How Roller Derby Prepared Me to Be An Entrepreneur

Two of the brand cornerstones here at Firesign are confidence and intelligence. My time with Fountain City Roller Derby is an example of these principles in action: I had the confidence to earn my Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor badge, and I had the intelligence to know I wasn’t bout-ready.

These days, Miranda Rights (my derby alter ego) is inactive, save the occasional wRECk League workout, but I find that much of what I learned in derby applies every day in business. I detailed my eight-wheel education for Enterprise Marketer. Highlights:

Time is your most precious resource, and your choices on how to spend it will have consequences. Every week, there were up to four derby practices. Each one meant leaving my family, missing a girls’ night, skipping a professional event. I tried to go once a week, which wasn’t enough to be safe and skilled. My peers lapped me, sometimes literally. I realized I didn’t love derby enough to sacrifice other parts of my life. Understand you can’t do it all, make some choices, and let go.

Have an ally – and be one. It’s called the derby wife – someone who will have your back, someone you’re excited to see, someone who will keep things in perspective. My derby wife inspires me, she makes me laugh, and she knows the difference between stress tears (give me space) and busted-kneecap tears (get help). Allies make you better. Choose a good friend, and be a good friend. Celebrate each other. But be prepared to…

Tackle with integrity. No cheap hits. Know the rules, know the etiquette, and do it right – navigate difficult situations with commitment, straightforwardness and class. It’s not personal. You can play to win without throwing elbows.

Falling is learning. Get back up, and think about how you could avoid it next time. (A fellow “freshie” introduced herself in our Facebook group by saying “I’m the one who falls all the time and takes the longest to get up.” One veteran’s response: “You mean the one who learns the most and gets up every time.” I love that.) Know how to fall, too – fast, smart and small.

Starting a firm takes fortitude and guts, and I’m bolstered every day by the derby experience (even if I don’t miss the bruises). If you have passed a test that involves taking hits and getting your wheels bumped out underneath you, you can handle anything. As I wrote in Enterprise Marketer, confidence comes from having tried something hard, silly and wonderful; knowing I am fast; remembering that I can give tackles, get tackles, fall down and get up.

And it never hurts to have a mean shoulder-blade block.

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