How Playing Roller Derby Made Me a Better Social Media Marketer

By day, I’m Candace Timmons, OU’s social media marketing manager, formulating strategy, creating content and distributing it to our three major audiences via our official social media accounts. But by night, I’m InstaSLAM, #84, for the Oklahoma Victory Dolls Roller Derby (OKVD) league. Before I continue, if you aren’t familiar with the modern game of Women’s Flat Track Derby, watch this:

For the last two years, my life has consisted of positional blocking, star and stripe panties, whips, derby kisses, pace lines, trips to the penalty box and footwork and endurance skating. As much as I love this sport and my teammates, it’s hard on my aging body and I’m spread too thin. I decided to retire. Aug. 8 was my last bout and as I hang up my skates and make the transition to retired skater, I’ve been examining how roller derby impacted my life and have drawn some comparisons between my beloved full-contact sport and the job I’m oh-so-passionate about:

“If you can learn to skate you can basically do anything.”

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When I joined OKVD in 2013, I had no skating experience. While I lacked the skating ability, I had gumption in spades and wanted to learn something new, make some new friends, reintroduce competition into my life and get a good workout without having to go to the gym. Check, check, check, check. To date, roller derby is the hardest, funnest thing I’ve ever done. In learning this sport I’d never played, using skills I never knew came a great sense of empowerment I’d never experienced.

Now at work when there’s something new I want to try on social media, I don’t really consider that it might fail. Roller derby has made me more willing and fearless in trying new things because nothing will ever seem as insurmountable as the first time I laced up my skates and then proceeded to spend more time on the ground than on my feet.

Putting quality time and effort into something – whether skating or social media – is always worth it if it’s something you enjoy.

 

Teamwork, yo.

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In this gif, the team in white “gift wraps” the red team so their jammer can bypass the pack effectively. Via http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com

Roller derby doesn’t recommend teamwork – it demands it. This sport has given me a new respect for teamwork. In having to rely on my teammates, I’ve applied that to my work life in relying upon and better appreciating my co-workers. In both environments, you learn about strengths and weaknesses – yours and theirs. You compensate for them and they for you and learn to complement each other and work together.

You learn to have each other’s backs and it’s the best.

 

Communication.

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Because I don’t have eyes in the back of my head and the first several months I played, I wasn’t very good at transitions (turning from front to back to front), communication became important like never before. Where is the opposing jammer? Is she on the inside? Is she behind you? Where is your jammer? Are you in her way? Do you need to drop an anchor? If so, who? You don’t want to drop two in the same spot. These are the kinds of things that are important to communicate while skating in a jam. But as I’ve gotten better at communicating in roller derby, I’ve also gotten better at conveying messaging on social media more clearly and concisely and it’s easier for me to communicate with coworkers.

Communication isn’t something that is difficult but it is something I have to work extra hard at.

 

You develop a thicker skin.

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Black Jammer is hit out and recycled twice. Via http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com

Sometimes in the heat of a jam all this “communicating” can get rather boisterous. Sometimes on social media, people blow right past boisterous and are downright nasty. In both situations, it’s OK. It’s not actually OK for people to be nasty, but it’s not a personal attack. And frankly, it’s more of a reflection on them than me or the brand I represent. When it does happen, when someone blows up on social media and is angry about something, I get to be the first line of help in rectifying the situation. That is, unless what they are mad about is football. I don’t know football. I know derby. 😉

Lesson: Don’t take things personally when they aren’t – and they usually aren’t.

 

Balanced life. 

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I can get an idea stuck in my head and become obsessed with it – especially when it comes to work. It can be good or bad depending on the idea. One of the nice things about roller derby (and our ridiculously long practices) is when I show up for derby, derby is all I think about. You can’t be skating around thinking about work and life. If you’re not paying attention, someone will literally knock you off your feet.Derby demands you are present when you’re there and it’s taught me to be present in other aspects of my life as well.

 

When you get knocked down, you get back up – with urgency.
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There’s nothing quite like taking a full-body hit from someone who has sized you up, placed themselves at just the right angle, gained some speed and nailed you. This happens a lot in derby. And as much fun as it is to give these hits, it’s equally as unfun to take one. When it does happen to you – when you take a soul-crushing hit, go flying and land horizontal – you have to get back up. You have to bounce back up. Your team is depending on you.At work, when I post something that is misspelled, get a piece of info wrong, an article features one of our professors…only the writer of the article messed up and that professor is actually at UCO – not OU, or you post to the wrong account (yes, all these things have happened) – you fix it – quickly – and move on.

Social media and roller derby both move at a lightning-fast pace – you have to keep up and react quickly when things go wrong. There is no time for wallowing, literally or figuratively.

Things don’t always go as planned – and that’s just how it is sometimes.

Apex jump fail. Via http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com

Apex jump fail. Via http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com

How I envisioned my last bout: I’d play the whole bout, get to skate the circle of our adoring fans and high five them after a victory while roses were thrown at our feet. (Totally kidding about the roses.)
How it actually went: I broke a plate the scrimmage before our last bout but luckily got a new plate in. Thanks, Star Skate. Skated the first half of the bout. We were losing. I got ejected for “egregious blocking” right after halftime. Went to the locker room and fell to pieces. I did not get to skate the lap and high five our fans after the bout, but I did have to fill out ejection paperwork.
That is very obviously absolutely not the way I thought my derby career would end. I never dreamed I’d be someone who would get ejected from a bout. But. I was not in the locker room sobbing alone for long before I was joined by teammates (who weren’t currently playing in the bout) and my boyfriend – all of them seeing me at my worst and still there offering encouragement and comfort – except for my bff Fatal Inferno, who told me I’d just have to come back next season. (She’s hilarious.) And for the record, I did (and still do) not agree with the call to eject me but I did have to accept and comply to it.
Recently I was asked to buy some ad space on social media for a course we’re partnering with HISTORY channel on. They didn’t quite go as planned. Sure, they were reaching hundreds of thousands of people, but percentage-wise, there was not a lot of follow through (i.e. signups). All the research, all the effort, all the time spent to get it just right….and it didn’t work the way I thought it would. Nothing left to do but pull it, evaluate the course, research and try again. It’s not ideal, but nothing is going to be ideal 100 percent of the time.
The key is to never stop learning and growing, no matter what you are doing. 

In closing, I think I found roller derby when I needed to find it. It’s been tough with work and derby competing for my time. Both are fun and rewarding in their own ways and each has made me better at the other.
Get an inside look at my team in the video below:

You’ll probably still see me skating around campus because I’ll never be able to completely give up something I put so much time into,

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