This one has been a long time coming, for one reason or another. I don't even remember when I moved to A-team skating, but it was too late to be in last year's British Championships, and then we didn't really have any games between the end of that and Christmas. Then I found I was getting knee pain, so I took a few weeks off to rest it (which didn't really help - I'm now seeing a doctor about it). There are particular drills that will start it hurting, particularly if I repeat them, and putting it under stress for too long or falling directly onto it can do the same thing so I've had to drop out of scrim early on some weeks. I can't get as low as I normally try to, nd not for as long, which also means that any cross training I do has to be knee friendly so I've started swimming once a week. It's manageable, and I've been very sensible about not jamming and taking myself out of practise when I feel it start to pull, but it's still very frustrating. Especially at the moment where we have some people off skates for medical reasons. We're always a small corp, but it's annoying not to be abl to give as much as I'd like.
Only a week before this game, I found out I was going to be skating in it. It meant reshuffling the NSOs to cover for my absence. As a new player, and with lower attendance recently because of the break I took for the knee, I would be on low rotation (basically providing relief for the higher rotation skaters, who would normally have had to play the whole game on their own with less rest). It's a new system we're trying, but I think it's a good idea as it allows for things like injuries and integrating people into the team while still giving us the maximum number of people possible on the roster, rather than having those with lower attendance not play at all and leaving the others under more pressure.
So how did I find it?To be honest, in the week leading up to the game I was absolutely terrified. The day beforehand I was so nervous I felt physically awful and just didn't want to go. The anticipation for something is always worse than the event, but I think the fact that I kept hearing how our opponents were a whole tier higher than us and known for their serious offence, the long time I'd been waiting for a game, all coupled with worries about my knee, just all got to me a bit. Fortunately it turned out I had a secret weapon...
I've been in bands and orchestras since I was in high school, playing at public events, private concerts, festival scratch bands, all sorts. I was pretty good, but had too many things I wanted to do so I decided to put it down for a while. It's been a few years now since I was in a concert, but I do remember that I have a very particular reaction right before a performance. I jitter. Often in the lead up to the concert, and even on the day, I'm very nervous and fidgety and talk far too fast. Then we line up, go on stage, and suddenly I'm very calm and professional. I follow the protocols, I watch the conductor, I bow at the end. It doesn't mean the playing always goes perfectly, but the actual act of performing with the group doesn't really get to me. I've been doing this for years.
I went to bed woke up on the morning of the game feeling... dead calm. Getting up, getting ready, travelling to the game, I did everything neatly and punctually. I didn't want to talk a lot beforehand in case I rippled the waters so I didn't have a lot of long conversations. (Incidentally, everyone I knew telling me it would be fine, which actually wasn't the most helpful thing to say. I understand why they were saying it; I'd been so nervous before, but I didn't need it just then). It wasn't that I didn't care, it's just that it wasn't getting to me. And all the way through the game there wasn't a single point where I felt panicked or disturbed. When I got sent on track, I just went. When I got penalties (just the two) I didn't feel flustered. I was switched on, but nothing really fazed me. It felt like a concert.
If this is going to be a pattern for me, I'm happy with that! I can definitely deal with being the calm one.
Things that went well
- There were a few nice comments, particularly two separate people who said that I'd blended in well with the rest of the team; they wouldn't have known how new I was compared to the others, which was really good to hear. Obviously I am newer, we haven't all worked together before like this, so I'm pleased that I wasn't being an obvious hindrance!
- I did useful things! There were a couple of times specifically that I remember catching the jammer, and even sending her off. I did pretty well off the line, especially when the jammer is right behind us and goes for the gap. I know I can cover the spaces between us. I avoided some multi-player blocks and generally was pretty clean, although I wasn't on for long enough to make a real mess anyway:)
- A minor point, but I feel like I was attentive on the bench and took instruction well. I'm happy to do whatever the Lineup Manager needs for the team, but I made sure I was listening all the time even when I knew I wouldn't be on for a few jams. I didn't get tunnel-visiony, like I do sometimes.
Things that went less well
- We had trouble fending off our opponents offence. Their main strategy was a very gutsy way of splitting us up from each other and it took us a while to decide what we wanted to do about that. If we moved away, they came with us, and if we stayed still they attacked. Props to them, it was a great idea, but now that we know about it we need to find a way around it.
- It took me a good chunk of the first half to remember to speak up. Everyone was being quite quiet so I sort of fitted in, where normally I'm yelling out the jammer's lane, or what I'm doing. If that happens again, I need to be the one to start the chatter.
- I did get two penalties, and while I think the second one was the sort of incidental thing that happens sometimes, the first one was because I broke the pack. I was having trouble reading the situation sometimes, which is something I'm working on, but I'm a little slower to react to things than the others, and less decisive.
3 things to work on next
- Getting on with my skates: I've been skating in my new Riedell 265's for about a month now, and I'm getting along much better with them. My toe stop work and footwork is picking back up as we become friends, but one thing I seem to have lost is my really tight, low laterals. I used to have really good ones, but nowI'm going to tinker with my trucks, but I need to make sure I get used to the full range off agility on them so that I can throw myself into my moves as much as possible.
- Reading the pack: My awareness of the situation in each jam isn't where it needs to be yet. Part of this is just experience, but it's something I want to be aware of when we scrim so that I can try and pick things up. There was a moment in the game where an instruction was given, and then the other three blockers simultaneously changed their minds and did something else as a unit, and I got a bit left behind. I need to be on the same wavelength and level as the rest of my team.
- Being more assertive on offence: Part of this is linked to the new skates, I don't feel like I've got the finesse on them yet that I need especially when we're running back from the front of the pack to do offence. I don't always go in with the decisiveness and strength that I should, or the speed. I'm not always sure what to do, particularly if I find myself on my own or there's no stated plan so I should explore this more in scrims, and practise expecting us to do offence and sticking with a partner.