If You’re Always Picked Last, It’s Time For YOU To Start Picking
One of the most common sources of anxiety in a jiu-jitsu gym (or, even in PE at school) is the fear of getting picked last. Even as an adult, the feeling of being the last choice in anything is upsetting, especially in a sport that you love.
At some point in our jiu-jitsu journeys, all of us will be the last person standing on the mats. We might have to just sit a round out if there’s an odd number of students in the class, or maybe we truly are the last choice available for someone who doesn’t have a rolling partner yet. It happens to everyone at every level — sometimes, even black belts are left without a partner when none of the students on the mats are up for quite such a challenging round. But when you’re consistently left standing around awkwardly while everyone else rolls, it can take a toll on your self-esteem.
Though this is a situation that affects students of all genders, women in particular experience this frequently in Jiu Jitsu. Whether it’s due to their male teammates wanting to be respectful or it’s due to them believing that women can’t give them a “challenge,” the end result is that many female BJJ students feel undesired as rolling partners.
The other group that this particularly affects is white belts. Sometimes, upper belts do want more of a challenge than newer students can offer… and other times, teammates may simply not want to deal with all the lumps and bumps that come with rolling with a training partner who hasn’t developed solid Jiu Jitsu coordination.
Regardless of the labels that apply to you, if you’re consistently getting chosen last when it comes time to roll, it never hurts to look inward first. Do you find yourself apologising for accidentally kneeing your teammates in the head a lot? Do your teammates frequently have to “panic-tap” because you crank submissions on so fast? Do you give unsolicited advice mid-roll or try to “punish” your teammates after they submit you? Are there ways in which you’re abrasive off the mats that may make your teammates reluctant to spend time near you on the mats?
Regardless of the reasons why you might be getting picked last, be the person to ask others to roll first. Relying on other people to come to you might be the only thing stopping you from being one of the first people in the class to find a partner. Sometimes, people look so shy and reluctant that other students assume they don’t want to be chosen for a roll. Dream big! Find the person you want to roll with, and ask them if they want to take the next round with you. The worst they can say is “no,” and if they do, it never hurts to ask why.
In fact, these “no’s,” though they may sting in the moment, can help ease your concerns or help you become a better grappler. Maybe, for example, the person you asked is injured and is being picky about who they roll with — only a select few trusted teammates. Or maybe they give you honest feedback and let you know that your gi is always unbearably smelly. You’ll never know unless you ask.
It’s impossible to know what’s going through the minds of every person on your team. While it can be nerve-wracking to ask other people to roll, especially when you may be insecure yourself, you can’t blame others for picking you last when you aren’t picking anyone to roll.
Rather than waiting to be chosen, try being the person to do the choosing. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how eager people are to roll with you once you put yourself out there.
Averi is the managing editor for the Jiu-Jitsu Times. She's a brown belt under Nick Hughes of Trinity MMA.
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