Being in my early 40s and being on a sports team is actually kind of weird when I think about it. Not that 40-somethings shouldn’t be on teams, it’s just been such a long damn time since I’ve been on this type of team (like, since my preteen years long!). Of course, I’m on teams at work, but for the most part that’s in my sweet spot of skills where I feel pretty confident. Sports? Not such a sweet spot (see my inaugural post on averageness). Sure, there was that softball team I was a part of for a few years in my late 20s, but let’s be honest, that was a one game a week commitment that was more about hanging out at the bar for beers after the game was over, and they put me at catcher because I throw like a girl.
But this, this is a different animal altogether (though it still involves beer at the end of the day). Fifth Wheel is the first “serious” 4-way team I’ve been on, what with paid coaching, and goals, and commitments, and season-long training. I’ve done 4-way at USPA Nationals before, but it was always on casual teams with varying degrees of last-minute throwtogetherness to them; this year is 4-way for reals. Which means that unlike those previous teams, this team comes with Expectations, with a capital E!
And with Expectations comes pressure, almost all of it self-induced because I’m one of those type-A-harder-on-myself-than-I-am-on-anyone-else kind of people. It comes with the constant need to balance that voice inside my head that says “You’re the weak link, you’re going to hold this team back” with the voice that says “Your teammates asked you to be on the team with them and we’re all working hard to improve and will have good days and bad days.” And yes, those voices inside my head are constantly talking to each other to the point where I really want them both to STFU so I can quietly visualize the perfect turn on Block 19 so that maybe, just maybe, one of these days I’ll come around from that turn with something other than “FUCK how’d the other piece get so far away?” screaming in my head.
Being on a team is a constant battle for me between recognizing what I did well, taking accountability for the things that I need to work on as an individual, and blaming myself for everything that goes wrong. Yesterday we participated in our first competition (without our coach there), and it made me realize just how very much I appreciate having our coach, the most excellent Josh Hall, around. When he’s not there, I do my best to self-analyze, but I realize that I’m just not very good at it (which is why we hired a badass world-class coach, after all, because he’s a hell of a lot better at it!).
Having that trained, objective, honest eye that’ll say “Here’s what you need to change to make this work better” helps to quiet the voices in my head. It also helps to keep me honest because I realized yesterday that without Josh around to nag me in the mockup I get hella lazy on exit presentation, which showed up in our less-than-stellar exit performance yesterday. Granted we were trying several exits we hadn’t tried before, without the benefit of our coach to tell us precisely how to execute them, so I suppose some of that is to be expected.
But oh, the bright spots! There were many. For one thing, we won the AA class! Medals! Money! Fame! Glory! Okay, maybe not the last two, but hey, we’ll take medals and money. We regrouped well from those bad exits, resetting and having clean jumps despite the lost time on the hill.
We saw definite improvement in other blocks, and on some of our jumps, the team flow felt like it was really gelling. We’re about to head into three straight weekends of training, culminating at a 4-day camp down in Perris, so it’ll be really cool to see where we end up after that level of intense training. (And no, we didn’t originally plan to have such an intense stretch, but weather-induced rescheduling found us squeezing in some extra time).
And if all else fails with quieting the voices in my head, I just need to look at the sticker on my helmet that says Skygod Approved. And that, as my Blue Skies Mag loving friends all know, is all the validation you really need.