Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Very Derby JanYOUary

     Every year we are bombarded with messages about new year's resolutions. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen a commercial advertising some kind of weight loss or diet program, well, I would have a lot of dollars. I've noticed a new slogan this year: JanYOUary. Last month was all about the other people in your life this month is about focusing on yourself. Potentially by joining Jenny Craig or starting to scrapbook. Having no interest in either of those things (and a closet full of unused scrapbooking supplies to prove it), I have decided, though JanYOUary is almost over, to set some derby-related new year's resolutions for myself.

Get less wound up about things
     I recently went to the allergist (yes, I'm the type of nerd that requires special doctor to recommend a good nasal spray) and she complimented me on my low blood pressure. I said "oh, well that's good to know" but what I really wanted to say was "Really? Hmmm. Must be because I've been away from the internet for an hour." 
     Last year, I got really stressed and worked up about some stuff going on in my derby life. I went to practice and basically frowned the entire time because all I could think of was how my email inbox made me want to bang my head against a wall. The truth is, there are going to be some really frustrating moments in derby administration. When you're a derby admin, you often have to interact with people from a distance (i.e. online) or with people with whom your relationship in no way resembles the last scene of Grease.

     To tell the truth, I actually got myself so wound up and stressed last year that I made myself sick. I mean literally - I got a really bad cold from being stressed and not sleeping right. And you know what? Everything was fine! There were some things to be concerned about, but nothing in derby is worth making yourself sick over. 

     I've been working on the "getting less wound up" thing for about a week now, and I can honestly say: I'm failing miserably! Sometimes it's hard not to get, um, passionate about stuff going on in your community. And for that I have found a new solution: censorship! Email inbox making you punchy? Reorganize it so you don't see the emails that make you worry about your blood pressure levels. Someone posting stuff online that makes you want to quit derby forever? Block them from everything! 
Thanks, Gmail. I know you've always got my back.
     I haven't yet learned to stop stressing about things, so for now I am going to just hide the things that stress me out, and ask someone else who is less inclined to get worked up deal with them.
I actually have a cold at the time of writing this post, and I can't help but wonder if getting stressed about derby is part of the cause. (Though, to be fair, the fact that it's been -20 C here lately might have something to do with it.) Clearly, there's a lot more work to be done.

Stop Allowing Derby Training to Suffer Because of Administrative Duties
     Last year I had a very painful discussion with one of my friends regarding the topic of "having it all." No, I'm not talking about having a family and a career (I haven't reached that point yet, and don't have ANY answers on that one.) I'm talking about being a good derby player, being a great derby admin, and still getting to watch the occasional game. Oh, and having a full time job. And a boyfriend. And an insane love of Netflix. Whoa. Anyway, I had come to the conclusion that I had to let one thing go - and I was going to let being a good derby player go. I remember getting very choked up about this decision but now, looking back on it... it is CAH-RAZY! What's the point of loving a sport and building a league if you don't even get to enjoy what you've built? This year? No. No more! So far I'm working harder at practice and staying the whole time and (GASP!) even listening our Coach better. I know that there will be times when I just need to stay home from practice due to being burnt out (from being an admin, or one or a combination of the things I've mentioned above). But for now, I'm going to keep working hard at practice and putting aside my administrative duties while at practice and getting my game face on!

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

    One of the ways that I'm committed to making 2014 a better year for myself in derby is to focus on the things that I really enjoy about being involved. Those things are:

  • Playing derby - specifically jamming, which is one of the most amazing feelings in the world
  • Mentoring new skaters - both on and off the track. Seeing rookie skaters succeed and achieve their goals is incredibly satisfying and reminds me of how far I've come and what it felt like to be new to derby (before I got super jaded and cynical like I am now)
  • Building a league that provides a space for all different kinds of women to play derby and be a part of a sport
     Aside from blatant censorship, I think that keeping my eye on the prize, so to speak, will not only help me get through the challenges that come with being involved with derby in a variety of ways, but also will remind me of why I got involved with this nutty sport in the first place! 

Access New Resources
    I admit it. I don't have all the answers. I have 90% of the answers (kidding) but I don't have them all. The good news is, someone else probably does. I've recently discovered the wealth of online communities simply dedicated to sharing resources, information and just chatting about derby stuff. And - shocker - there's also good information available from outside roller derby. Turns out there's a whole section of books devoted to sports administration at the local library! This is the year I renew my library card and start taking 'em out. It's one of my strongest beliefs that by copying what other sports have done right, roller derby can achieve the same success.

Post More to This Blog!!
     I've been TERRIBLE about keeping it up. I wanted to post once a week when I initially started this blog, but that quickly turned out to be impossible. But once every 6 months is not good either. Anyway, watch this space because I'm intending to post more. 
      I'll also be checking the email associated with this blog more, so hit me up at with any questions or comments. And to the person who emailed me in November - I'm so sorry! I only discovered your email yesterday and when I tried to reply but my reply bounced.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Keeping Your League Clean with a Grievance System

 When I was a child, I picked up some bad language from my grandfather, and after repeated warnings, my mother eventually washed my mouth out with soap. When my younger sisters learned to swear from the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack, I kept anticipating the cathartic moment when they too would learn of the taste of Lever 2000. But that moment never came. The process seemed so clear to me: you swear, you get a few warnings and then you get a washcloth rubbed against your tongue. But why had I been foamed to the mouth but they escape unscathed?
Flash forward about 20 years and countless unpunished swearwords later, and I find myself helping with the running of a roller derby league where people, much like myself as a child, occasionally do things that don’t jive with what’s considered acceptable behaviour. When these things happen, there needs to be a process in place to deliver the appropriate level of consequences.
There are two critical elements of a good grievance system: a Code of Conduct and an established process on how to enforce it. A great starting point is to work with whoever is in charge of administrative tasks for your league - be it your board or the group of friends whose crazy idea it was to start a derby league – and start brainstorming a list of behaviours that you would consider to be unacceptable. 
It’s important to at least have the bare bones of a grievance process down in writing from the very beginning of your league, as people aren’t going to wait to misbehave until you’re ready. As your league grows, or as incidences arise, your Code of Conduct may change. If there’s a certain time of year your league has an Annual General Meeting, this is likely the best time to make updates to your Code and roll them out to your skaters
Just like my example of my childhood trauma, it’s important that your grievance process be a multi-stage process. My mom did warn me about the cursing before she reached for the soap. It’s important that, like my mom did, you give people a chance to remedy their behaviour. People screw up and make bad decisions. It’s natural. You can think of the “Three Cs” of a grievance process: confront your league member, offer a correct way to act and administer necessary consequences. Many leagues use a five step process that escalates as the bad behaviour is repeated or worsens. An example of a five step system would be a coaching session, then a verbal warning, then a written warning, then a suspension and eventually a full expulsion from the league.
When your grievance process is established, it’s important to ensure that it’s accessible to your skaters so that people know how to bring forward a grievance, and everyone knows what’s expected of them, and what the consequences will be if they deviate from that. If you have an online place where your league meets up to chat (e.g. Facebook, Google Groups), this is an ideal place to post these details. You can also distribute hard copies and ask people to sign an acknowledgment that they’ve read and understood the policies.

The most important part of a grievance process is actually sticking to it and letting the process work. After all, while the soapy punishment taught me the error of my ways, seeing that it wasn’t applied equally to my sisters was frustrating for me – and unfairness is really something to swear about.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I'm Bad, And That's Good

     For those who haven't seen the Disney movie, Wreck-it-Ralph, the movie hinges on a video game villain who desires to be the hero. The above clip is taking from a scene that parodies the Alcoholics Anonymous use of the "Serenity Prayer" which asks for the serenity to accept the things one can't change, the power to change the things that one can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I was inspired to write a blog post a little while ago about not being able to "have it all." At the time I was struggling with the idea that there was no way I could be a good roller derby skater, and be a successful administrator all the while having a full time job, a relationship and some semblance of a life. I had come to the conclusion that I had to choose, and I was going to let being good at roller derby be the thing to get left behind. I was actively discouraged from writing this post, and I have since come to change my mind about the subject.
     It's not possible to "have it all" because there's a lot that can be lumped in under "all" and you can't do everything well. You should pick a few things, and then do them really, really well - just like the Steamwhistle beer commercials say. I have, in recent weeks, learned that there are some activities that are part of roller derby that I am simply terrible at and should not try to do. I used to think that I could ref. No... no... I can't ref. I do not like it. I have no zeal for it and the results are bad for everyone - especially the players who are counting on penalties being called in a reasonable manner. I'm not good at math. I was a cashier for 6 years, and I can make change and from watching hours of Dragon's Den, I can tell you what a reasonable profit margin is but, overall, math is not my strong suit. I have also realized that I can't run practice. I used to think I could, and I probably did a fairly decent job.  But after seeing how well our coach and another of our volunteers can run a practice, I have come to realize that this is not something I am good at! When it comes down to it, there are a lot of ways that I just suck.
     And that's okay. The first step to being good is knowing that you're bad.
     It doesn't help anyone when I try to do things that I'm not good at. If I ran practice all the time, I would be leading a bunch of tumbleweeds in drills because no one would want to come to my terrible, terrible practices. If I reffed, the game would dissolve into anarchy, and so on and so forth. The key to "having it all" is defining what that "all" is and making sure that everything lumped under that is something you can actually obtain. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting to be able to be a really great pivot when you really prefer to jam and oh dear god why are you handing me that panty with the stripe?? Stick to your strengths, and improve upon them. 

     The pursuit of "having it all" may lead you down a dark path. You can't do everything. Think of it this way: everyone has a finite amount of skill, time and energy and you have to spread those things around your league the best that you can. If you try and do everything, you're not going to do anything well, and all the things you do will be done poorly. There's a reason the saying is "jack of all trades, master of none." It's the derby equivalent of trying to butter a pieces of bread when you only have one of those single-serving things of butter and a plastic fork. The result is a pretty scary looking piece of bread. Trying to do everything is a form of terribleness, and it's equally important to recognize the areas you excel in as it is to realize that you can't do everything and you shouldn't even try.
     When you stop trying to do the things that you are bad at, you have more room for the things that you excel at, and free yourself up to improve upon the good things you're already doing. I am, actually, a pretty good derby player. I'm not going to be on Team Canada any time soon (or you know... ever.)  and there's room for improvement but I do alright. All the paperwork gets done, and I can organize things really well, so I'm clearly good at administrative type things. And I still have my job and my boyfriend, so I must be doing alright there. After taking inventory of these things, and measuring them against my definition of "having it all," I have to admit that I do have it all. I've let go of the things I'm not great at, and that takes a lot of the pressure off.
     An additional bonus to not doing things you are not successful at is that people who have those missing skills can step in. We now have a wonderful coach because training was an area that was lacking in our league, and we are all better for what he has brought to the table. When you are bad at something, it invites someone who is awesome in that area into your fold, which just makes things more awesome. The first step is recognizing the gaps in your ability, and accepting that those gaps exist. The real trick is having the wisdom to know if you just need to work a bit harder to take your skills to the next level, or if it's an area you will never be successful in. I'm going to attempt bench managing next month, and I feel that this might be something I have a real talent for. But I won't know until I try it. If I'm bad, then knowing that is good. Suspecting that you are bad at something, but continuing to do it makes you the villain of your league's story. However, if you are honest with yourself and recognize that someone else could fill a role better than you, thereby freeing yourself up for the things you are awesome at very well may make you a hero.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Smarch Madness!

     In my last post, I mentioned that my roller derby league was undertaking an extensive voting process to decide on a team name, so I thought I would write a follow-up post describing our process and the results. Before I get into the details more, I would like to preface this post by saying that I am no good at math, or statistics and we did this voting in a way that seemed fair to us. We wanted everyone to have fun and get participation from as many people as possible. We decided on bracket-based voting because we knew that we would have a lot of suggestions and that a single elimination vote would not result in a name choice that the majority of our members favoured.
     We - or rather I - decided to call the voting Smarch Madness because March Madness (the big college basketball tournament in the States) is all about the brackets. But since it wasn't March yet, we had to call it something else. I decided to take my inspiration from Homer Simpson:

     Before we started the voting, we allowed people to submit their submissions for names. We were willing to take as many suggestions as people threw at us, since we already had several and knew that there would be many more once people started brainstorming. The only ones were threw out were name suggestions that were too similar to either team names in our geographical area or the names of teams we have a close relationship with. There was one suggestion that was close to the name of a team on the other side of the continent, but we left the decision on that name up to the voters. When the submission time was cut off, we were up to 32 name submissions.
     I created a set of brackets using the drawing feature in Google Drive. It probably wasn't necessary to draw the brackets from scratch, but none of the bracket creators I found online seemed to be useful and drawing it out was the only way I could get my head around it.
Our Smarch Madness brackets: in beautiful Technicolor
     Once I had the brackets drawn, I populated the blue positions with the name choices. I inserted the name suggestions largely in alphabetical order so that voters would be forced to choose between similar names, which would help to weed out the stronger of two similar names.
We ran the voting through Google Drive Forms, which allowed us to make a survey very quickly. Each question in the survey represented a pair of choices from the blue positions. All questions in the survey were required, and there was no opportunity to vote for neither choice or both. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as Google Drive provides many tools for survey result analysis. Google Drive  gives you the option of saving survey results in a spreadsheet or keeping them within the form. Intitally, I was making things really difficult for myself by manually counting up the results manually in the spreadsheet. That was just me not being very smart, and seriously underestimating Google. Somewhere near the third round, I figured out that there's a handy option that instantly creates pie charts of all the results. I was happy to find this, but I also felt really dumb for not noticing it sooner.
     As I mentioned earlier, we did veto name choices that were too similar to teams in nearby cities, but we let one slide, so I felt it was important to give our members a list of criteria to consider when choosing name options. The considerations were based on issues that came up in our discussion during the time when people could send in their suggestions. Many of our league members have prior experience with other teams, so I drew on that experience to steer people in the right direction, as well as give some of our veteran skaters a reminder of the things they may have faced in the past. Here is the list of considerations:

  • other roller derby teams with similar/same names
  • potential for marketing and fun promotional items
  • easy to pronounce and spell?
  • family-friendly and inoffensive
  • conveys the right message about our team
  • potential logo options
  • what the name could be shortened to
  • ways the name could be shortened/altered to be derogatory

     As soon as the first survey was developed, we released it to our member by posting the link to the survey in our private Facebook group. We set a deadline of approximately 48 hours after the survey was released before we closed the survey to move on to the next round. We switched to an approximate 24 hour deadline after after the first round because we noticed that we received all submissions within the first 24 hours. When we noticed this, we decided that subsequent rounds would be limited to 24 hours instead of 48. The shorter timeframe worked out a lot better, and cut down on the total time of Smarch Madness.
     Once the deadline had passed, we closed the survey and recorded the results in the bracket diagram. The winners of each bracket question were inputted to the next coloured bracket. The winners of the first round went into the red positions, and they became the bracket options for the second round. The winners of the second round went into the yellow positions, which became the options for the semi-final round. The winning choices from the semi-final round went into the green final choice boxes which would eventually lead to the winning name for the purple box. Having the diagram really helped me, as a visual learner, keep track of the brackets and it made it really easy to develop each subsequent survey because I simply had to look at the diagram and I could form the questions based on the bracket match-ups.
      One thing we ran into was the issue of a tie. My roller derby league is very small, and we restricted voting to members of our private Facebook group, which gave us a pool of 16 people. There was one bracket in the second round of voting that resulted in a tie. Our initial idea was to flip a coin to determine the outcome of a bracket, since it didn't seem very fair if that administrators got a swing vote. Then, we decided we would base it on which name choice received more votes in the previous round (the first round), which seemed fairer. Interestingly enough, it turned out to be the same as the coin flip so either way the universe seemed to want that name choice to make it to the next round.
     In total, there were four rounds of voting. We could have done a fifth, but we really wanted Smarch Madness to be short and sweet without draggin on forever. You can see from the diagram that there are four green boxes in the diagram, which meant that there would be four final choices. We thought that we could just ask people to choose their favourite out of the final four, but then when even we three on the Administration Team couldn't pick one and let the other ones simply drop, we went with ranking instead. 
     We set up the survey so that our members could rank each name from 1-4, with 1 being their most favourite and 4 being their least. That way, our members would have a better chance of having either their first or second choice picked as the winner. We were very specific in terms of our instructions to the league because we had to have accurate results for the final round. We were clear about the fact that if the survey instructions were not followed, we would have to discard that response. Since it was anonymous, there was no way we could get back to the person who submitted the survey and ask for clarification. I'm proud to say everyone voted in the final round, and that all instructions were followed correctly.
Example of results for one name choice in final round of voting
     To calculate the results, we multiplied the each rank (i.e. 1-4) by the number of times the name choice received that rank and then added those for numbers. So, for the example above, we calculated (1x2)+(2x3)+(3x5)+(4x6) which gives us a value of 48. We performed this calculation for each name choice. The choice with the LOWEST number (since the top choice received a value of 1) at the end of voting was the winner. Then the fun part: announcing the winner! It was especially fun for me to post the winning name because I was stuck in a place on the tarmac waiting to be de-iced so I needed a bit of a thrill. 
     Overall, I think Smarch Madness was a huge success. Often in roller derby there is a lot of difficulty around coming to decisions. In my experience, open discussion does not usually have a good outcome. Or, any outcome. Usually when discussions (especially online) are allowed to just go on and on without direction, nothing gets decided and people's feelings get hurt. Some people seemed to take things too personally in the initial stages and during voting, but when the final name was revealed, everyone was excited and happy so I think any grumpiness just came out in the wash. 
     If you have any questions about Smarch Madness, or want a copy of my AWESOME brackets for yourself, send me an email at

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From a Kid President to a Grown-Up One

     "I think we all need a pep talk..." 

     The above video has been one of my favourites to come out of wherever awesome viral internet videos come from of late. I like what this kid has to say and I like the way he says it. The message of the video is something I really need to pay attention to because, as my three-year derbyversary approaches, I feel more disillusioned about derby than ever before.
     I've been involved with as many leagues as years I've been skating, and because of this I've had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people. This networking is truly one of the things I enjoy most about roller derby. It is also what my boyfriend probably likes least about roller derby because when we go to a bout we have to stop every ten feet and talk to someone. But the thing about knowing so many people in the derby community is that they tell you things. Derby people like to gossip... which is partially why I had to write a post on "haters." I expect to be taken out by the Roller Derby Mafia any day now because I know too much. I've hear a lot about hook-ups, fuck-ups and general pettiness over the past few years. Maybe it's because people like to talk about the bad more about the good, but I can think of more examples of people doing things the wrong way than people doing things right.
     As a skater, it's easy to not notice. There is a certain faction of skaters (bless their hearts) that truly do JUST WANT TO SKATE, even though almost every skater you meet will tell you that. There are skaters who just don't care what is happening at the organizational level and don't care to make waves or enact change. They are happy as long as they get to go to practice and engage in some friendly competition every once and a while. I was never one of those skaters to begin with, at least not when it came to my own league, and I certainly can't be now. 
     As someone who is responsible for running a new league, there's a lot of pressure to do things right. A lot of it comes from stories I hear about derby admins from other leagues doing things that range from disorganized to unfair to downright fraudulent. At one point, I was able to say "Wow, that really sucks, but now these stories make me pale. It's hard to see people from other leagues making errors, but it's even worse when you realize that you're now in a position to do the same.
     I can't completely place blame on other people because a lot of the pressure comes from myself. Having been with two leagues prior to starting my own, I've seen a lot of things first hand and I have, to say the least, a strong desire not to do them. If I do something that even reminds me a little bit of something unfair that happened to me in the past, it drives me nuts. I really don't want to let people down, especially when I've been let down so many times before. I'd like to be able to say that I remember how much I love roller derby and remind myself that, in general, I'm doing a good job before I let my insecurities get the best of me. But it's really hard when my experience has made me so cynical that there's a part of me that honestly believes that it's not possible to run a roller derby league successfully and that I am most certain to fail if I try.
     I am working hard to move past this, and in the past few days, I've actually had quite a deal of success! From the beginning, I've known that the key to running a roller derby league in a way that I can be proud of is deliberately not doing the bad things that I've seen in the past or that people in other leagues are doing. I've begun to realize that sometimes these bad things were done by accident, because of naiveté or because it was just easier. This has forced me to make sure I'm being careful and doing the research - and dare I say, getting a little bit creative at times! Right now we're going through a process of giving ourselves a team name and what could have resulted in a lot of arguing and hurt feelings is actually turning out to be really fun! We've dubbed it "Smarch Madness" due to the fact that we are using brackets to determine the final name. The whole experience has made me feel really positive and hopeful that it is possible to go about things in a way that will make the majority of people happy. In fact, you might even be surprised at how well things work out!
     The main message I took away from Kid President's pep talk is that we all need to do something to make the world awesome. My roller derby league is my Space Jam. This is how I am giving the world a reason to dance! It may be in a small way, but when I see how excited everyone is getting about christening our team, it makes me feel that even though sometimes the paperwork might get a little messy, or I might forget to leave a rent cheque, I am on the right path. (And it's not the one that has glass or thorns in it! Not cool, Robert Frost.) I know to pay attention to my skaters, and I like to think that they know to come talk to me if they have suggestions or concerns. While I am still very disillusioned about many of the things happening in our community, I believe I am also the most hopeful I have ever been. Just like I talked about in my last post, there are ways to combat the things that plague us and could destroy us from within. I am surrounded by great people who will give me a head's up if I ever do something completely nutty. And it's these people, much like Kid President, who will be there when I inevitably need a bit of a pep talk.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

They See Me Rollin'... They Hatin'

      Chances are, if you've been involved with a derby league, you've had this displeasure of running into your share of "haters" - people that, for some reason or another, or for apparently no reason at all, take a dislike to you, your teammates or your entire league. The documentary Hell on Wheels details the origins of the modern incarnation of roller derby in Texas (and if you haven't seen it, you can watch it here). When skaters left Bad Girl, Good Woman Productions and formed Texas Rollergirls, there were more than a few hurt feelings, which culminated in an incident documented in the film involving BGGW skaters showing up drunk and "kind of rowdy" at TXRG's inaugural bout wearing t-shirts that said "Accept No Substitute" and yelling "fuck this illegal shit." This is likely the first incident of hatred between roller derby leagues, and it's the most extreme example I know of.
     What the incident between TXRG and BGGW demonstrates is that interleague battles and league schisms are just as much a part of our sport as fishnets and knee socks. From the very beginning, there have been unpleasant altercations between leagues. I live in a city with FOUR women's flat track roller derby leagues, and, unfortunately, as far as I know, three of the leagues were formed in much the same manner as TXRG - by skaters who left another league.
     In cities such as my own where there are multiple leagues there is competition for skaters, especially talented ones, money, practice space, sponsors, fans - the list goes on. Essentially, all leagues deliver the same thing: roller derby. It may with a different ruleset, a different training mentality or with different opportunities for advancement and gameplay, but it's still roller derby. Coke and Pepsi have waged advertising wars for years, somehow trying to convince people that there are vast differences between the two soft drinks when really, the difference is negligible. So it would be natural for leagues to compete for their share of the roller derby market. But somehow... it's not as simple as the soft drink war. Somewhere, it got personal.
     A lot of people excuse "derby drama" by saying that "oh well, this is what happens when a bunch of women get together." This is something I wholly reject. By this logic, organizations run entirely by men or with a mix of both men and women would run smoothly, which isn't the case. Look at the world's governments as an example. It's not helpful to think that drama ensues because leagues are largely run by women for women. It's a crutch. It doesn't force us to look at the larger roots of these petty altercations, and why the same patterns of league splits and nastiness occur over and over again. My theory is that haters and derby drama is part of our origins, as I've described above. Older skaters mentor the new ones, and just like you might have acquired bad skating habits, it's easy to pass your bad attitude habits onto someone else. If you bad mouth another girl from another league in front of a newer skater, chances are that newer skater will assume that this is the way to behave and she will adopt that attitude as well.
     So how do we fix it? How do we break this cycle? How do we get to the point where derby IS like the utopic sisterhood that we all imagine it to be? It starts with setting a good example. If you're a visible member of your league or a member of the administration, hold yourself to high standards. Don't gossip about other leagues, and don't make petty comments. Make serious and genuine attempts to heal relations between your league and its haters. This could be as simple as saying hi to someone at a bout, or inviting her to an open scrimmage or a practice. You'd be surprised how far a simple gesture can go. Even if she doesn't come, she'll know that she's welcome and she might tell others this too. Like so many other things that I've already talked about in this blog, it's important that healing relations comes from the top. If you have serious concerns about the members of your league, put it in your policies that you have zero tolerance for any negative action towards another league, and if someone violates that rule, treat them harshly. I think that it's safe to assume that most people are going to act the right way if you just give them a head's up about what the expectations are. (Remember how we talked about hand holding?)
     I'll offer one twist on my recommendations: listen to your haters. What is the gossip around your league? Think critically about what people are saying. They might offer some helpful insights as to why skaters are staying away. Maybe your league has a reputation for being unorganized or unfair, or maybe there's some confusion about what ruleset you use. Maybe you've got some of your own bad apples who have been starting fights. Use this negative feedback to direct your own public relations efforts and to look inward for solutions. Sometimes, haters are going to be saying silly things that you can't do anything about, but it's important to at least make the effort to change people's perceptions.
     I'll close this post with some thoughts about the person in the world who probably has the most haters: Justin Bieber. At the time of writing this, he has almost 34 million Twitter followers. That is almost the population of the country I live in. Even though there were people who thoroughly enjoyed the scene in CSI where his character got shot to death, at the end of the day, there are still a country's worth of people hanging on his every word. The kid has his own duct tape, for goodness' sake! Your league may have its share of haters, but are you going to let that stop you from doing the best you can and maybe getting your league its own duct tape? No. Keep up what you're doing, because chances are you're doing the right things for your members. Let the haters talk themselves out. As the saying goes, "haters gonna hate, skaters gonna skate."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Broken Bones and Broken Hearts

     I apologize for the gap between posts - I picked up a bit of a bug when I was shopping in Buffalo last weekend and spent last week fighting it off and doing really dumb things because I lose about 50 IQ points when I'm sick. Seriously. I went to put the cooking spray "away" by putting it in the sink, so I was pretty sure no one wanted to read whatever the blog version of that would be.
     In my last post, I ended with a thought that sometimes people in your league need some extra looking after. I'd like to spend this post talking about about what is probably the largest segment of those people: injured skaters.
     If you're an administrator, and, like me, you've never faced a serious injury (knock on SO MUCH wood), you may have no idea what it feels like to be someone who can't skate. I highly recommend checking out Derby Hurts. I've known about this site for a while, but had never given it a look until the writing of this post. If you're squeamish, you may want to be rather cautious about what you look at. If you are easily heartbroken... you may just want to talk my word for it that looking at this site will absolutely tear your derby heart in half. Many of the posts in the forums include the words "depressed" or "angry." I'm embarrassed to admit this because I like to think of myself as fairly tuned into the emotions of my fellow skaters, but that surprised me. It shouldn't have, but it did.
     Okay, confession time. Last year, two of my teammates dealt with broken bones received during games. I really wanted to keep them involved, I knew it was important and I completely and utterly failed. Even though I feel really terrible about not doing as much as I could, I think it's important to look at this as a learning opportunity.
As with my last post, I'm going to include some tips, but I think that it's only fair that I say that because of the failings I detailed above, that these are more goals for me.

Make it a group effort. 

What I did to try and help my teammates wasn't enough because it can't just be one person trying to help. It has to be a concentrated effort by a group of people and it absolutely has to be spearheaded by the administration. If your league has a social committee, get those gals on it! Otherwise, figure out what people in your league can help, and what they can do.

Throw some money at the problem.
When I say "the problem," I am not referring to injured skaters. Injured skaters are not the problem; allowing injured skaters to face their situation alone and become disengaged from your league is the problem. Even if your league isn't rolling in dough, it's likely that everyone in your league can spare a few dollars for a nice gesture for someone who is going through a tough time. It's amazing what a pot of money and the internet can do! You can have groceries sent to someone's house, you can send flowers, you can buy her Netflix. Pay for a cab ride so your injured skater can come to a fun team event or practice. Being generous doesn't have to cost a lot.

Keep her engaged.
Not ever knowing what it feels like to be injured and having to sit on the sidelines, I can't imagine how it feels to be asked to come to derby practice while on crutches and have nothing to do but watch. Derby skaters like to learn by doing, so it's going to be tricky to find a way to keep dedicated skaters interested in something that doesn't involve having wheels on her feet. Personally, nothing makes me happier than bossing people around. Let your injured skaters take an active role in running practices, or teaching something to the league. 

     There are some skaters who may take up reffing after an injury for something more low impact. It's a great alternative, and goodness knows we all need more refs. But don't assume that because someone is hurt that suddenly your league has gained a ref or NSO. Skaters gotta skate! Be respectful of your skater's choices and make sure to communicate with her about her healing process and her plans about returning to skating.