Archive for November, 2010

Growing Pains

No, not the 80s sitcom, sillies. I mean the discomfort that comes from building muscle and stretching bone. It’s not really that different for a roller derby league than it is for a teenager. The process can be confusing and painful, and you might sometimes wish you could just stay small.

Derby leagues go through a number of stages that may not be well understood by those outside the sport. Briefly, they are:

  1. OMG! (aka, “We all love derby, let’s get together at Denny’s and talk about starting a league! OMG!!”)
  2. Open Recruitment (all skaters welcome to join provided you contribute.  Since the league doesn’t have money yet, each skater pays around $10 to skate at a session at the nearby roller rink, which has agreed to open up for you in hopes of getting more cash out of you further down the line. If you’re lucky, the rink will rent speed skates and protective gear, too. This is a good time to start recruiting refs and NSOs, too.)
  3. Tryouts (very basic skills assessment, and admission of a group of new skaters called Fresh Meat)
  4. Business & WFTDA setup (drafting bylaws, electing officers, filing your business registration, getting nonprofit status, filing for apprentice status with the WFTDA)
  5. WFTDA Basic Skills & Rules testing of all skaters (required for eligibility to bout in WFTDA-sanctioned bouts)
  6. Creation of Teams (14-20 skaters selected per team, from the eligible draft list; captains selected, team names and colors and themes selected by the teams.  You’re now part of the league, but a member of a team that will be competing against other teams in the league.  Commence the friendly (offtrack) rivalry (on-track). Leagues will also usually choose an All-Star and/or travel team, to bout with other leagues.)
  7. Interleague scrimmages and bouts (practices are ramped up in intensity and frequency; scrimmages within the league give way to scrimmages with other leagues, then bouts hosted by another league, and then finally hosting your own intra-league (your own teams) bout, before hosting WFTDA-sanctioned interleague bouts.  Not that it has to happen in exactly that order, of course, but it often does.)

That’s the simple rundown of the pre-bouting life of a roller derby league.  It can take 6 months or years, and can certainly get complicated at any point along the way.  It’s possible to feel some soreness at any time, but be prepared for #6 to send some shooting pains throughout the whole league.

Assuming you have enough skaters in the league who are eligible to be drafted to make more than one team, somehow you’re going to have to choose teams.  CHOOSE.  TEAMS.  How do you do this? We’re big derby girls and all, but we do have feelings, and the prospect of one of your girls not being chosen for a team — let alone yourself — is SUPERFUCKINGHARD.  Derby girls come in all shapes and sizes and athletic backgrounds, and this process can bring up all kinds of gym class team-picking feelings from high school.  Personally, I believe in as much transparency and buy-in to the team-picking process as possible.  Not chosen for a team?  The captains should be willing to talk to you about your skills, and what you could do to improve.

You can also write a policy document for your team selection process while the league is small, so that by the time you get to that point, you already have rules in place.  Everyone comes into the league knowing the rules and basic process, and you have to follow the bylaws if you want to change that process. If you go the voting route to pick teams, you can use online tools to help crunch the numbers, and let people vote at home while they cry in their whisky — not that it makes it any easier to rank your leaguemates.  Or you can hand out slips of paper and have a neutral party or one of your refs tally everything up.  Just prep yourselves as a league, polish up that derby-thickened skin, and remember it’s all so that you can grow and move to the next level.