Here are some lessons I learned from 2014
1. There is always a point when my derby gear no longer smells clean, no matter what I do to it.
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2. Female and male refs need separate dressing rooms.
I know this is a crappy thing to say, but I never ever thought about how awkward that could be for referees. Part of the reason I never really thought about it was because to me, and to many many skaters, referees are a team unto themselves. Yes, that sounds silly as I write it, but it's true. There are skaters, and there are refs, and refs are zebras. They don't have gender. They are the judges and the people that keep us safe, but I never even thought about them being in a locker room together. Don't they just appear when they're needed? I apologize to every zebra that might have been put into an uncomfortable situation in a dressing room because we skaters think of you as your own herd. After I read this blog post, I realized how clueless some of us skaters can be. Sorry zebras!
3. Even though it's a team sport, there's still a lot of "me" focus.
This doesn't happen in higher level teams as much, which is why they are successful, but it does seem to be an issue with derby and maybe with sports in general. Derby is a team sport, and yes, you are a part of the team, but when you ditch practice, or bring a crap attitude (crapittude) to practice, you're hurting everyone else. Teams have to rely on their players to want to be there, to want to work hard, and to want to train and learn new skills and techniques. Every time someone on the team says "I don't want to do this" or "I don't feel like going to practice today" or "I'm grumpy and tired and I'm going to let everyone at practice know it" well, that person isn't focused on the team. They're using a lot of "I" statements and impacting the ability of the team to work together. I realize that derby might be the first time many people get to play a team sport in their lives, and it takes a while to realize the pronoun they should be using is "we" not "I", but it seems to be a universal lesson we keep having to learn. The best way to train yourself not to be "me" focused in derby, is to lose this particular phrase from your vocabulary: "I just want to play." Duh. That's pretty much a universal feeling. Most derby skaters don't want to do endurance, work on a committee and plan practices. Most of us want to skate, but the work is what gets us the ability to do it.
4. All leagues are having money issues, space issues and volunteer issues.
Is derby hitting a slump? Maybe. It's such a demanding sport, and takes so many people to make it happen. At first, many people got involved with derby because it was part sport and mostly spectacle. Fans were interested in the "fun" part and so were many volunteers. Derby is growing and changing, and to make the leap from amateur hobby to a semi professional sport, it's caused some stress and gone through serious growing pains. I think we as a sport can figure it out, and adapt our strategies to keep derby going strong, but I also think it's the end of the million derby leagues. Not every town or geographical location can handle two leagues. Space is at a premium, and so are fans and volunteers. Nearby derby leagues should be trying to consolidate into one super team instead of competing with each other for derby natural resources.
5. Letting go of jobs in the league is ok. Difficult, but ok.
I was on our BOD in 2014, and I really took pride in being the Training Director; I tried to do the best I could for our league, and I was successful in some aspects, and not so much in others. I chose not to run again for several reasons, but the one that really kept me from doing it again was the fact that in derby, we are trying to train and encourage women to be strong leaders. You can't be good at something unless you're given the chance to practice it. People that monopolize leadership positions are weakening the power structures in their leagues; share the wealth. Give people an opportunity to step up into positions of power, and if they ask for guidance, help them! If you decide not to run for a position, be gracious about it and support those who are. On the other hand, don't try to "force your support" on someone if they don't want it. Be respectful, and let people find their way as leaders; don't smother them and don't abandon them. It's a balancing act, but have faith that they will step up and be great at the job too.
2014 was as good and as bad as previous years for me, but it did teach me a lot. I'm not sad to see it go, but I am looking forward to 2015. Bring it on!