Toestops: Why Can't I Quit You?

I am very skilled with my toestops. If there was a toestop marathon, I would be a contender.

Image via Jammercandy

Image via Jammercandy

I am comfortable on my toestops. I love blocking on my toestops; I love jamming on my toestops. I love my toestops. My edges, not so much.

My strength, speed and aggression made me a good roller derby player, not my skating ability.  I had to work really hard to become a good skater.  I joke that I made it to Division One WFTDA playoffs last year without knowing how to skate, but a small part of me really thinks that’s true. Being on my toestops is comfortable, and being on my wheels is scary.

I am a coach as well as a skater. It really hit home for me the other day when I was explaining how something I really value in my skaters is coachability- the ability to take feedback and make a positive change with it. I'm not looking for an instantaneous transformation, just forward progress.

But my coaches and trainers have been telling me to use my edges for the past four years. It’s been FOUR YEARS. I have been receiving the SAME EXACT FEEDBACK for FOUR YEARS without doing anything about it.

Oh, I’ve made half-hearted attempts to get better. I've chanted mantras and made specific drills for myself. I've taken my toe stops off at practices (and knocked the wind out of myself more times than I care to count). I've made lofty goals and made declarations of how “This is the year I’m going to change, I can feel it!” And then it gets too hard, and I give up.

One of my trainers pointed out to me that I use my edges just fine in drills. It’s gameplay where the proverbial shit hits the fan. And it’s true. Whenever we do drills where the focus is on edges and not toestops, I panic. But then I do the drill and it’s fine and I realize, “Oh, I actually do know how to use my edges. This isn’t that bad.” Come scrimmage time, though, you won’t find me anywhere but my toestops.

So why is this a problem? Why do I need to quit my toestops? For a long time, I thought whatever works is fine. I’ve been doing a good enough job on my toestops. If that works for me, why not keep doing it?

The truth is, being on my toestops makes me stand taller than I need to be. It makes me unstable and an easier target for offense. I am less able to create solid seams with my teammates because I’m standing a foot taller than they are. I am pushed forward more easily, and I simply don’t have the speed and agility I could have if I used my edges more effectively.

If I had really focused on changing my skating style three years ago, it would have saved me a lot of heartache and mental anguish. But you have to get worse to get better sometimes, and I never wanted to do that.

Although I’ve come to accept that this change has to occur, I really appreciated last year when one of the coaches told me, “You either need to start using your edges or get lower when you’re using your toe stops.” It was nice to be given an option. Time after time I had heard, “Use your edges, use your edges, use your edges,” with no other option offered. Getting a choice made me think of my toestop dependency as a disability and my coaches were trying to help me work around it. However, it’s not a disability. It is a habit that can most certainly be changed.

This is the biggest thing standing in my way of play time, of being a great roller derby player, a great skater. At any time if I had focused my energy on this, I’m sure I could have made the change. It’s almost like it has been a security blanket I am reluctant to let go of.

After having these realizations, I know now what I have to do. I have to let go of my toe stops. I have to get a little worse to get a lot better.

I am ready to be a beast. I am ready to play at my potential. This is going to be the year I change. I can feel it.

Just Wingett is a Brawlstars triple threat and captain of Ann Arbor Bruising Company.

Posted on April 19, 2017 .