Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is your league healthy or anemic?

How healthy is your league?  That's a misleading question because what I'm really asking is how healthy is the ecology of your league.  Imagine that your league is a living, breathing organism; now, is your league thriving and growing, or is it anemic?  Worst yet, is it a toxic organism that's devouring itself?  Here are some questions to ask yourself about the health of your league.  Having a problem with one of these areas probably doesn't mean your league isn't healthy, but if you notice you have at least three of these issue, your league might need some drastic medicine.

1. Do you have well trained NSOs that consistently volunteer for your bouts?  Yea!  NSOs are so important to roller derby, and yet they consistently move like pink ninjas in the background of our attention spans. Ah, but just wait until you can't find enough people to fill those spots, or worse yet enough well trained people to fill those spots!  Healthy leagues have NSOs that tend to volunteer on a consistent basis, whereas leagues that are anemic are constantly scrambling to find volunteers.  Pump up the health of your league by showing your volunteers some appreciation, and not just once a year!

Dr. Stats Boy is one of the best NSOs I've ever met, and I tell him that every time I see him.  Photo byJoshua R. Craig

2. Do your refs have great training and aren't over worked?  Remember, they're refs and not coaches.  They should show up as much as they can, but they shouldn't necessarily be expected to do the same amount of committee work as a skater. Also, are you making sure your refs are getting trained to be the best refs they can be?  If not, your league might be heading into a a period of general malaise.  Sloppy refs mean sloppy skaters, and that's going to hurt you in the long run.

3.  Do retired skaters feel welcomed by your league?  I know that some retired skaters have a love hate relationship with derby, but does your league open its proverbial arms to them if they want to contribute? I don't mean that they just show up on bout day; are they welcomed to come and guest coach a practice?  Would they feel comfortable moving into a ref or NSO postion?  Is their input important and relevant to your league, or do people move on and forget about them?  If you see your retired skaters only on game day, and only as fans, then your league is really missing out on a great resource.

4.  Do your fans feel special?  Wait Q, aren't our fans supposed to make us feel special? Your fans are excited to watch you, and that's partially why you need to make their experience worth it.  The economy is making people be even more frugal with their cash, and derby leagues have to remember that!  Also, your league needs to remember that little girls idolize us and taking the time to sign a program or a t-shirt or take a picture with a fan is going to go a long way to encourage fans to keep coming back.  Is your league giving your fan a quality experience?  If not, your league might end up on life support.

5.  Is it easy to renew your league sponsors?  Face it, it's a tough economy out there, and if you can keep your current sponsors instead of always hunting up new ones.  If your sponsors are happy, they're going to keep your relationship going.  If not, your league could end up with no sponsors and no extra cash coming in.  No cash means fewer bouts.

6.  Do you have quality vendors at your bouts?  Food and drinks and interesting items to look at help keep your audience and fans satisfied during the pre bouts or half time.  If you don't have quality vendors, you're not giving your audience a quality experience.  Let's face it, if fans can't get something to snack on or have something to drink, they're less likely to show up. 

 7.  Does your league keep skaters or do a lot of them just fade out?  I know it's normal for people to up and leave derby.  Most fresh meat don't stick around to play their first game, and the average derby life span of a skater tends to be 2.5 years, but if your are constantly losing skaters, you might need to reevaluate your training and inclusion of skaters.  Why are they leaving?  Are you willing to offer skaters who leave a survey of why they have decided to leave?  Yes, some skaters will not want to fill out a survey, and others might not feel comfortable expressing their real reasons, but it's a start to figuring out how to keep trained skaters in your league.  Most companies do not want trained workers to leave, because there is always a lag time when they have to train new personnel.  Treat your league the same way; try and keep those skaters who are trained!  Keeping trained skaters keeps your league a lean, mean, skating machine!  Starting at ground zero each season is draining your time, resources and energy.

8. Are skaters willingly coming to practice?  Is attendance anemic at your practices?  If people don't really want to show up to practice, it might be time to look at the atmosphere you have there.  People do derby because they love it; it's an extra activity that people squeeze into their lives, and if there isn't an element of fun in there, they aren't going to keep coming.  Remember, at this moment, derby is a sport in which people are paying to participate.  They are also your customers in a way, so if your customers aren't happy with your product, then it might be time to think about what you're presenting.  Small number of skaters=no league.  Does every practice have to be "fun and games?"  Of course not, but if people are bored, or feel intimidated, or are told not to laugh and have some fun, they aren't going to keep coming. They will put up with those things at a job because they are PAID to be there.

So how did your league score?  Do you have any problems with these symptoms?  If so, it might be time to talk about the health of your league with your league mates. 


  1. Great post, and very true. My old league failed at nearly all of those, and they have a lot of bitter ex skaters because of it (and not a lot of fans).
    Hopefully this helps out unhealthy leagues so that there are less and less of them.

  2. I have to say my team ROCKS! They score extremely high in all these areas! Thank you for pointing these things out though. :) Eastern Carolina Brawling Betties are the best group of women and men I've ever come to know!

    Derby <3

  3. Totally agree on all of these! We are brand new and apparently rubbing nickels together, but I am constantly pushing for us to give some lagniappes to our lovely fans. Amazing how awesome just some stickers can be. Maybe next year.