1. When derby first started, it was more of an event as opposed to a game. The event included the game, the attitude, the wheel of punishment and of course the after party. As derby the concept of derby has changed to one of more athleticism, after parties have become less and less of a focus for a lot of leagues.
2. With age comes wisdom. Waaaaay back in 2004, many leagues had a lot of younger and feisty skaters who played hard and partied harder. It's now 2012, and age does take its toll on after party recovery. Add in babies, demanding jobs, and time commitments from hell, and you have a large part of the derby population who just doesn't find the after party to be that much of a priority.
3. Sunday morning practices are more popular. There was a time in derby when you would play a game that weekend, and then take the rest of the week off from practice. Those times have mostly changed for competitive leagues. Practice time is too important to pass up, so many leagues drag themselves to early Sunday morning practices after each bout. Also, to maximize travel dollars, many leagues host "hangover bouts" in order for the visiting league to play another team in the area. Combine these two aspects of Sunday morning skating, and you have fewer skaters interested in the after party.
4. After parties have a bad reputation. It's true, even though it might be unfair. It could be because after parties are synonymous with inebriation and crappy behavior, which makes some people hesitant to attend. I've been in derby since 2009, and I have seen my fair share of bad behavior of skaters towards other skaters, skaters towards fans, and fans towards other fans. Also, if you are not interested in drinking, after parties may not be your cup of tea. I know many skaters that have decided to not drink alcohol anymore, and being around an environment that is alcohol centered tends to make them uncomfortable. It's all about perspective.
So, are after parties worth saving? I think they might be, but not in the raging traditional form they used to be known by. After parties can be a great way for leagues to reduce animosity after a game; remember, in the end, it was just a game. Derby skaters should support each other, and the after party might be the one and only place where you would be able to meet someone who skates for another league in a social setting. Also, after parties can be a great place to meet and talk to your fans, if they show up. I've been to after parties that were really just for the skaters and officials and volunteers. If you want to save your league's after parties, then here are some tips to keep people attending them.
|People mixing from different leagues, and having fun!|
1. Have it in a big enough venue. Sometimes after parties are held in the tiniest of clubs or bars. There isn't a place to sit or gather, and it's really hot and miserable. Also, think about bathrooms. If there is only one toilet per gender, then you're going to have a lot of people standing around waiting to pee, which is never fun. I understand that sponsors are sponsors, but try to anticipate the best place for your party.
2. Have food there. I can personally say that two of the best after party spreads I've ever had was the the Nashville Roller Girls and the Blue Ridge Roller Girls' after parties. They had amazing food that was free for skaters, volunteers and refs, and it was AWESOME! If I have to choose between drinking alcohol or eating, I'm going to choose food each and every time. I hate going to an after party where the choice in food is greasy grease grease or way too expensive for my wallet. Also, if I have to wait an hour for food, I'm not going to be hanging around for long. Skating makes me hungry!
3. Have a great DJ. If dancing is your thing, make sure you get a good DJ for your party; last minute DJs or DJs that don't understand the musical culture of your league, it's a recipe for disaster. DJs, sometimes we just want to hear the song the way it was created. We don't care how clever your mashup of Flo Rida vs. Katy Perry is, just play the song. On a personal note...I HATE KARAOKE. I know people love it, but it's the fastest way to drive me away from an after party, after not having food that is.
4. Hold it in a smoke free venue. We're athletes. Hanging out in a smoky filled club is just not the best thing for us. If you have smokers on your league, find a place that has a smoking area; athletes should be trying to protect their lungs. (See my smoking blog if you want to read my rant against smoking.)
5. Provide a designated driver for the visiting league. When I posted this question on Facebook, one of the responding skaters said that their league provides a designated driver for visiting skaters, and I thought that was a pretty classy way to make your after party enticing.
6. Don't be the kids at the cool table. Stop clustering into cliques and ignoring everyone else. After parties are for everyone, and your league should be open and ready to socialize with others. This is one of the reasons I think dancing is a better mixer for after parties than karaoke; it gets people out on the floor together, and nobody is the "star".
I'd like to thank Hawaiian Donkey Punch from the Carolina Wreckingballs for suggesting this topic. His league is having a great event coming up. If you're in South Carolina, you should check out some women's and men's derby.