My last team used to talk a lot about energy. Especially the night before bouts. “How will you use your energy,” my last captain used to ask us all.

In that season, we went from “that” team to zen. By “that” team I mean the team with the bench of screaming crazy-looking ladies. You’ve seen it before. In the penalty box, we would instantly look angry and mean. Some of us might have built up so much bad energy in the box that we re-entered the track with a vengeance … which 90% of the time sends you back to the box.

“If you go to the box and react negatively, using words or gestures you are draining your energy. You do not need to punish yourself for the actions that put you in the box the reff has already punished you,” my last captain, Hurricane Bethany said.

I like that a lot. It’s true. Thoughts like, “I DID NOT [insert penalty here] HER!” or ref hating or self loathing or self pitying don’t make you a stronger player. And it shows when you get out of the box. If you’re leaving your team one woman short, they need you to be your strongest. Anger only weakens us.

I like to think of penalties as unfortunate little respites. Because who in their 45th minute of a bout doesn’t want a little chill time? It’s hard to keep this mindset as you watch your team play short, but (for me anyway) it’s essential. Being calm and zen makes me strong.

I chatted with this woman about their mascot. It calmed me down to talk about humans living inside stuffed animals. Photo by Richard LaFortuna

And, as it turns out, yelling on the bench doesn’t give the refs much incentive to say, “Oh. Yeah. You’re right. I didn’t quite understand your argument until you screamed at me while calling me a ‘big jerk’ from the penalty box. Please, come back and play.” If you’re in the box unjustly, first know that it happens all the time. Second, actually assess if what you did was illegal so you never [ideally] do it again. Third, if it was truly truly an egregious call, your team can use their official review.

My friend, who subbed for captain that day, sprung me from the box using an official review. This is how we celebrated.

And although this zen philosophy was developing for me in my penalty box time and I noticed I played better after concentrating, watching the game and using that penalty box time to analyze my competition (instead of fume and scream), it didn’t click that I needed to use this elsewhere. See, on the line-up bench, I felt like I had to yell. “SLOW DOWN! SPEED UP! OJ OJ OJ OJ OJ!!!!” etc. There are lots of reasonings I gave for this, but looking back, maybe it was just a lack of trust (an upcoming blog post). Lack of trust in my teammates, new coaches, etc.

It’s still not easy for me to be zen and focus on the bench. Here’s what helped: Hurricane Bethany was sitting next to me one game while I was shouting my uvula out, “getting ready” to play the next jam, and she said “I need you to be calm. I can’t be zen when you’re yelling.” And for some reason her saying that it was what she needed helped me. “Oh. I can’t ruin Bethany’s zen, that’s important,” I thought. Which is true, but also silly that I was willing to let my own zen get crushed by my … enthusiasm. Was I a less tired, less winded and more focused player by using my energy to yell on the bench? Absoltuely not.

So now I’m quiet on the bench. Focused. Thinking about what my teammates and I need to do in the next jam. Because when it comes down to it, derby is played jam by jam. Each jam is a new chance to reset, calm down and focus.

So that’s how I feel about energy. It starts before the game. The night before the game I can be found ….

Right. Cooking food and watching derby archives. (Right now I’m making quinoa with curry powder and soy milk topped with an egg, tomatoes, onion, beet greens and some mozzarella. Getting ready for practice. Watching Angel City versus Sacred City on

Quinoa is my new favorite thing.

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