Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Not so great teammates you don't want to be

I've been in derby for a long time; I'm finally comfortable saying that. Derby is funny in a way;
Things that make us go HMMMM!
people can be quite snobby about your "veteran status" at times. When do you become a legit vet? It's always a question, and I think I finally feel comfortable in saying I've been here a while, and get off of my lawn, you damned kids. I kid, I kid. But seriously, I've been around the track a few times and I have seen people piss off their league mates, and not even realize they're doing something annoying. Sometimes you will do some of these things, and sometimes you'll be pissed at the league member who acts like this. Just remember, when you join a team, you can't be in it for yourself anymore. People are counting on you.

The martyr- Oh yes, derby will suck your life dry if you let it. Between practices, cross training, volunteer duties, travel and board positions, it can steal away time and energy from daily living. We all feel the tug of war derby forces us into. But, the martyr thinks he or she is suffering waaaaaaaay worse than everyone else in the league. "I'm doing sooooo muuuuuuuch worrrrrrrrrrrk!" Yes, everyone is doing a lot of work; for the skaters by the skaters is a curse and a blessing, but trust me when I say EVERYONE feels like they're doing a lot of work. We don't see everyone's day to day struggles, so sometimes we forget that we aren't the center of the work horse universe. Everyone has his or her struggles figuring out the successful ratio between derby and real life; sometimes you can handle it, and sometimes you have to give real life a little more time and effort. Just be aware when those trying times come, and they will, that you have to communicate to your league and let them know what your situation is. Getting overwhelmed and being pissed about it doesn't help anyone.

The Person who wants feedback, but only positive feedback- This could be you or me at times. We all want to hear what we're doing well, and it's hard to hear what we're not doing well. Derby skaters say they want feedback, until they receive less than glowing feedback. You have to take the good with the bad to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. If your coach observes a trend with your skating, and it is something that is hampering your ability to play derby, wouldn't you want to know? I'd want to know!

The Tardiest- Everyone is late once in a while to practice; it happens. Traffic is crazy, or your car breaks down, or you have to work late. Life happens, and most leagues have contingency plans for the occasional tardy skater, but if you're someone who comes to every practice late because  of choice, I guarantee people notice. They also notice when you dawdle putting your gear on. I don't understand how some vets can take longer than newbies to throw on their gear! Some leagues give half credit for attendance if skaters are too late, but our league has taken the stance that each skater is an adult and if they choose to be late or slow to gear up, they miss out on warm up time and drills.

The Rules don't apply to me person- Does your league have requirements for membership? To play in a game, do you have to make your volunteer hours, attendance and other obligations? Some players don't think the rules apply to them; maybe they're very talented, or they feel entitled, but whatever it is, it's a an attitude that impacts the entire league. Guess what, the rules apply to everyone equally, otherwise this little endeavor called roller derby isn't going to work.

The Ghost- The ghost is a league member who is there one minute and gone the next without any warning or communication. Ghosts don't answer or check emails, and don't let anyone know what is going on! Will she be at practice? Has she quit? Who knows? If you need to take time away from derby, just let your league know. Communication is so powerful, and people won't think you're pissed off with the league, because you've let people know what your plans are.

The Clueless- The clueless reads his or her email about as often as the ghost does. The clueless never reads the league news letter, doesn't know when meetings are, and never gets into the league documents you send out for votes and whatnot. "I didn't know we had to bring sneakers!" Of course you didn't, clueless, you don't read email. I know that league emails get overwhelming, especially if people keep replying to all, but you need to keep up with emails since that is how most people communicate nowadays. Some leagues use Facebook for their communication needs; whatever works! But that means you have to buy into whatever your league uses, and actually read it.

The Inappropriate Facebooker- This is the league member who emails her captains saying that she can't make it to practice because she's sick, and then posts selfies of the bar she's at. Whoops. Look, if you're going to miss practice, be honest about it. Most of us have Facebook, and you know your league mates are your friends on Facebook, so are you being passive aggressive or just completely self centered? Just be honest. It's ok to take a break from derby once in a while; just don't lie about it.

Hopefully you haven't done these things, but if you have, then maybe it's the time to reevaluate your behavior...if you want to be a good teammate. If not, well, keep on doing the same things.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

An Experience in Derby Retirement by Beth Row

Photo by Joshua Craig

Beth Row has been my teammate for six years, and I have missed her ever day this season since she retired from derby. She was my lifeline to sanity, and I miss her calm feistiness on the track. Even though I have missed her, I know that she's very happy in her derby retirement, so I'm very glad she offered to update me on her six month mark of derby retirement.

Hurticanes vs. Bootleggers 2010
As it nears the halfway point in the season for most roller derby leagues, people begin to think about retirement. With the big push to get into tournament shape, the doubts start to creep in. Can I do this for another year? Is this my time to retire? When is too much of a good thing, just too much? What if I get hurt?

How many times have you said that you were going to retire and then decided you couldn't possibly give up this sport that you love? How many times have you told yourself, next year, next game, next practice; just one more.

This time last year, I began my countdown to retirement.

I'm one of those people that is an all or nothing kind of person. If I'm going to do something, I'm going to give it every thing I have. During the 2014 season, I felt I had nothing left to give derby. I couldn't be one of those people that shows up to practice the minimum number of times and plays in a game. That's not my style, that's not who I am. 

I realized it was time for me to retire, when we took our regular Summer break from derby and I didn't miss it. Not once. I didn't miss anything about it - not the skating, not my teammates (sorry!), not the practice, not the demands on my schedule. I knew right then, it was time to leave. I told my team I'd finish out the derby season and I did. It was time for me to go.
Photo by Badjon

If you’re considering retirement, I thought I'd share a few things that you will encounter on your journey to finish the season:

Teammate after teammate said to me: "Aww, you're not leaving. You'll change your mind." or "You can't leave us."
My response: You're not going to guilt me into coming back. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. That's why I didn't retire last year – in 2013. Please don't make me feel guilty about my decision.
Don’t let people make you feel guilty for this decision. This is your life, not theirs and you have to live with yourself after this decision. If you make it on your terms, you’re more likely to not regret it.

Everyone on the planet: "You know you're going to miss it."
My response: Sure. I'll miss the sport, the competitiveness, the “us vs. them” feel on game day (After the bout has started and the nervousness has gone away because I've had the crap knocked out of me the first few jams, of course.) But I won't miss the drama, the women cutting each other down because they are insecure themselves, the lack of respect, the lack of effort, and the lack of responsibility for actions.
So yes, you might miss it. But derby should be part of your life, not your whole life.

She doesn't like talking about the time she reffed.
Anyone who knew that I went to every practice and every invitational ever: "But what will you DO???"
My response: Um, live? Like everyone else who has never heard of derby? I developed what I call an “after derby bucket list.” I have wanted to start a food blog, and have never been able to because I didn't have any free time. And what little "free time" I did have while playing derby, I wanted to spend sitting on the couch watching some horribly brain-sucking show because I didn't want to do jack POOP! I want to get over my fear of swimming. I want to learn how to ride a bike. I want to go to a gym and take classes like normal people. I want to skate for fun. (For fun? What's that?) I want to grow my own veggies and get a dog. I want to be able to go to the beach when I want to get away and not have to plan around 4 back-to-back derby weekends.

Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to but couldn’t because the rigors of derby life wouldn’t allow. Make a plan to complete those goals and it will keep you from getting the post derby blues.

Newbie X, who has just found this newfangled thing: "Oooo. You should totally switch your plates/pads/helmet/toe stops/wheels."
My response: I have THREE months left. I'm not paying a shit-ton of money to use it less than 3 months! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Even if it is broke, I'm putting duct tape on that shit, so shh...I don't care about your newfangled thing.

Only spend money if YOU want to. And this goes for more than just the newest gear/bearings/skates. This is a life lesson.

The thing no one who is already retired tells you about: It's hard to stay motivated. I didn't want to learn a new position. I didn't want to try my hand at jamming. And to be honest, learning the new skill isn’t going to help the team. I could do that, but then the team be in the same boat in three months! So why not train up someone who will be around? I wasn’t closed-off to new strategies. If it helped the team win, I was in it to win it. But I certainly wasn’t into switching up my training for personal gain at this point.

And now? After I actually retired?

During those 8 years of derby, I was a fearful girl at tryouts, a timid newbie, a frustrated freshmeat, a skater, an injured skater, a rostered skater, a captain, a jammer, a blocker, a pivot. I was a friend, a teammate, a coach, a BOD member (twice!), someone you didn't want to mess with (more than a few times) and a trainer. I was a Debutante Brawler, a Trauma Queen, a Tai-Chi-tah, a Raleigh Ruckus, a Carolina Hurticane, a Palmetto borrowed skater, a Bootlegger, and finally a CRG All-Star.

I am a little sad and nostalgic for the times I've had, but I know there are more adventures waiting for me. I may not have become a Scald Eagle or a Sexy Slaydie; but I gave it my all and I am proud of where I ended up.

He is super cute.

And no, I won't be back. I won't pull a Brett Farve. But I won't forget what being a Carolina Rollergirl allowed me to become - a strong, less fearful, powerful version of myself, ready to take on more of life's challenges.

As for an update on the bucket list, I still haven’t found time to get my food blog up and running, but I do cook A LOT more! I have taken swim lessons, but it’s a fear-based thing, not an ability thing. So, I’m working on it. I can kinda ride a bike. I do go to a gym and I LOVE their barbell strength classes. I’m currently training for a half marathon, after having done the Krispy Kreme Challenge in February. I do skate for fun, occasionally. I am growing tomatoes and jalapenos; though the peppers are wildly more successful than the tomatoes. And I have a 6 month-old puppy, named Tucker, who is the cutest thing EVER.

See? Don’t believe those horrible depressing articles you see on the internet. ;) There IS life after derby!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What's in a name?

Welp. It happened. Facebook decided that my derby name constituted a breach in their policy and gave me the choice to be either locked out of my account or change my name to something akin to the email I signed up with. Unfortunately, I signed up with an email that is attributed to my government name, so either I changed my name to some form of Renee McHugh, or I would be locked out of my account for at least five days. Wow. Ugh and fuck.

Now, I wasn't completely surprised this had happened. Facebook has been going after "fake names" for the last couple of months and I knew my account might be either reported or discovered. I had already seen Bonnie Thunders and Demanda Riot and Low Maim post about their struggles with Facebook and derby names. Some of my league mates discussed what we would do if our accounts were targeted,and most of decided that we'd burn that bridge after we crossed it. Unfortunately for me, I was the first one to have to hold the match.

My derby name is important to me; it's my brand, so to speak. I write my blog under my name, Elektra Q-Tion, write a monthly column for Derby Central, and I host a radio show on I don't hide behind my derby name and attack people. I used my derby name to make sure people in the derby community could find me and I could make connections with them. Of course, none of that really mattered to Facebook. To be fair, Facebook did give me a chance to send in proof that I was Elektra Q-Tion, but it would take five days and Facebook is one of the few ways I can keep in contact with the people in my derby circles. Seriously, nobody knows who Renee Q. McHugh is. Heck, I barely recognize my own self on Facebook anymore.

Facebook has conflated anonymity with a pseudonym, and seems to be hell bent on doing this over and over again. According to the Facebook help center, we are not allowed to use anything but our "authentic names". The direct quote is what makes me laugh, because people on Facebook and in real life call me Q; I'm rarely called Renee in social settings anymore. According to Facebook, "The name you use should be your authentic identity; as your friends call you in real life and as our acceptable identification forms would show." Facebook claims that they're just trying to keep us all safe. "Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe." I assume that people would know who they were connecting with because they were involved in the derby community. Non derby people rarely seek me out.

At this point I'm probably going to keep my government name on Facebook. Many people that have jumped through Facebook's hoops have had to defend their names several times, getting locked out of their accounts for up to five days each time. It's annoying. In my case, my derby name being taken away is unfortunate, but it isn't life threatening. I am not a survivor of an abusive relationship, or transgendered person in transition, or someone with an unusual name who happens to get reported out of the blue. I can suck it up and be Renee on Facebook, but I know other people who have serious issues with being "their authentic name" on Facebook, and if they're locked out of their account, they're locked out of several support groups and communities. It's a serious shame that Facebook can't follow Twitter and Instagrams' lead when it comes to pseudonyms. Even Google+ caved and allowed people to use nicknames and such.

If you do lose your derby name, you will have to make the same decision I did. Will you fight for your name or will you give in. If you choose to fight, you have to submit one of the following:

Birth certificate
Driver’s license
Marriage certificate
Official name change paperwork
Personal or vehicle insurance card
Non-driver's government ID (ex: disability, SNAP card, national ID card)
Green card, residence permit or immigration papers
Tribal identification or status card

If you don't have your derby name on any of those, you can submit TWO forms of ID with your derby name:

Bank statement
Bus card
Credit card
Employment verification
Library card
Magazine subscription stub
Medical record
Membership ID (ex: pension card, union membership, work ID, professional ID)
Paycheck stub
School card
School record
Social Security card
Utility bill
Yearbook photo (actual scan or photograph of the page in your yearbook)Voter ID card

"If you don’t have an ID that shows your authentic name as well as your photo or date of birth, you can provide two forms of ID from Option 2 above, and then provide a government ID that includes a date of birth or photo that matches the information on your profile. We won't add the name or other information from the government ID to your account."

If you are worried about using your derby name on Facebook, you can do one thing to avoid getting picked up in a sweep, so to speak. My derby name was yanked almost an hour after I downloaded the FB pages manager on my phone. I was having issues with answering messages on our page from my phone, and I have a sneaky suspicion it was that download that put me on their radar. I was Elektra Q-Tion on Facebook for six plus years before it was yanked. Maybe I'll be Elektra Q-Tion again if Facebook figures out that pseudonyms aren't making the community unsafe.

Friday, July 3, 2015

League Leadership is Hard by Cinderellen

You can read her original blog post here
If you've ever held a position on your league's board, the following words are probably going to hit home hard. People don't always understand how leadership will impact your life, but I think Cinderellen hits the nail on the head with her blog entry

League Leadership is Hard by Cinderellen, President of the Jacksonville RollerGirls

In my league, at about mid-season, we invite those interested in running for next year’s Board of Directors to get more actively involved with the current BOD’s activities so that they can make an informed decision about their interest in serving before submitting their election platforms.  The benefit of shadowing is that you have the chance to ask questions and see things first-hand.  If you are considering a run for your league’s BOD, the best way you can prepare is by getting as involved as possible and asking every question that comes to mind.

Usually, this blog is a very personal account of my own derby journey but I have some wisdom to share – that I genuinely feel obligated to share – because I wish I had this insight myself when I ran for president. It wouldn’t have changed my mind about running but I would have felt more prepared.

I love my league. That’s the reason I stepped up into leading it. We were in a critical place where changes needed to be made to accommodate our growth and ensure our success. We changed so many things: the structure of our home teams, added a c-level travel team, added skater fundraising accounts and changed how we made that money, we had a new process for tryouts. Some of these changes were very successful and others still need some work but we asked our league to trust us and support us and they did.

This list is a collection of things that surprised me, that challenged me, or that I believe were key to our success. Anything that could be perceived as negative in this post is not a reflection on my teammates. Most of it is about the caveats of leadership in general and the rest is just human nature.

    •    Your work is never done.
When I started my first term, I wasn’t surprised by the questions or complaints we received but I was floored by the volume. We receive so many emails and facebook messages and texts and forum messages from skaters, other league leadership and staff, business partners like sponsors and vendors, sales people, and customers. At any given time, we may be managing tryouts, elections, policy decisions, budgeting, or committee activities. We receive multiple questions to answer, problems to solve, complaints to address, and exceptions to weigh on a daily basis making it difficult to run a business. Board members need to determine and agree on your league’s priorities, you need to delegate, and you need to get people to help themselves. Accept that you cannot get to all of it (this is really hard for me) because you really might kill yourself trying.  If a league member contacts you with something that should it go to a coach, a captain, a committee leader, a teammate or if the answer has been published in official communication avenues, send them there. I suck at this, too, but your league will benefit if your board can focus on running the business.

    •    Leadership is very isolating. When I started, I felt like one of the things that made me a good candidate was that I didn’t have a ton of close friends in the league.  Even so – or possibly even because of this – I was not prepared for how differently people would treat me immediately. Casual conversations stopped. The only people who talked to me for a long time were my closest friends and my fellow board members. It stole a lot of the fun, social aspect of derby from me and was very upsetting.  When people only talk to you when they need something or have a complaint, you only see the negative.  I didn’t handle this well. I became cynical and angry and made the situation worse for awhile. Possibly because we’ve had a successful year and possibly because I stopped being so sensitive about it, things are better now. The wisdom here, as a new board member, is to expect that people won’t know what to expect from you and may treat you differently as a result. Don’t take it personally. Know also that you will field complaints that will make you sad. It’s important not to let either of these things damage your love for your league or the sport. You can’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch – and not just because it’s a bad idea – but because people are depending on you not to.

    •    You are the face of No.
Your board will need to make decisions. Your main factors in weighing them are your bylaws and your budget but you may also have to consider other things like your venue, your league’s reputation, your schedule, and precedent. Nothing sucks more than to say no to a good idea or one coming from someone with lots of enthusiasm and good intentions. Similarly, you are the bearer of bad news. A fun event or practice was canceled? Someone hastily retired? There have been thefts out of skate bags? Need to remind everyone you can’t drink at practice? You have to disappoint a good coach with election results? Someone is being disciplined? You have to tell everyone.

    •    The BOD needs to act as a single body. This means three big things to me. First, supporting a consensus you didn’t vote for or agree with. Sometimes there will be a vote and you will be outvoted.  That’s actually the way it’s supposed to work because it means you are representing the diverse perspectives within your league. Regardless, you must support and enforce the BODs decision. I don’t necessarily agree with the school of thought that you are sworn to secrecy about your true opinion but the group decision is the only thing that actually matters.  Next, the BOD members should have equal say. I don’t get two votes because I’m president. There is no rank, only differences in responsibility. Finally, even though designated responsibilities are important, the BOD should work smarter and not harder.  I have a passion for writing and communications so I generally make BOD announcements and whatnot because I write them – yes, even when I didn’t agree with a decision, because that’s what I bring to the table and it’s a team effort. Find and utilize everyone’s strengths, even if it falls outside of their typical responsibilities.

    •    Exceptions are unfair by their very nature.
They can set a dangerous precedent so it is important that they are granted very sparingly and for only the best reasons. When an exception is granted, the BOD should be clear about the justification so that they may apply the exception to others as it makes sense to do so or explain to those who were denied a similar exception. Every exception makes a mockery of your bylaws and they are cumulative. The more exceptions you make, the less meaning your rules have.

    •    “For the skaters” means something.  You don’t have any power on the board of directors. You are simply charged with keeping the peace, enforcing the rules, managing the money, and making decisions. That’s it. Unfortunately, the perception of power – either on the part of a board member or on the part of the membership – can cause a lot issues.  Everyone on the Board probably rose to leadership out of their love for the league and a combination of obligation, gratitude, and responsibility. Even if you have to make a disappointing decision about a league member – it’s never actually about the person. It’s about the protecting the business and keeping the peace.

    •    Don’t lose yourself. Keep your family and work commitments. Keep up with your fitness and skating goals. Don’t let the fear of what people might think own you. This job will take over your life if you let it. Make it your most important mission not to. Resentment is where bad decisions take on a life of their own.

If these suggestions or your intuition fail you, rely on these two principles:

    •    You will never please everyone. Haters really are gonna hate – but, you know what? Likers are gonna like, too. For every one extremely loud hater who makes his or her voice heard, you have several silent supporters. It really is true but it can be hard to see the support past the spectacle that the those who are dissatisfied make of themselves. Misery loves company and they will campaign for it.
    •    Always assume the best about people
. If you have evidence to the contrary, try to empathize and be fair. No one is perfect.

There you have it. My recipe for successfully running a roller derby league that I believe in so firmly, I’m serving my second term with the same amazing women who served with me last year. If you are up for the challenge, nothing quite beats the pride when you’ve done something amazing for the league and for the sport you love.