It’s all about goals

How setting goals can help you improve.

Having a goal, big or small is the most important aspect of development. You need to have something to work towards in order to motivate yourself and to achieve success. It is something that has helped me through the toughest times and kept me on track (unintentional pun).


A definition of a goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

There are many other definitions too, mostly including a ball, but we don’t have balls in roller derby (which you have probably had to tell people 100 times) so we will ignore those ones!

There are different types of goals. The ones we are going to talk about are short-term goals, Long-term goals and S.M.A.R.T goals. Each type is hugely important in roller derby, and in developing as an individual skater. You can make goals for yourself, your team and your league and together you can experience successes.

I go to training, free skate and bouts with individual goals. Every single session I have something I want to achieve. This means I am giving myself a chance to always experience some form of success every time I strap my skates on. This has really made a difference for me.

For example, I will go to scrimmage with my short-term (little goals). This may be something along the lines of “today I will stay shallow (not take the outside or inside lanes to get through)” or “I will focus on trying to juke” or even, “I want to do a spin during a jam”.

The reason these little goals are so great, is because they are achievable, so even if you have a really tough session where you never even make an initial pass or score a point. You can go home feeling proud and happy that at least you achieved your goal, you did your spin or your juking was really improving etc.


Short-term goals expect completion in a short time-frame. This time-frame is determined by the bigger picture. So if the larger goal is set to be achieved in 10 years, then a short-term goal may be a month or even a year. Dependant on the context, the time-frame of a short-term goal varies. It could be a minute, hour, day, month or year.

Short-term goals at roller derby could be improving a skill at practice or free skate, improving a strategy, working better with a team mate, learning a new skill, scoring a certain amount of points, avoiding a certain amount of penalties. The list is endless. These are the goals that you should create for every time you put on your skates, in order to keep you motivated and directed. For me, taking goals to free skate and having things I always want to work on has made a huge difference for me.


A long-term goal is something you want to achieve in the future. It usually requires time and planning in order to accomplish this. Again, the time-frame is dictated by the context.

Your long-term goal may be to beat a certain team. This would require time put into training and planning your training. You may have lots of short-term goals to help to achieve this long-term goal, such as improving fitness, improving teamwork, strategies and learning new skills. Or your goal may be even bigger than that? You may want to one day play in the WFDTA Championships, which may be a 5 year plan of strategic planning and improvements. Either way, what is important, is having a goal to work towards. Keeping your heads up, your hearts strong and never stop moving towards it.


S.M.A.R.T is an acronym to remind you of the important elements in setting an achievable goal. All goals should follow this structure no matter how big or small.

Specific – choose a specific area for improvement, being too general can make something seem unachievable. Equally, being too specific can make you get hung up on the tiny details. (Derby example – “I want to learn to juke in two motions using a fake step then a sprint in the opposite direction” as opposed to “I want to learn to juke”)

Measurable – make sure you are able to quantify your outcomes so that you can track progress. You can ask yourself questions such as how much, how many or how will I know I have achieved it? (Derby example – I want to achieve 5 jukes successfully)

Achievable – make sure you don’t make the goal unrealistic. Think about what it will take to achieve this goal and if that is something you are or will be capable of considering all other factors. You wouldn’t set a goal to achieve 5 jukes in one session if you can’t even stand up on your skates yet. Equally, don’t make it too easy.

Relevant – Choose a goal that matters, will help you towards your bigger goals and achieve the successes that matter to you. Ask yourself if this is the right time to set this goal, if it seems worthwhile or if it is in line with your long-term goals. (Derby example – an irrelevant goal would be setting a goal to do a forward somersault on skates when you would never be able to use this in a roller derby situation)

Time-bound – set a deadline or time limit for your goal. Don’t leave a goal open ended as day to day events and thoughts will take over or seem more urgent. Choose when you want to achieve it and stick to it. Be realistic with your time setting too, to keep it relevant and achievable. (Derby example – Complete 5 jukes by the end of this session, an unrealistic time may be by the end of a single jam [too short – unachievable] or by the end of the year [too long – not relevant]).

So where do you go from here? Make a list. Right now! That’s your first goal. Write down what you want to achieve next time you are at training. Give yourself between 1 and 3 goals to start with. If you achieve them, expand on them or create new goals. Do this EVERYTIME. Soon you will see how quickly you progress once you are always experiencing success. No matter how big or small!

Never say never

How to be at the top of your game.

4 years ago, I couldn’t have even imagined what my life would look like today. I would have never pictured I would be skating for London Brawling the 3rd best team in the world (current rankings), skate for Team England and live in an amazing city, full of great people and brilliant friends. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play my sport at the highest level and constantly feel inspired by those around me.

This is because, when I started roller derby in 2010, my biggest goal was to learn to cross over, skate backwards, do a transition or complete my 25 laps (now 27) in 5 minutes. That’s what mattered to me, the small achievable goals. It’s the small goals that you set, that are the most important. They are the ones that will someday make you the best skater you can be.

Starting out as fresh meat is exciting but difficult. You end up looking at skaters that can do all the things you can’t, and making it look so easy. It’s easy to let this dishearten you and to feel like you will never be ‘that’ good. But instead of putting that pressure on yourself and comparing yourself to others, you have to see it as a challenge, not a threat! A key point to understand is that everyone is different, everyone learns in different ways, at different rates, come from different sporting backgrounds and have different strengths and weaknesses. This is why you can’t compare yourself to others whilst learning, there are too many variables. Remember, it isn’t a race, all that matters is that you are aiming for the same finish line, it doesn’t matter how quickly you get there, it only matters that you keep moving forward.

Image of when I first started playing roller derby 2010 (left) and image from WFTDA Playoffs 2013 at Fort Wayne (right)

The best thing to do is set your own goals, and work at achieving those. Everyone has to start somewhere. You see skaters, doing apex jumps and spinning around an opponent as if they could do it in their sleep. But you didn’t see how that skater got there. The hours of practice, the hundreds of falls and failures, the blood, sweat and sometimes tears. You just see the polished move, executed so perfectly. This is why you can NEVER SAY NEVER. These skaters were probably looking at other skaters when they first started roller derby and wishing that one day they would be as great.

Believe you can and youre halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

You have to have some self-belief, motivation and a hunger to learn. If you have those, you will hit the ground running! Take any opportunity you can to learn. If you have 15 minutes at the start of the session while everyone else is kitting up, use it to practice a new skill or perfect an existing one. And remember, never hope for it more than you work for it.

Featured photo by: Paul Delooze

Article image (2013 playoffs): Sean Murphy