Over a year ago I was nominated to put myself forward as Captain of our Women’s team. When I got asked “do you want to stand for Captain?” I thought about the fact that I don’t like telling people what to do, having responsibility and that I’m not the most organised person. So I declined on the grounds that being captain probably wasn’t “my thing”. I was then asked if I would consider the Vice Captain role. After a little bit of persuasion from some of my teammates I decided to go for it, how hard could it be right?! It would be less responsibility and maybe I’d get away with blending into the background.
So my plan was working fine until two games into the season, our captain leaves the team. At this point all heads turn to me to step into the Captain’s role and my internal panic levels go through the roof. Looks like I would be captain after all and now my team were looking to me for decisions, advice and inspiration. Needless to say, I did not feel up to the job and self doubt was always at the back of my mind.
As a team we had been unbeaten in our previous season, yet this season we had loss both of our games so far. I was now the captain of a team that felt deflated and who’s dreams of promotion had died already. I needed to do something to change people’s mindset, so in my head, if I could help us win one game and get people’s spirits up, I would be able to finish the seasons saying “I didn’t f*ck it up”.
The pressure was on as we kitted up to play our third game, my first as captain, and I could feel how much the team needed a win. And we did it. The pressure was off. Now I just had to get through the rest of the season so I could step down from being captain, we could get back to training hard and focus on next season, with a new captain.
Except things took an unexpected turn.
We were not on track to finish at the top of our region but an unexpected win between 2 other teams suddenly changed everything and we were now in the running to make it to PLAYOFFS. SH*T. This was the best and worst news I could have hoped for and I was gripped by the thought of playoffs being within our reach. The realisation then dawned on me. Turns out I was “captains material” after all, because I wanted us to WIN and I knew I would do everything within my power to get us to playoffs.
We now had to win our final Champs game and we would be going to playoffs. The tables had turned and now the most reluctant captain the team had ever had, was looking at leading the team into the highest level roller derby the team had ever got to. This game was the most important game WRD had ever played. So feeling the pressure and knowing the team were now hungry to win, I needed to rise to the challenge.
So back at training we now had something to focus on. We increased the intensity of our drills and pushed ourselves a little harder. I wasn’t going to start cracking the whip or pulling rank at training, that is not my scene, so I did things the way I knew how to. I showed up, I trained hard, I smiled, I supported my teammates and was as enthusiastic as humanly possible so that my team knew I believed in them.
Game day had arrived and the moment I stepped into the sports hall I was faced with constant questions. Have lineups been done? What is the floor like? Where are the toilets? And everything in between. And without realising it, I dealt with it all. I had become the person I didn’t think I could be. I had my sh*t together and I finally felt like a captain. The game started and we had injuries, foul outs and tears to deal with. But we did it. WE WON. We were going to PLAYOFFS!!
In theory you could say the pressure was finally off. The team had made it further then they dreamt they could have 6 months earlier, and I could definitely say I didn't “f*ck it up”. Job done right??
But the pressure didn’t disappear. In fact, it just intensified. At this point I knew the team could do it, I genuinely believed that they were unbeatable if they stayed on top form, so I needed to make sure we were. Though I tried to hide the stress I was feeling from the team, those close to me knew I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in the lead up to playoffs. My life became cycle of worrying about attendance, line ups and default tactics. I was putting pressure on myself, not just because was it important to me as captain, but because it was hella important to me as a skater too!
I needed to keep the team happy and focused and I found myself being increasingly positive at training. I enjoy a high-five at the best of times, but I went high-five crazy! I posted what I hoped to be inspiring messages, worked out game stats so I could give people concrete positive facts about their progress, and used my “unique” sense of humour to try and get everyone pumped for playoffs.
In no time, playoffs were here. We were kitted up ready to play the biggest game of our derby lives so far. Winning this game would mean being promoted to Tier 2. My final words to the team were to “just have fun” even though deep down I wanted to say “WIN”. We were prepared, I knew we could do it. The game couldn't have be tighter with multiple lead changes and never more than 20 points difference. Tense is an understatement.
It’s the last Jam of the game. We are slightly ahead but the opposition get lead. As if things couldn’t have got more intense for me, as the pivot for this jam, I find myself being passed the star!!! With the star on my head, all I needed to do was match the opposing jammers laps and not let them get ahead. The same thing is going through my mind that has been the whole time... “just don’t f*ck it up”. The irony of the situation was not lost on me, I wasn’t meant to be the captain just like I wasn’t meant to be the jammer, but this is what it had come down to and I had to set up. And I did. WE WON. People cried, people cheered, but my only emotion was relief that I hadn't f*cked it up! It was only at this point I finally felt the pressure fall off my shoulders. For the rest of playoffs, we went on to lose our next match and ended up with bronze medals and coming third overall in Tier 3.
We arrived as underdogs but went on to over performed in every match we played, I have the stats to prove it. We left as medalists and I would definitely call that a success!
I have learnt so much over this season as skater and as person. My captaincy started with me finding myself in position I felt very uncomfortable in. My success as a captain came through being myself, playing to my strengths as a person and having a belief in my team. Once I knew I wanted to succeed for my team, I was able to embrace the situation.
Do I want to do it ever again? Nope. BUT I am super proud that I didn't f*ck it up!