some want to try something new, others want to get into shape, and still others are looking for a social life and friends. Some are looking for some combination of these or possibly something else entirely. Derby is definitely a new adventure, and to be fair, you will make friends. Unfortunately, some people go into derby thinking they will be friends with everyone in the whole league.
My league has roughly forty active skaters in it and I can tell you that I am not friends with everyone there. Do I like everyone? Sure, but I’m an introvert, so I’ve never had more than a handful of close friends at any time in my life; the idea of suddenly having forty or fifty friends is a wee bit terrifying to me. To others, it may be a dream come true.
It’s hard to explain the difference between friends and teammates, because most of the time, teammates can become friends or even worse, frenemies. After seven years in derby, I’ve experienced the gamut of relationships people forge on and off of the track. People fall in an out of friendships in their leagues, but as long as they are actively skating, they will have teammates.
The good news is, you don’t have to love your teammates, but you do need to be able to work with them on the track. Sometimes you and your teammates will not mesh in real life, and that’s fine as long as you are able to put those differences aside at practices and in games. The differences between friends and teammates are subtle, but they are there.
Teammates should be enthusiastic; they should be excited about what goals the team is working on. They should be focused on the drills, the strategy and the game play, and urge other players to do the same. Friends can also be enthusiastic about your goals, or they can be mildly supportive, or possibly indifferent. Friendship is a lot more broad and undefined than the relationship between teammates. Teammates have specific goals in common; they want to train harder, win games, and be a strong force.
Teammates hold each other accountable for their team goals. Is someone slacking off? Teammates will notice and try to motivate their teammates to work harder, come to practices, and cross train. A friend may ask “what did you do today” as an open question, while a teammate may ask the same question, meaning “What did you do to make yourself a better derby player?”
Friends can be reliable, but if you play on a team, you have made a commitment to that team; being reliable is the basic definition of being a teammate. If you are on a team and don’t go to practice, the team suffers. You don’t know what the strategy is, how your teammates play, and what to expect from everyone on the track. Worse yet, your coaches don’t know how to play you in a pack. Not feeling motivated to go to practice? Teammates feel an obligation to be there, and they should!
Sometimes you have to compete against teammates. If your team is competitive, roster space may be at a premium, and you may have to fight for your spot on the team. It’s very difficult to compete against friends, but if you accept people as your teammates, you can keep the personal feelings out of the competition. You and your teammates want the strongest team, so competing against teammates shouldn’t be that foreign of a concept.
Taking a roster space from a friend? Well, that’s a different feeling altogether. It helps to be able to separate those friend feelings you have for your teammates when you have to compete. If you beat your teammate out for a spot, you have to be gracious. If they beat you out for a spot, then you have to be supportive. It’s hard, but if you can separate the emotions out of it, you will be a happier teammate.
Sometimes you can’t stand your teammates; hey, derby brings lots of different types of people into the mix. Just because you all love skating, doesn’t mean you are going to love every single personality quirk of your teammates. You may have nothing else in common with them other than derby, and that is perfectly ok. Once that whistle blows, you have to let go of the personality issues and have your teammate’s back. Some of the best teammates I’ve ever had were not friendly with me off of the track, but I knew that when we were wearing the same uniform, they were on my side, and together we could accomplish anything.
Elektra Q Tion is a monthly contributor for Derby Central and writes weekly articles on her own blog, “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Loose Wheel.” If you have suggestions for topics she should cover, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.