1. Do an interview. When I proposed this question on Facebook, I got a lot of responses from many leagues who do interview potential skaters. Charm City and Gotham were just a few of the leagues that answered, saying they interview potential skaters. Most people agreed that it's a great way to weed out the potential drama queens, the crazy, or the skaters that didn't seem to be fully committed. It's important to sit down in a more intimate setting and talk to the potential skater; it's also important for the skater to talk to you and ask questions. Did any of us really understand just how much of an effort it takes to maintain a league? When I joined the league, (waaaaaaaay back in 2009...ha), I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into. I didn't really talk to anyone; I just skated and was invited to join the league, so I had a pretty interesting time trying to figure out just exactly what I had signed up for!
2. Ask your fresh meat to get a physical. Hoo boy, I can just hear the outcry of "I'm a grown-ass woman! I do what I want! DIY! It's none of your business if I'm healthy." Just settle down there and listen to my reasoning. Roller derby is a sport, and if you're involved you know that you have to work your butt off to play on any kind of competitive level. Many skaters come into derby without much sports or athletic experience; they haven't ever strenuously trained athletically, and because of that, they may be blissfully unaware of any potential health conditions lurking. Let's face it, schools make it mandatory for all of their athletes to get a physical before participating in their sports program; maybe derby should do the same. Here's a blog that points out a similar thought. Also, it's HARD playing derby; if your skaters are using derby to get into shape, they have the wrong idea from the get go. You have to get in shape for derby.....period.
3. Give them big sisters. Yeah yeah, I know. It's not a sorority. I agree completely, but fresh meat need help navigating the tricky path of derby leagues. It's a long, hard road, being fresh meat; if you can give them someone who cares if they show up for practice, you have a better chance of retaining them. If you're like me, and the name "Big Sister" makes you instantly break out into Greek hives, then call them something else; you're all clever, think up something. Veteran skaters paired up with fresh meat can help them by motivating them to come to practice, talk to them about the odd customs your league has (and you know you do) and the ins and outs of gear. All of these things help make fresh meat feel like they belong to the league, and we all know how lonely and isolated it can be when you're learning how to do a hockey stop or fall small. My big sister was Daisy Rage, and I can tell you, she scared the hell out of me because she was such a great skater. We most certainly didn't braid each others hair or have sleep overs, but she helped me with my mohawks and a pretty major injury I had to deal with in the first few months of scrimmaging.
|See? Isn't she a badass? Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami|
As derby becomes more and more competitive and athletic, leagues are looking to the long-term future; that means recruiting the right skaters and keeping them in the league. The above suggestions might give you a chance to be more successful in your league's recruitment and retention of skaters! Bring it on, 2013!