roller derby goals

Pretend like I’m posting this at the beginning of January like I meant to, before swanning off on holiday with it not quite finished… (ooops!)

You ain’t no chump, so you’ve probably heard of setting S.M.A.R.T goals (i.e. ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, or a variation on that), but there’s another goal setting tool commonly used in personal coaching that I think could be really handy for progress planning in roller derby. This tool is called the GROW model, another acronym which stands for:

G – goal

R – (current) reality

O – obstacles and options

W – way forward

This tool is generally used by coaches during the early stages of a coaching relationship to help the coachee identify their goals and to brainstorm a plan for achieving those goals, but it’s also a useful model to use on your own without the help of a coach.


First, you identify your top-level goal or goals. Of course, you want to make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T goals (but you already knew that). For example, I have two main goals I’d like to work towards in 2016 – progressing in roller derby, and becoming stronger and fitter through weightlifting.  To make those goals ‘smarter’ I could phrase them like this:

  • By the end of 2016, I will have played in at least one open-door game as part of the B team
  • By the end of 2016, I will have increased my deadlift 5 rep max to 1.5 x my bodyweight

As you can see, my goals are phrased in such a way that it will be really easy for me to judge whether or not they’ve been achieved. Saying that you’d like to ‘be stronger’ isn’t a super useful goal, so I’ve selected something that I’ll use as a proxy for an increase in strength – how much I can deadlift for 5 reps. I never could have predicted that I’d fall in love with lifting in 2015, but somehow picking heavy shit up has become one of my favourite things to do. Currently I can lift 50kg (5 reps x 5 sets), which is about 85% of what I weigh. Based on a lot of reading around realistic lifting goals and my own personal progress since August, I believe that my deadlift goal is realistic and achievable. Similarly, based on my improvement pace in roller derby and feedback from coaches, I think joining the B team sometime in 2016 is a reasonable target.

Current reality

After working out your goal or goals, the next step is to assess the current reality. Some questions to ask yourself – what’s happening now? (When? How often?) What’s the effect/result? Have you already taken steps towards your goal? Does this goal conflict with any of your others? Be honest with yourself, and question whether any assumptions you make are actually valid. My current reality looks something like this:

  • I’ve been skating since March. For the first 6 months this involved one practice a week, then for the last few months of the year it increased to 3 x per week for a total of 5 hours. I’ve been going to the gym and lifting at least 2 x per week since the end of August.
  • My attendance has been consistence – however I sustained a rib injury at that start of December which has meant time off skates and away from the gym. Added to this is 3 weeks of Christmas break and a further 2 weeks due to a holiday at the start of January which will mean about 6 weeks of very little time on skates.
  • I’ve made some progress towards my goals already – nine months of being coached in roller derby and four months of lifting weights – so I’m not starting from scratch. I’m passed minimum skills and have taken part in scrimmaging at practices, but I’m yet to do my first cherry popper bout. I started out deadlifting 25kg in August and have gradually increased this to 50kg.
  • But – I still have a long way to go. Although I have the basics of derby down, I need to work at making my technique sharper, more deliberate and more aggressive. Scrimmaging isn’t quite as overwhelming as it was at first, but I still find it pretty damn confusing and struggle with successfully executing plays as part of a team. Before roller derby I was more of a book-reader than sports-doer, so I’m probably fitter and stronger now than I’ve ever been, but that’s still a long way from how fit I want and need to be for derby.

Obstacles and Options

So you have your goal, or goals, and you have a good idea of your current reality. From here, you need to identify what obstacles are in your way. The theory goes that there must be at least one obstacle – otherwise the goal would have already been achieved (duh). Thinking about my own goals, some obstacles that come to mind are:

  • Confidence/self-belief – I can fall into the habit of negative mind-talk if I have what I perceive to be a ‘bad’ practice, which leaves me feeling down about derby.
  • Time – honing a new skill tends to take a significant amount of it. Although my two goals complement each other, they also to an extent compete with each other in terms of my time, along with work, seeing friends, having other hobbies (what are those again..?).
  • Willpower – sticking at derby and lifting long enough to reach my goals will take a certain amount of ongoing willpower. Early morning workouts, heading out to practice on rainy winter nights and – a big one for me – sticking to a way of eating that fuels my performance, not hinders it.

Next, brainstorm your options for overcoming these obstacles. Think about different approaches you could take, the pros and cons of each. Think about who might be able to help you. Then decide which option(s) you’d like to act on.

  • Confidence/self-belief – I could proactively practice positive mind-talk techniques. Buying a book like The Ultimate Mental Toughness Guide: Roller Derby, which I’ve heard good things about, could help.
  • Time – I could practice saying no to some invitations when I know I’ll feel overstretched (and not feel guilty about it!) but also set aside at least one evening a week to see (non-derby!) friends. Making sure that I’m getting to bed at a reasonable time (and staying off my phone in bed!) will help me to keep-up pre-work gym sessions, keeping my non-derby evenings free.
  • Willpower – I could watch plenty of games on to remind myself what my heroes have achieved, with a lot of hard work. Keeping a diary of my progress in derby and lifting could help with staying motivated. In terms of nutrition I could utilise a resource such as Eat to Preform.

Way forward

Finally… time for action! Some questions to ask yourself: What actions can you commit to now to move you closer towards your goals? What is the first step? Do you need to ask anyone for help or advice? Seek out any knowledge? Develop any skills? What could stop you moving forward, and how could you overcome this? How often will you review your progress?

For example, for my goals, some actions I can commit to now are to:

  • Begin keeping a practice journal – after each session, making a note of at least one thing I felt I did well and one thing I need to improve on next time
  • Start setting an alarm to remind me when to start winding down for sleep – turning off the TV, putting away my phone, getting into bed and reading a book or listening to a podcast
  • Put on my skates outside of practices at least once per week – at an open skate, at the park or, if nothing else, at least around the house
  • Buy myself a copy of The Ultimate Mental Toughness Guide: Roller Derby…. and read it! [edit: soon after posting this I noticed that this book has gone up to over £30 for a paperback (seriously wtf?) so scrap that idea. I might buy something like this instead]
  • Do some more research on nutrition for athletes and keep a food diary for a while
  • Review my progress after 1, 3, 6 and 12 months

So that’s my plan for working towards my goals in 2016 using the GROW model. Ideally this approach would be used with a coach who can help you really question assumptions and dig deeper, but I think it has merit as an exercise to do on paper by yourself. What do you reckon? Could you see yourself using this for roller derby goal setting?


Image credit: urban_data, Flickr cc

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