Saturday, January 5, 2013

Withholding Hand Holding

Samantha: He did something to me that was so perverse... okay I'm just going to say it. He tried to hold my hand.
Carrie: You mean to say that Smith is a hand holder? And to think that he once served us food!

     Samantha and I have one thing in common, but trying to avoid holding someone's hand isn't it. Over the past year or so of being in charge of organizing derby-related activities, it's become apparent that my greatest managerial flaw is being excessively helpful to people in my league. Yes, I too am a hand holder. It would seem that the whole point of getting involved in the administration of your league is to help people! But with helping, as with everything in life, there can be such a thing as too much of a good thing.
     Let me give you a few of examples when my helpful hand holding has gotten out of control. Last year, I was in charge of organizing our team for a tournament, and I spent hours making sure I had roster and insurance information, and getting everyone a team shirt, a ride to the tournament, a place to stay and so on. I have walked to many practices lugging literally ALL the derby gear I owned so that new girls would have stuff to use. (Those who know me will be familiar with the sight of me dragging my suitcase we call "The Body Bag" to practice, packed to the gills with gear.) I have hounded, harassed and chased down people who need to bring money to practice for one reason or another. In one especially memorable incident, I cleaned up after practice by myself and found a skater's iPhone abandoned under a pile of garbage. As individual episodes, none of this is particularly strenuous, but as I'm sure is evident from my frustration, feeling completely responsible for a group of adult women can get to be a bit much.
     I've considered the possibility that this feeling of having to practically stalk a skater to get them to do anything may be something particular to roller derby. For those who aren't familiar with the idea of "derby time," many people have observed a phenomenon in which that the women in our community seem to, at times, exist in another time zone that is half an hour behind that of everyone else. Yes, sometimes the derby girls can be flakey even to the point of being downright irresponsible. Anyone like myself who has ever tried to organize a group of derby girls and make sure they show up on time, at the right place and with the right stuff know that it can feel a like an impossible task.
    If you too suffer from being overzealously helpful, I've developed some strategies for avoiding hand holding while still ensuring that stuff still gets done.
     Set deadlines that work for you. If you have a deadline, don't make the deadline the same for  the people who owe you what you need to meet yours. If you owe someone a bout contract, a roster or money, set the deadline for other people to get what they owe you a week or so in advance of your deadline. This will give stragglers a few extra days and allow you some wiggle room in case things get busy on your end.
     Gently reinforce your message. If everyone has to have their money in on Tuesday, don't constantly remind your skaters of this until they begin to think that the only thing you can say is "your money is due Tuesday." Remind them once or twice, and then let the chips fall where they may. They've been told.
     Let there be consequences. When you're trying to manage participating in a sport on top of the rest of everything else that comes up in life, sometimes it's easy to forget dues or a mouthguard at home. When this happens, as the big old softie I am, it's tempting to make an exception, or to go out of my way to ensure people have what they need. But don't do it! What's done is done and if means that someone can't skate, can't play in a game, won't get a shirt or whatever, unfortunately that's the way things have to be. This sounds harsh and it's not easy.
     Don't be responsible for everything. For all you control freaks out there (guilty as charged!) this is going to be another tough one, but delegating jobs is key to making a league work. When organizing an away game, let someone else research hotels and billeting. If you're on vacation, let someone else respond to emails. For the good of yourself and everyone else let go of a few things! Letting others be in charge of small tasks will give them a sense of accomplishment and let you focus on the big picture.
     In the end, being a great administrator is all about encouraging your skaters to be responsible for themselves and making sure they know that if they aren't, you won't step in and fix things. There are going to be times when someone has truly had a rough week and she needs your help. In these cases, give her a hand! Your skaters need to know that when they really need you, they can depend on you to bail them out. And as Carrie points out to Samantha, sometimes there are people who are worth a bit of hand holding.

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