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I've spent a lot of time and effort in my blog to help people realize that entitlement is one of the seven deadly sins of derby teams. It is destructive and it can take the joy out of skating for people if it is left unchecked. Ever get a blister from skating? It seems like a small injury, but it nags at you. It hurts, it makes you miserable and sometimes it becomes the focus of all of your attention. Entitlement is the blister on the foot of a derby league.
How does this happen? Why does it keep happening? What can we do to stop it from happening in our leagues?
First of all, I think entitlement is an especially thorny issue in derby because we have a weird set up in our sport, which makes us a unique entity. "For the skaters, by the skaters" is a great DIY ideal, but in the practical everyday running of the league, this tends to cause a lot of problems if there isn't excellent communication in the league in question. Let's face it, leagues don't always communicate well. "That's how we've always done it and new people need to figure out our way" tends to be the ruling philosophy, which works if someone knows all of the unspoken rules of a league, but if they're new they're probably clueless. Also, if a league has skaters who are "awesome" and aren't held to the same standards that everyone else is, ie. volunteer work and attendance, then why wouldn't newer skaters think they can act the same way. If you don't want entitlement issues in your league, don't foster entitlement with any of your skaters. Pure and simple. Either we all work, or this league doesn't succeed.
A few people have written to me with an interesting conundrum. To cut down on the butthurt, their leagues have had the skaters self evaluate their performances; what shocked the people reading the evaluations was that a majority of skaters ranked themselves ridiculously high, even the newbies. Wait, what? How does that happen? Well, I really think that we foster this kind of warped self image to skaters, by not giving honest and helpful feedback. Nobody likes to crush the dreams and hopes of a newbie skater, but when we say "You're doing great! You're amazing" without giving the skater a context for that level of feedback. When we say those things, what we really mean is "You're doing really well for a newbie!" or "that was great, because a month ago you could barely stop without falling down." We edit ourselves because we don't want to crush a newbie; unfortunately, newer skaters don't understand the context. They hear "you're awesome" and that's as far as it gets. It's no shock that many skaters develop a twisted and inherently skewed perception of their skills. Add to that the fact that many newer skaters don't get to venture out of their leagues to mingle with other skaters, so they don't have a good perspective of what "Good" is. Let's face it, the definition of "good" is graded on a curve in derby.
How can we minimize entitlement? Basically, we need to communicate better. We have to act better too, and be clear with our expectations. If we don't model how we want people to behave in our league, we're going to keep getting more and more entitled waves hitting our sport, and ain't nobody got time for that....as they say.