Between blockers, jammers, and the whip, it’s any wonder the office side of business isn’t more hazardous.
Playing Roller Derby taught me a lot about teamwork that has proven to be useful in the working world as well. Here are some examples.
In Roller Derby, the objective for blockers is to keep the other team’s jammer (point scoring player) behind you. To do this, it’s essential to work as a team. This means a lot of talking (ok, yelling) to each other on the track. We have to let each other know where the opponent’s jammer is and when it’s time to speed up or slow down. In addition to yelling at each other, we look for hand signals from the coaches on the sidelines and even physically grab each other to get the message across. Sometimes it was difficult to pay attention to voices amidst the chaos, so I had to make a conscious effort to listen.
In my desk job, I spend most of my day communicating, although it’s usually more quiet. Politeness is more important, but the importance of timely and accurate information is the same. I meet with my boss and people working for me every week, and we share important updates to make sure everyone’s still moving in the right direction. Sometimes I have to listen for the words that people are afraid to say.
In Roller Derby, moving as a unit is essential to scoring points. If a blocker is too far away from the pack, she can get a penalty for hitting the opposing jammer. Sometimes it’s important to go slowly, sometimes quickly, but always as a pack. Even the jammer works with the team strategy, although she’s doing something different than the blockers. When I started skating, I was eager to rush out ahead and show off how fast I could go. When I learned to temper my enthusiasm and stay with the pack, we scored more points.
At work, it’s important that we remain consistent in the messages that we give to our internal customers – i.e., employees. We all remind these employee customers to use the digital tools that we provide. That way the message is more likely to sink in and we avoid confusing them. If we disagree, we discuss it within our team until we’re aligned and then communicate a consistent message to other groups. It can be difficult to keep my mouth shut sometimes, but it’s more effective to wait for the right time and place for some messages.
Lending a Hand
In Roller Derby, there is a move called the “whip” in which a blocker reaches back to grab a jammer’s arm. She pulls the jammer forward, so the blocker slows down and the jammer speeds up. This can help a jammer accelerate around the outside of a pack of blockers even though she has a longer path to skate.
As an experienced engineer, I spend some time training other employees about the technical tools available and some other things I’ve learned that make the job easier, such as how to talk with my boss when I have too much work. Even though training others takes away from the time I would spend doing my own work, this time is well spent because we will all be more successful, happier and more likely to remain gainfully employed.
Becky Christian has worked at Procter & Gamble consumer products company (Tide, Pampers, etc.) for 15 years as an Engineer. She skated with the Cincinnati Rollergirls under the name “Bex Pistol” for 5 years and competed in front of ~4000 fans at the Cincinnati Gardens arena. She is married to Derek Christian, owner of My Maid Service in Cincinnati.