Most folks out in #SAChat land know that outside of my student affairs life I play roller derby with Assassination City in Dallas, Texas. I love playing derby for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it is completely different from my day job. (I swear, I have never hip-checked a student.) However, this season I have been serving as a co-captain for our team, and I have started to see the ways in which derby overlaps with student affairs. Not with the skating and fishnets, but with the team development, commitment to a cause, and DIY mentality.
A few weeks ago we had a heart breaker of a bout. We were favored to beat the team we were playing, but ended up losing by 7 points. For those of you not familiar with derby, losing by 7 points is like missing a free throw at the buzzer, or the final field goal attempt bouncing off an upright. So close, yet so far. Understandably, I was upset. I believed I could have played better, was frustrated with a few calls the refs had made, and was worried that my team would be upset with me because I wasn’t able to lead them to victory. Yes, you read that right — I took a team event, and made the entire thing about me.
See, we had a rough season last year, and we have a lot of new women on the team who are also new to the sport. We have spent a lot of our off season figuring out ways to mesh the team together, identify strengths, and asking folks to step up and play positions that were new to them because we had holes to fill. (Sounds familiar, yes?) I thought that if I could deliver them a victory, they would feel like it was all worth it, that they had made the right decision to play with out team. In my distress that evening, I failed to look around and see the joy the team had despite the loss. They were excited for the marked improvement of the team, they saw that we had worked together better to make our walls, and provide better offensive support. The were celebrating personal bests. They realized what I did not that evening, that as a new team, it didn’t matter that we had lost our bout. What mattered is that we worked together better as a team, and we played to our potential.
When I finally checked my own ego at the door, and allowed myself to see the good in our loss (and in full disclosure, this took a couple of days), it led me to wonder about how many times I may have stolen joy from my students. Focusing not on the good that was happening, but instead on low program turn out, staff that was failing to meet expectations, or initiatives that weren’t supported by higher up administrative folks. I truly believe that team development is one of my greatest strengths as a professional, but when I don’t take time to celebrate the good, what tone am I setting for the group?
I don’t have the answer to that one, but it did manage to bring up several other questions I am still thinking about today: How many times do we allow the pressure of our position, or long term departmental goals to negatively influence the way we look at success? When have you made a program or an event more about you and your needs rather than taking time to get real input/feedback from students? Yes, we are in a time when budgets are tight, and we have pressure to produce results for those higher up, but at what cost? What little successes are we missing today because we are too focused on achieving the long term success of the future?