tumblr!

Hey, did you know that I have a tumblr account?
(Which I ashamedly admit to updating more than my blog.)

Please check it out if you are so inclined. I like putting up snippets of games that I enjoyed, along with some fun derby memes.

whatsyourderbyname.tumblr.com

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Zebras? Is this the Serengeti? No, it’s Roller Derby!

Be More Than Just “A Skater” On Another League

Going along with my last post’s theme, we are going to do all the things we CAN do, and not be a whiney, Demandypants about what we CANNOT do. (Well, at least what we can’t do for now.)


AJRD
Anchorage Junior Roller Derby. Check out their Facebook page!

I was invited by the head ref for our league, Cranbeary Crush, to come and skate with her and a few other refs at a junior derby scrimmage being hosted in Anchorage. She was excited when I had helped ref a few of our own scrimmages when I wasn’t cleared for impact yet by my doctor.

Sure, I thought, I’ll help. I am not WFTDA certified, but only a happy little skater who aids in training her league, and dabbled in reffing while getting my knee back into shape after surgery.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a great ref. I am proud that I can count to four, occasionally to five when the occasion calls for it, and can call some penalties.  Don’t judge me, masses!

Forrest Gump Meme

By the way, if you’ve never tried reffing, you should because of these (and more) reasons:

  • You can see what the ref sees during a jam. Plan accordingly. I’m talking to you, pissed off jammer that tries calling it on the far side of turn 2, beneath the dog pile, and you yell at the ref that he didn’t blow the whistle fast enough. Be happy someone saw those butterfly wings your grazed repeatedly over your hips.
  • Calling penalties, even when you see them happen, can be nerve wracking to call. And you better be sure. If not, you don’t call it. Period.
  • Skaters tend to show their truer colors to our striped members. I’ve seen grown adults pout and scream at a ref, a good ref only doing their job.
  • You cannot understand the crap these people go through only to regulate a game that we need them for to play. Seriously. How do people treat refs so badly? You might think your one eye roll really taught a ref a lesson, but it said more about you than it ever did about them. And when there are hundreds of variations of negative emotions toward those striped soldiers during a game, it can take a toll.

I am getting distracted. It happens. I’m a jammer. I like shiny things and looking for holes in the pack. …I need more disclaimers.

Moving on!

At the scrimmage I was pretty stoked to see all the families that came to watch their little people skate. Not only did I get to jam ref (My favorite), but I got to see first hand what this junior derby thing was all about.

AJRD line

I had to keep a seriously straight face as I watched these kids fight for every point. Oh sure, watching Gotham versus Rose City made my heart jump every time hips were passed also, but it was different.

It’s funny, because no one warns you of the heart string pulling that happens at junior derby. I kept hearing all of the “Oooo, they are going to grow up and take all the roster spots” , but there was something that just inspired me watching these kids.

Before I get too mushy, I’m going to end it there. Notes in point?

  • Help other leagues if your team is cool with your volunteering when others need help.
  • Refs don’t have an easy job. Communicate with them about their performance and your own. They may have seen something you might be able to work on that you didn’t realize needed work. They might need that same advice. (Be tactful. Don’t accuse. Encourage good performance with good communication.)
  • Junior Derby is cool, adorable, awesome, and endearing all at the same time.
Reffing for Anchorage Junior Roller Derby
From the left: Jackie Spare-No-Ho (IPR), Kandi Koated (Penalty Box Manager), Meeeeeee, Cranbeary Crush, and my favorite Junior Skater, Pissed Off Pixie.

We can do it!

Alright! Following with my plan of writing things down, check. Well, at least today. That’s one more day than yesterday.

Booty Quake, Creator of Roller Derby Athletics
Booty Quake, Creator of Roller Derby Athletics

See? Progress!

Booty Quake, fitness guru and creator of Roller Derby Athletics just posted a few suggestions on her blog that I found to correlate with my own thought process.

Pro-scuses, not excuses.

This was something I had to deal with a lot when being injured. It is so easy to think about what you can’t do or why you shouldn’t do something. Instead, let’s think about what we can do.

For example, rather than thinking while injured, “Man, I can’t skate. I’m not going to practice,” you say, “I’m going to practice. Not only can I learn more about roller derby by watching it, I can participate in practice by running alongside the team, doing core exercises, NSOing during scrimmages, and let my teammates know what looked good and what needed work during a drill.”

You just became SUPER valuable in terms of a teammate. You are 100% involved with your team instead of 0%.

More examples:

Excuse / complaint Pro-scuse / Solution

I didn’t make the roster.     I will concentrate on the Bout Committee needs

I just want to watch tv.      I will do jumping jacks during the commercials

Working out is awful     I will last another jam

I am really bad at interval training    I will be harder to goad and will recycle faster      

 “Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” – Barack Obama

New?

CRAZY changes.

Capture

Skater and Trainer Athena Latina was voted onto the Alaska All-Star Team Roster list in 2013, and became the first skater to be voted as the Top Coach as well as being on the All-Star Team roster.

-Wikipedia under the “Denali Destroyer Dolls” entry.

I was flying. I was transforming from Super Rookie into Rollergirl. I could almost feel the high in my skates with every stride. I felt on FIRE. Unstoppable.

Then I tore my ACL. RUDEtorn acl

It was at this point that it was time for a change. A serious change. I had to rethink a lot of what I was doing. Second major injury in two years? What is happening? Sure, I could say they weren’t due to my trying anything fancy or stupid, but then again, I was playing roller derby. That’s not exactly like walking off a curb and twisting your ankle. It’s a full contact sport where people are going out of their way to hit you, stop you, slow down that speed and make you think twice about approaching their wall.

But it was also when I realized that I didn’t once think that I was ready to quit. On the contrary, I was angry that it meant I was unable to skate…again.

I knew I could help train. I knew I could learn strategy. It was the implementation of those things that would once again be put on hold.

That’s where the Boom Town Derby Dames came in.

boom_town

The rival team, you say?

Rivals, maybe.

Sisters, definitely.

They are a WFTDA seeking, training hungry, trusting and competitive team of sisters that play in the same town.

I decided to transfer to their team with a few of my fellow DDD skaters to make a go of a new setting and atmosphere.

The new challenges we meet, we meet together. It’s always been about being together.

Now, after being cleared and taking my trusty leg brace, I skate as a rollergirl on the Boom Town Derby Dames and member of their Training committee. Let’s see how far we can go.

First goal? I work on the journal. That needs to happen more. WordPress journal, activate!

Make or Break Me

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Three bouts in, I remember being hit and going down.

It is so quiet. Almost darkly so.

I try to move and something isn’t working. My right arm isn’t listening. I hear a very far away voice ask if I am okay.

Before responding, I try again to push myself up. Trusted left arm succeeds. Right arm tries and fails.

“I think I need the medic.”

Not only did the medics come, but multiple girls from different teams leapt from the stands and many more were on their feet, girls that knew that if I didn’t stand up, something was very, very wrong.

And they were right.

20140328-082400.jpg

To make a long story short, I had broken my clavicle, or collarbone, in two places. It wasn’t until after an ER visit in Fairbanks, a drive back south after the tournament was over for a second opinion, then weeks later to a specialist for a third opinion that I was told I needed surgery. I’ve been involved in sports for years and this was my first broken bone, but I KNOW my body well enough that simply “putting it in a sling” wasn’t going to cut it.

By the way, Dr. Jeffery Moore is fantastic. If you are ever in Alaska and have need of an orthopedic surgeon, he’s your man.

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I am released with a newly plated, reinforce clavicle and a scar that has since faded to a barely visible pink. I attended off season practice in a sling, terrified by the idea that I might never be able to lace up again, knowing that my skills were diminishing with disuse, and harboring a quiet fear of the knowledge of injury. So many what ifs.

I watched our brand new girls skating with such happiness that I made a conscious realization right then and there.

Get up, Athena. Get. Up. You are still on the floor!

I had to physically stand up. It would be easy to stay down. It would be easy to just pity my injury and worry about never skating again, be terrified of injury and just allow myself to be swallowed by the darkness that creeps behind injured players.

Roller derby had saved me from a dark place before, and I realized, as I walked out onto the track, going to help coach my first practice, that it was saving me again. >

Nearly a year later

Whoa. Talk about a comeback.

So, my rookie year was awesome. Most rookie years are. But little did I know that it would either make or break my derby career in a quite literal way.

My team of diehards, the Denali Destroyer Dolls, WFTDA apprentices with our shiny green badges akin to Jedi paduwan (don’t judge me), traveled to the Fairbanks tournament with high hopes and hardened determination.

What happened next changed my life in a way that a win never could.

Disclaimer: the next post may not be for the gentle of heart or of stomach.

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New Skill Requirements? Let’s Break It On Down: The Remix.

April 2013: WFTDA releases new minimum skills requirements.

What does this mean? Let’s read the first bit of the language, shall we?

Each WFTDA Member League that enters into a WFTDA-sanctioned game must designate a league member who is responsible for verifying that every skater in the game meets all of the skill requirements listed below.”

Caution: Stop the freshies and rookies from running out the door.

The reason behind minimum skill requirements are for safety and to help keep the competition alive for good roller derby. Honestly, if people can’t handle the basics, how are they supposed to incorporate good strategy, dodge a fallen skater, and avoid all around bad times?

But the big thing is:

These minimum skills are:

-required for charter team skaters playing WFTDA sanctioned games.

The WFTDA Charter team is pretty much the A team. If I am reading this correctly, B teams that are not WFTDA Charter teams, these are “strongly recommended.” These are also recommended for “new skaters to graduate” from before moving on to contact drills and scrimmages within the league. These minimums are for WFTDA full member leagues and apprentices.

Let’s get to the changes and additions.

Some major changes have been added to the skill requirements that may make some freshies quiver with fear (or if they are crazies like I am, with anticipation and excitement).

1. Basic Skating Skills

  • Reverse Crossovers

Yep, it’s in there (1.3.3). You should be able to perform reverse crossovers, crossing over the right foot to the outside of the track. Essentially, you should be able to function skating in a clockwise direction just as if you were going in a counter-clockwise direction (such as your crossovers). If you find you are having trouble with this, try warm ups in clockwise direction, and practice crossovers this way. As a jammer, sometimes I find myself doing this naturally when moving from the inside lane to the outside lane.

  • 27 in 5

Catch that rookie again! Stop that freshie! I know, 25 in 5 was one daunting, but 27 in 5 will simply be your new goal. I remember when 25 in 5 was an accomplishment. (I am going to try and do the 25 in 5 backwards next practice and see how terribly I do. New goals!) For those of you that just conquered this beast, you have nothing to be upset about. We all want to be the best skaters we can be, so why be upset that the bar is set higher now? It will only mean that you will get BETTER.

  • Acceleration

This is new. How quickly can you get around the track just once from a standstill? The new skills require you to get around in 13 seconds or less.

  • Stops

Not much has changed here, other than a more detailed description on what you shouldn’t be doing on the stop.

  1. T-stop: use all four wheels when you apply pressure, not just the two inside ones.
  2. Plow stop: Feet are not spread so wide apart that you must adjust your stance before you can resume skating.
  • Other skating skills

It’s about balance here, really.

  1. One foot glides down the length of the turn and straightaway
  2. Sticky skate (propel self while keeping all eight wheels on the floor)
  3. Be able to fluidly move from one side of the track to the other
  4. Backwards skate within track boundaries around the entire track at a “moderate” pace. (There’s a glossary at the end that describes a “moderate” pace as greater than 5 laps per minute.)

2. Recovery

This is about coming back from the unexpected. Before this, you were just concentrating on skating around, but now we practice when skating isn’t happening.

  • Knee taps and Two-Knee Falls

Gone are the one-knee falls. Something I always tell myself is: start thinking about getting up before you even hit the ground. It’s this way with the one knee tap. It’s not about crashing down into your pads; it is about falling safely. You shouldn’t come to a stop before you are already trying to get back up.

Okay, more to come. I am taking my own advice and getting sleep. But I will tell you… Transitions! If you aren’t practicing them every practice, YOU SHOULD BE.

The Noose of Truth

A few months ago, Shocker Khan of 2N1 Skate Shoppe teamed up with Bruised Skate Nooses for a contest. Now, in case you don’t know what a skate noose is, you are missing out on a very handy accessory for your skates.  A skate noose is a strap with a loop at each end that easily wraps around your front wheels/toe stop and allows you to ‘hang your skates’ and conveniently throw them over your shoulder. This keeps them aired out and not jammed in with your smelly gear.

Plus, it keeps your hands free.

Right. The contest. Bruised Skate Nooses were offering a challenge to the derby-verse: the winner of this contest would be able to create a design that would then be transformed into a new, exclusive skate noose.

My eyes might have grown three sizes when I read that. I had been looking at skate nooses on their Etsy site only hours before and hadn’t decided on a design/color that I adored. It’s not like it’s easy to pick: there are over 45 choices!

colors and patterns
Seriously, look at how many colors and patterns there are. I think there are more now.

I searched through my house for colored pencils and was denied. Lame.

I sighed when I saw my kiddo’s washable crayons. Shrugging, I picked up some paper and set to work. Be ready for disappointment, because I am not sharing those with you. They were bad. I didn’t dare submit them, but I had to see what the color combination would look like before I bothered trying to enter anything at all.

There was no doubt in my mind what kind of skate noose I thought would be perfect. My lucky shirt for scrimmages is a Wonder Woman shirt, full on with a picture of her boot on my right shoulder. It had to be a wonder woman inspired noose.

Finally, I put together a combo I liked and submitted it to Derby Vixen and Shocker.

Lo and behold, they sent me an email asking me what I had in mind for the entire noose, not just the color scheme. I got all classy and hopped on my computer to use Microsoft Paint (wow, super classy, Athena) and drew right over a picture of a skate noose that was on the website.

I FREAKING WON.

Noose of Truth picture
Thank you so much, Bruised Skate Nooses and Shocker Khan.

My beautiful Noose of Truth is now snuggled up on my Riedell’s, waiting patiently for me to sling it over my shoulder and go to practice. Not only do I have something original and very derby-esque, but it is MINE, and something I can share with the entire derby universe.

I think of all the women and men that have changed my life significantly during the course of my derby adventure. The best part is that I know that is not the end of the list.

Skate noose
In comic book fashion…
noose of truth design
The Noose of Truth.

      SQUEEEEEEEEE!

       *coughs* Okay.

         Seriously now.

If you want to get one of these, you won’t be able to get them off the Etsy site, but only through 2N1 Skate Shoppe. It is awesome. Sure, I’m biased, but really, it is AWESOME. It has been hinted that there will be another contest next year, and I am already planning some designs based off of girls on my team that I will be entering. Try your hand and who knows? You could have your very own, customized skate noose too. Squee!

A Pivotal Position

A skater in the Pivot Position.
A pivot, by definition, is the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates. Photo by Nancie Linley of Flaunt Photography.

I’m sure at some point or another, you have looked at the rules and wondered about the Pivot. Sure, the Jammer and blocker positions are pretty self-explanatory. But what makes the Pivot so special? Why has this position not faded along with standing at the pivot line? (There are still advantages to the pivot line, but I’ll talk about that another time.)

Well, I’ll tell you something. A Pivot can be a pivotal position if held by the right skater (see what I did there?). Let’s take a look at just some of what makes this spot a coveted position, if not a major one. If I think a skater would make an excellent pivot, I hope the statement is not taken lightly.

The Commandant

Some teams use the Pivot as a mother hen on the team: She gathers her little chicks and tells them where to go. This Pivot is like a bench coach on the front lines, and if a good strategist, can actively maneuver her line into an unstoppable force that barely has to think to create ridiculous plays. She calls them and they immediately respond.

There are pros and cons to this strategy (as with most). With teams that have skill levels that are highly varied, such as vets with rookies, this can be advantageous. As the rookies advance in skill level with scrimmages, they are less likely to need a mother hen to help them with strategy, and the movements will become second nature anyway. The constant set of eyes on pack awareness is also helpful. How often can you hear your bench coach when on turn 2, especially when you have three blockers trying to goat you?

Unfortunately, if a pivot is taken out of play or given a star pass*, this can leave the line very vulnerable. If you have one stripe that can rule them all, and suddenly is cast into Mount Doom, then the story is over. Take some eagles and get out of Mordor.

The Surrogate Jammer

Dolla Billz as the jammer position.
Dolla Billz, not a regular rotation jammer, can barrel through a solid wall with ease. Be wary of the reserve jammers. Photo by Nancie Linley.

Needless to say, if you use the pivot as a general of sorts, this creates a ton of pressure for this skater.

Like I said before, if I say you would make a fantastic pivot, that is a serious compliment. This is the position that has to do it all: block, command, be aware of the pack AND JAM. This is the one that most pivots forget about because in all honesty, people forget the importance and game changer that a helmet cover-pass can be.

If you have a jammer that is having the hardest time getting beyond the opposing team’s line, who says she can’t hand that panty off to the pivot and let the pivot handle it? This is the *star pass.

If you pass the star, be ready for some strict guidelines.

  • PASSING THE STAR

A jammer may transfer their position to their team’s Pivot, allowing said Pivot to become the point=scoring skater for their team for the remainder of the jam. Only the position of Jammer, and not the status of Lead Jammer, may be transferred to a Pivot Blocker.

Blah blah what? You mean I can be the jammer?” say Pivots everywhere.

Yes. And the catch is here: You will be the jammer for the remainder of the jam (rule 3.5.6. If it has just started, you cannot gain lead jammer status, nor can you hand that helmet cover off to anyone else. Realize you will probably be skating for two full minutes (unless the other jammer gets lead, then they can call it off).

SPEED. Sure, you’ve been skating the last 7 jams as a blocker, and suddenly the star is in your hands. Realize that suddenly a big fatty, fatty, fat, fat target has been placed right on YOU now, and all the opposing blockers are about to hone in to destroy you. Yay! You need to place that cover on your helmet as quickly as you can, while still in the engagement zone. That means you really can’t leave the danger area until the target is nice and showing on your helmet. Also, you need to make sure the stars are showing (rule 3.5.5). It’s why many teams have reversible helmet covers. You really don’t want to waste time trying to adjust your head gear with four blockers looming over you. And you won’t gain any points if the stars aren’t showing! Imagine how frustrating it would be to get through the pack and not earn any points due to the stars being hidden.

STABILITY. You are about to be hit from all sides to have this pass be interrupted. A star pass my be blocked by the opposing team by any means of legal blocking (rule 3.5.7). I don’t think I really need to spell that out. It’s going to be bananas as soon as those blockers realize what is happening.

ENDURANCE. Note above in the speed portion. You are going to be the jammer with no ability to gain lead jammer status, even if your jammer HAD been lead jammer (rule 3.5.4.2). It doesn’t go to you. Boo hoo. Bah, who needs it? You’ve got endurance like a mofo and are going to skate it out for the next 90 seconds or so, right? That’s right. You are a pivot, and you are a bad ass.

Note to the jammers out there: Don’t just pass the helmet panty when you are drop dead tired and can’t break through. Realize that you are still going to have to work once that star is transferred. NOW guess who is going to block? That’s right: you are, princess. Remember the strict guidelines I mentioned? Don’t send yourself to the box by passing the star incorrectly.

  • Don’t throw the panty.
  • You have to hand it off. They can’t take it off your helmet for you.
  • You must pass it directly to the Pivot. No hand-offs to other blockers.
  • Make sure you are both in the engagement zone.
  • Don’t be on your way to the box and try to hand it off.

If this is messed up, YOU, the jammer, are going to the box, giving the other team a power jam. Yikes.

And if it doesn’t work?

Put that helmet cover back on and skate. The distraction of what almost happened sometimes messes with the opposing team, shaking them up and allowing enough room for you to squeeze by, even if the panty is off. Sometimes the “no pass, no penalty” is worth it to simply get passed a ridiculous line of blockers.

I also recommend that the Pivot not be the captain or co-captain, simply for penalty distribution.

To sum up: if you are handed a Pivot helmet cover, your chest better puff up with pride. And maybe you should ask to jam a few times during practices. The last thing you want during a bout is to try to save your jammer with a panty pass, only to cause a penalty and create a power jam situation, only because you lacked experience jamming.

The line needs you. A jammer could reach to you for help. Be ready. Be amazing. Be a Pivot.

Be A Better Skater: Skate Smarter AND Harder

Athena versus Trina
Tropikill Storm Trina and I testing my mettle. Photo by Nancie Linley of Flaunt Photography.

Disclaimer: I am no Suzy Hotrod, Bonnie Thunders or Bonnie D. Stroir.

Alright, now that the air is clear here, let me ramble on about derby. It’s what I do.

At some point, you may experience a moment while skating where you feel you have hit a plateau or a glass ceiling: you can see skaters advancing around you in skill, yet you feel as if you have not progressed at the same level or speed.

There are a few things you need to ask yourself at this point.

  • Do you push yourself?

This seems like a silly question, but when it comes down to it, some girls push themselves beyond their comfort level more so than other girls. If you constantly allow yourself to sweat, but not to sincerely break out of the “comfortable” level of stress, you won’t get any better.

It is similar to weight lifting. If you constantly lift 10 lb dumbbells, the muscles will no longer be challenged. Unless you:

  • Switch it up

Now, let’s say you are lifting a 10 lb dumbbell. Are you lifting it quickly? How many reps? Do you change the direction that you lift? Do you change the intensity of the lift versus the drop?

The same can be done with derby. Tweak one thing that you normally do: If you are a power pusher on the turns, try running crossovers. Practice suicides for time, not for speed, then switch it up to get a certain amount done quickly, then beat that time. Do you look for holes, or do you push through the pack? Do you never skate backwards? Try going backwards through the pack. Do your 25 (now 27!) in 5 backwards. Change your sticky wheels on the slick floor for some higher hardness/durometer, and see how you become Bambi on skates. It will make you change how you react and force you to think differently on your feet. Or wear stickier wheels on a sticky floor: resistance WIN.

  • Overload

Make sure that you give your all during practice. These are vital times on skates with your teammates. Sure, you can go skating at the skate park to work on your agility and speed, but there is something lacking there that you can only get when you are together, working as a pack. I don’t care how quickly you juke: If you can’t get around Sheeza Maniac’s hips, then you are not doing your job as a jammer. And besides, you are helping your teammate by making THEM work hard to stop YOU. It takes two to tango, and derby needs 100% more dancing. Bottom line: If you aren’t pushing beyond any barriers, you will always be contained.

  • Rest Time

This one is a double edged sword. Too much rest and you lose your edge, but not enough and you still become dull. Bitter Barbie, my cousin and fellow jammer on the Denali Destroyer Dolls, says like a mantra during bout week:

Don’t forget: You start to lose what you have gained in three days. Do some cardio.

I will admit to doing some videos from Roller Derby Athletics when we have a few days between practice and a bout. I can’t lose my edge… there are too many girls wanting to take it away!

But some girls do take a sabbatical and come back a million times stronger, having caught the derby bug and are ready to DESTROY competition.

  • Look outside of Derby

GASP. Yeah, things happen outside of the derbyverse that can destroy your gameplay. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you eat well? Are you stressed out? Some lifestyle changes can not only affect you mentally but physically as well. Quite a few girls have quit drinking soda, smoking, getting more sleep (NOT ME, UGH), even left other people in the dust because of the negative impact they left on their lives. I know a lot of us like to think that we check our life and all it’s problems at the door and that skating isn’t affected, but that’s not true. Sure, skating is a great way to work out stress, but derby is an adrenaline-full thrill ride, which can sometimes release the beast that is ready to flip tables, in a good -and sometimes bad- way. Besides, you never know what you might be able to bring to the table that will benefit your team. Girls have incorporated hobbies into full-blown derby businesses.

Athena Latina and Sheeza Maniac
Flaming Unicorns versus Scare Bears. Head to head and lead changes practically every jam. Photo by David Bedard.
  • Find a nemesis

Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? This, in my honest opinion, is one of the most effective ways in becoming a better skater. I am not saying that you go out of your way to foil this person’s plans. Rather, I want you to believe that everything you do, they will try to do better. Again, don’t be a douche. You don’t even have to tell the person, though some may love it, depending upon the skater. Healthy competition is an incredibly way to overcome a plateau. Unknowingly, you will push harder when they do. And who knows? They might see you catching up and want to push a little harder themselves.

You are on a team, and what you do can reflect onto your teammates. Let’s get a gorgeous reflection when we look into that mirror.