(The moral of the story is don't put pressure on yourself and have fun. The end.)
It started to feel like a pre-determined outcome. It was our last game of the season, a tough mini-tournie, and I just could. Not. Stop. Getting. Penalties. I think the most penalties I'd had in a bout up until this point was maybe four? I remember feeling a wee glimmer of shame even then, since usually I'm clean as a whistle (and a big goody-two-shoes about it, too!). Our fab BM and LUM did what they could, took me off jammer rotation, but it was no use. Two destruction of pack penalties later I finally fouled out from the game.
For someone who struggles to contain the mix of emotions bout day brings (aaah, the season I cried every bout), I was feeling tremendously calm. I followed the NSO's instructions, made sure to be pleasant and asked questions to make sure I was going about this foul-out the right way. My fantastic team played the last twenty minutes without me and did a great win. There were stand-out performances and team-mates having their best bout to date, and it was a home bout so all the more exciting. I was super proud of my team as always, uplifted by their joy, and shrugging off a blip of a foul out. No biggy!
It kind of was though. After any bout, getting home and having to go about your normal life feels less shiny than just a few hours ago, when you were doing something really cool, and making a difference, and being part of a team. I started to feel guilt for jeopardising the bout for the team, and more jealousy than pride for everyone who got to play the full bout ( I know, I hate that I do this). I couldn't figure out why I played so badly. Maybe things have changed? I didn't think I skated much differently than any other time. I let it all bother and upset me. Maybe that's plenty of derby for me for now.
Whether a good thing or a bad thing, we immediately had a two week break after the tournament. It was good to not have to think about derby for a brief time. But it also built up the anxiety for the next training session. Will my team think less of me for having fouled-out? Will they decide to roster me less on the jamming rota? Will people get picked over me because of my poor play? As training approached, I knew I had to shake off the doubt. Here's the thing - this is a team sport. We all support one another, and if someone is having a tough bout we don't criticise them - we rally around them and lift them up. I forget this from time to time. It's not that I don't trust team-mates to do this, it's just that I think the world of them and don't want to let them down.
At training, it's fantastic to catch up with everyone. We have the usual "I've forgotten how to skate!" bantery warm-up after time away. Nobody cares about the foul-out. Well, they care that it bothers me; but they don't give it the time I have, over-thinking and visualising how it could impact my derby career. They shrug it off. It was no biggy.
We start training in prep for the new season. We're being promoted so our awesome coaches are designing really specific sessions to help us reach our potential. I start to forget all about that glitch of a day and start looking forward. We've got lots of work to do, and for me that includes upping my derby confidence, track awareness, but also not taking things too much to heart. More than anything (and sometimes you can forget this) I need to remember to have fun playing derby!
As I write this, it's three weeks before our first Champs bout, and to get that muscle memory flexing again, a few of us decide to visit a lovely local team for a mixed scrim. At the end of the sesh I have no penalties! Zilch, zero, nada; yus. Most importantly though, I have fun.