Derby Math: How Much Do You Practice?

Words by Vivi Section, painting by me. 
How much do you practice? No, really, how much?

Sometimes people ask me how much time we spend practicing in roller derby. I often throw around the same spiel–when we had a practice space it was 3-4 times a week; now that we’re in a less flexible practice space, we’re constrained to less practices a week; practices are 2-3 hours long; if you throw in additional strength training, cross training, and various gym time, the hours add up in your head. If you add in league jobs, promo events, and working bouts, it is equivalent to roughly a 15-20 hours a week commitment.

Recently, however, I actually quantified it. I serve on the Recruitment and Retainment committee of my league and was writing a pep talk to some newbies on our Facebook group about how important it is to come to practice and give your all in practice every time. “Every hour is valuable,” I wrote. “The difference between a fresh meat skater and a person who passed skills test is dozens of hours of practice. The difference between a skills-test passed skater and a B-team player is months of practice. The difference between a B skater who doesn’t make rosters and one who does is hundreds more hours of practice. The difference between a B skater and a charter skater is thousands of hours of practice.”

Then I wondered-this argument sounds lovely, but how true is it? I decided to find out. My league actually quantifies all of our practice time into “quota points,” and in order to make a roster you have so many 60% of available practices/earn 60% of the available quota points. Every practice is recorded and is available to us, so I set out to crunch my own numbers. I feel like I practice all the time,  but really, how much do we practice?

To shatter the suspense, I was definitely surprised. One, I was surprised how little and also how much my league actually practices. I won’t give specific numbers for our competitors out there, but it was surreal to actually see a hard number of hours that we have available to practice in one season. It was a much lower number than I was expecting (because it’s so easy to feel that it’s a thousand billion hours). However, this did prove my point–every hour of practice is incredibly valuable, because there is a finite number of hours available.* Every practice is precious.

Next, my curiosity wandered–how much time have I individually spent at practice? This was also a shock–as much as I talk about how precious practice is, and as much as I feel I am always exhausted from practice and need time off, I was not in practice nearly as much as I could have been. Or to put it better, I missed a lot more practice than I realized. It’s hard to ignore numbers.


Of course, there needs to be time that you set aside for yourself. For example, I just finished my Masters of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and it was crucial for me to take a few weeks off from derby so I could focus on my final papers. There was time last season when I was out for concussion, and I’ve been out for a few weeks recently with tendonitis. There are school commitments, family commitments, work commitments, and social lives we need to have outside of derby. Aiming for 100% attendance doesn’t necessarily need to be our goal–it’s worth contemplating what it looks like to moderate one’s passions so as to avoid burnout. However, it goes without saying that there were plenty of times I could have gone to practice and chose to stay on my couch instead. Or times that I left practice early because of no good reason (which fell into the “missed practice” category.)

So, what does one do with this information? For me, I’m going to use it to make the most of the remaining practice time this year and set goals for next season. My B-team is essentially in off-season right now, and I’m currently rehabbing a flare of tendonitis in my foot. So, while I’m off skates, I’m thinking a lot about next season and how I can make the most of off season. While I did 8% better this season, I wonder what kind of skater I would be if i went to 70% of practices? 75%? There’s only one way to find out.

Similarly, for at least a little bit of a theological angle to this post, what would it look like if we “showed up” more for our own lives? How many opportunities are we missing for community, growth, wholeness, happiness by only showing up 55% of the time? How can we take a lesson from derby and transfer it into living with intention and living on purpose?

Do you have access to your practice stats? Check them out! Set new goals. Perspective is everything in this sport where it seems like a never-ending road of improvement.

*Obviously I have to provide a link to Rent’s “Seasons of Love.”


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