Go, team sports!

You probably already know this but I’ve never been a particularly sporty person. I played t-ball for one season and spent a lot of time in the outfield happily picking dandelions. There were the few years where I did competitive swimming which arguably, is one of the most introverted sports out there (“just swim in that direction and don’t talk to anyone” got it). So when I saw my first roller derby bout many years ago, I surprised myself with how much I wanted to try it. It wasn’t until after I started a business, moved to Guelph, birthed a baby and sent her off to school that roller derby became a viable option. But there it was, bright and shiny and waiting for me.

This is actual footage from my first day.

I came home with a giant bruise on my chin from where I had not-at-all gracefully smacked it off the floor and a big grin on my face. I was in love: the support, the camaraderie, the resilience, the tattoos. This was a team sport for the artists, freaks, and the miscreants. Roller derby is hard. You need endurance, tenacity, strategy, and skills. Players train throughout the year in school gymnasiums and badminton courts for a short summer season (when the arenas are de-iced). In short, it was exactly what I’d be looking for.

Once I moved out to the farm, I transferred to Forest City Roller Derby based out of London, Ontario. It’s an hour drive down fast country roads with plenty of wildlife but I was committed. Game season was around the corner. I had my jersey and my roster photo. I went to an amazing scrimmage in Detroit where I played all the positions and scored lead jammer bringing our team a pile of points.

Me in my Forest City Roller Derby jersey trying to look tough

I was ready.

Until I made a momentary rookie mistake and as a league mate hit me, I heard a cracking noise in my chest. I came off the track gulping for air.

At that Saturday’s game, my coach played me lightly and my sore chest was grateful. At practice the next week, I couldn’t even turn on my skates without sending shooting pain up into my rib cage. It wasn’t until two weeks later when I finally decided to go to a doctor, that I found out that my ribs were fractured.

Here’s the thing about rib fractures.  

You can’t really do anything about them: comfrey poultices, ibuprofen, patience. It’s 6 weeks later and I still can’t take a full deep breath let alone play. #wah

Now roller derby is a full contact sport and it’s reasonable to expect that you will get injured at some point. Broken ankles are common as are concussions, rib, and shoulder injuries. People come back to roller derby after injuries all the time. But I’m not going back. At least not in the near future.

I did the math and despite truly enjoying myself while I play, I wasn’t benefiting from the sport. The distance. The long hours. The dark, country drive in all weather. The regular “derby hangover” from adrenaline and dehydration. After the injury, I had to look at my choice squarely in the eye and decide whether roller derby was worth it anymore.

What does this have to do with business?

tl;dr: Quitters never win is bullshit.

Life requires you to make miniscule decisions every day to process, progress, or procrastinate your trajectory. You are always making choices and as long as you’re making them with your eyes open, you can’t lose.

Business isn’t full contact sport (or at least most of them aren’t) but that only means the stakes are less visible.

Let’s look at this another way.

All my clients go through an audit and strategy process before we even talk about brand voicing or copy. Why? We need to know what elements are at play, what they want from their businesses, who they serve, how they serve them, and any factors that might limit them from that trajectory. We need a clear picture. Once we have that we can decide which direction is best for them and their clients, not some cookie cutter replica of a competitor or industry icon. It means doubling down on what works, and quitting what doesn’t.

When done right, quitting is strategic.

The question for me was not “do I enjoy roller derby?” (because duh, have you seen how awesome it is?) but “does this benefit me given what I want from the rest of my life?”

When you look at the whole picture, you’re able to make those decisions with the kind of strength and vision your business requires from you. And that, my friends, sounds like winning to me.

Me in my Forest City Roller Derby jersey with my tongue sticking out. I'm awkward with cameras.
Own it