Monday, May 27, 2013

There's a Reason It's Policy

I get a lot of emails and messages about situations in leagues all over the world.  It's interesting to know that many leagues have had similar problems, but it's sad too, because so many issues could be easily headed off by having clearer communication within the league.  So many leagues have policy manual that is established, but someone wants to make an exception for a skater because she's "awesome", or "returning", or is a "sweetheart", or "is so talented we can't possibly skate without her."  Baloney.  If your league has a policy, then it has to apply evenly to every skater and volunteer with the league.  If it's an unfair policy, then it's time for the league to tackle it.

Dilbert Comic found here

So, how do you make successful policy?  Here are some tips to help avoid the pitfalls of bad league policy.

1.  Don't make policy for one skater.  I know it's tempting, because you have this one pain in the ass skater who can't make her volunteer hours, but is an amazing jammer.  It's soooooo tempting to make a rule just for her, but any rules or policy made specifically for one skater will come back like an evil, rabid zombie to bite you on your derby butt at some point.  Avoid the potential derby butt rot and don't give into temptation! 

2.  Define ambiguous terms.  Ambiguous terms are the downfall of policy.  What's "a returning skater", "captain's discretion" or "adequate attendance"?  Ambiguous terms like "Captain's discretion" can really give way too much power to just two people in the league.  I mean, if I have Captain's Discretion, does that mean I can dictate that every roster I choose be made up of blondes?  It might, especially if you don't define the parameters of it.  Just FYI, if I made such a stupid pronouncement, I would accept wigs.

3.  Include responsibilities.  Whose job is it to enforce the policy?  Whose job is it to make sure people understand the policy?  What are the timelines on your policy?  Do you have good and realistic deadlines?  Sometimes people make policy and forget to assign a responsible party for that policy.  That, my friends, is useless policy.

4.  Make it accessible.  Make the document accessible for all people involved in your league; no skater, coach, volunteer or ref should have to beg to find the policy.  Also, if it is easily accessible, there is no reason for skaters not to be familiar with the policy.  It goes both ways, people.

5.  Make it searchable.  With modern technology, all documents should be searchable.  Let's face it, most people aren't going to read over an entire policy book in one sitting.  Even if they do, they're probably not going to remember all of it.  They're going to read what is relevant to their situation.  Find someone in your league who is competent enough to handle the documenting part of your policy manual, so people can find the information they need when they need it!

6.  Keep it simple, stupid.  You cannot write policy for every situation in your league, and nor should you try.  Policy is for the day to day running of your league.  It should be about the stuff that is common and repetitive in your league.  Writing policy for every possible thing that "might maybe could happen" is a waste of time and effort.  Also, save the lawyer language for some other time.  If you make it too complicated in phrasing, then most people aren't going to read it or use it...and that's useless.

7.  Keep it up to date.  Review your policy once a season.  It's necessary because some policy might have been written when your league had a different agenda.  An example of this is your league was struggling to get enough skaters to form a team, so your attendance requirements were low to non existent.  Four years later, you're a thriving league and working on being a competitive one.  Maybe it's time to rethink that lax attendance policy.

8.  Avoid zero tolerance policy.  I say this with some trepidation, because it lets in that whole "oh let's just make an exception for so and so" mentality.  Unfortunately, I've watched school districts have to eat their words with their zero tolerance policies on everything from sexual harassment to weapons issues.  Having a ridiculous zero tolerance policy will most likely blow up in your collective faces at some point, so be smart about your policy, but not psycho!


  1. Replies
    1. So many leagues have the same problems...I'm not a god send...I just listen to people.

  2. Another suggestion is to "borrow" the procedures and policies of an established league to use as a starting point. If you know of a league that you admire, ask them for a copy of their policy manual. Not only does an existing policy help you develop your own manual, it keeps policies consistent between leagues.