"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.