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Roller Derby Forum Discussions about banked-track and flat-track roller derby events, teams, skaters, and training methods.

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Old April 9th, 2012, 02:54 AM   #1
Roller Demon
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Default So what are the ingredients for a great team?

I have been trying to think about why certain derby teams are great over time and others stagnate. It seems like sucessful teams have a core group of experienced and talented skaters who hold the whole thing together. They attract vets from other leagues. They seem to plan ahead and always have a deep jammer bench and good coaches. They are innovating new strategies.

So I am interested in knowing, which teams do you think are great over a longer period of time and what core values and/or strategies have they developed that allow them to excel, beyond the talent of individual skaters? Are these successful leagues more fun to skate with and that is why they retain/attract talent? Or is it simply a cluster of talented, ambitious athletes who manage to reach critical mass and start attracting other, similar skaters to their league?
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Old April 9th, 2012, 03:41 AM   #2
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Communi-friggin-cation. lol

It doesn't even have to be verbal, but they need to know what they are doing and what their teammates are doing. That's probably a big strength with the ones that have been together and consistent. High turnover would make that more difficult.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 12:36 PM   #3
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Communi-friggin-cation. lol

It doesn't even have to be verbal, but they need to know what they are doing and what their teammates are doing. That's probably a big strength with the ones that have been together and consistent. High turnover would make that more difficult.
Well yes, of course. But what I am asking, WHY do some teams have high turnover and others don't. In these parts, a derby skater lasts 2-3 years, max. Some are too injured to return, exhaustion plays a part, people move and get pregnant. But in most cases, negative social interactions, usually with teammates but sometimes with coaches, seems to be a major factor. Seems like creating a positive culture within the league would help stem the flow of exiting skaters, but I could be wrong. I have never seen a mature, functional league up close.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 02:11 PM   #4
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I have worked with three different leagues since 2005.
The first was a "phoenix" league that was formed from the ashes of a startup that imploded. I didn't have first- hand experience with the previous league, but was told the board was a bit too power-hungry. That first league I worked with was not perfect, but was run much better. When that league went defunct, many of the skaters were good enough they made the cut at one of the best leagues in the country. I left the league due to dating a skater...

Which is where I went second. Everything about this league was( and is ) well-run. The boards get things done without having too many big egos, the skaters train their asses off, and they have a huge following. I only left the league because practice was too far from home.
I returned to derby with another startup. Unfortunately, I didn't do my research. The league I joined had been going less than a year, and had two mutinies already. The first mutiny established a new league, which, a year later, has 4 teams and over 50 skaters.

The league I ended up with had the board made up of some very vain, and over-rated skaters, that remind me of the first league that didn't make it. Too many of the skaters were more concerned with visiting the bar after practice, than practice itself. There are a bunch of potentially awesome skaters that are held back because of the board. After having their asses handed to them in bouts, the league is finally staring to improve. After doing my best to hold out for the good skaters, 95% of them, I actually left the league recently after tiring of the drama, and hypocrisy.

Short story long, leagues survive because of teamwork. Keep the egos in check, and work for the good of the league.

The skaters (whether competitive or support) that succeed practice hard at league practices, lead a healthy lifestyle, and work hard outside of practice. Understand that roller derby requires a significant time investment. You are an ambassador of your sport. But, first priority: HAVE FUN!
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Old April 9th, 2012, 02:22 PM   #5
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Attitude. Ingrained league-wide attitude to be positive, work hard and for everything to be fair and for the good of the league.

Unless it's a mainstay of the league then rot sets in, and it's very hard to turn around. Then either people want to leave, or you get a split (though a splinter can easily have the same issues as the original league).
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Old April 9th, 2012, 02:30 PM   #6
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HK said what I did in far fewer words!

One more thing. When I see a team lose, it's usually offensive blocking. Chasing the other jammer, and forgetting to help their own. It comes down to teamwork and communication.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 04:17 PM   #7
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Dunno how I missed your post, but yes, I agree with what you said
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Old April 9th, 2012, 05:15 PM   #8
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Thumbs up ITS SO Simple! Really! Do it like real sports!!

Only Recruit the best skaters to start!

When we first started a team in 2004. We made small hand out flyers advertising the derby recruiting.

Traveled to most rinks within a hour radius of our home rink. Visited the regular skate sessions,quad speed teams. Even some art clubs.

Here we observed the "best rink skaters." We skated with them etc. If they looked like a likely candidate we approached and gave our Derby Handout Info,invited to a practice and local session skate with us.

WE hardly ever approached skaters that could"" not"" skate. We only wanted a "skater" to skate with us. Out of the orginal 23, 19 still at it. The ones that dropped out still skating sessions weekly.

Not intersted in training a new skater, for themost part they do not have the drive to do derby if they are not already a skater. Just attracted by the Derby Aura,partys etc.

If you make up your best team with the best skaters to start and then bring in some newbies to learn you can survive. But starting with a long term really good group of skaters makes it much more enduring.


Something else you are dealing with to. And only you? "THE HEN HOUSE EFFECT" If you have ever worked in a large area full of high heeled women,good luck. Lots of struttin going on in there. Its normal. Beware of it and adjust.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 06:21 PM   #9
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The last league I was with would accept anybody who had an interest. In fact, one girl joined, bought skates, and learned how to skate. I see her at open skates more than anybody else.
There are a couple local A level teams. This is more of a C level farm team.

You've got to start somewhere!
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Old April 9th, 2012, 07:47 PM   #10
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No Mean Girls. This sure helps. A little less of that sure makes things a whole ton easier...
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Old April 9th, 2012, 08:28 PM   #11
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The important things that will keep a league winning: observation and circulation. Get your skaters to watch top-level derby on the internet and encourage them to attend regional tournaments so they can see up close what the greatest teams are doing and incorporate it into your coaching. Keep an open relationship with local leagues, especially the better ones, to see how they're improving their game and your game will improve, too.

The important things to keep the organization together: democracy and transparency. Democracy is the antidote for the petty dictators who can ruin a league. Transparency goes hand in hand with this. (There's a league I saw where even the Treasurer did not even have access to their own bank statements, all she did was collect dues and cut checks.) To achieve these ideals, research other leagues' bylaws and plan, plan, plan.

As far as the "hen house effect" okie writes about above, it exists, but there's also a "rooster house effect" (avoided using the other word for male chickens) on some all-male teams. The only solution to this I've seen is a two gender league. Guys and girls tend to shelve their BS when they're around each other. These leagues are rare, though, for various reasons.

Good luck.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 09:47 PM   #12
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Great observations so far.

What I hear people saying, in general:

1. Positive attitudes. This is great and I agree. What is the best way to ingrain this in a league? Do the coaches set the tone? Captains? Do you write it down as a rule in the Player Handbook? Does anybody actually read that thing? What do you do about people who are just negative in general? Some people are not bullies, exactly, they just communicate in a way that can sound mean and focus on the negative aspects of a given situation.

2. Transparent and fair. How does this apply to rostering? Rosters seem to be the most difficult hurdle of all. How much is a coach or captain obligated to explain their choices?

3. Tryouts and good recruiting practices. I agree, with the caveat that I have seen ex-competitive athletes who were not skaters in their youth get very good at roller derby. Probably not many going to be top tier anymore, but many are good by regional standards.

4. No mean girls. Hell yes! Mean people suck. What do leagues do about them, generally? Most that I have seen skirt the edge of what is obvious. They backstab and socially isolate their victims, but it is hard to pin down in a court of law what is actually going on.

5. Open minds and willingness to learn. My current league is doing a lot of this right now. It is amazing how open and willing to help many skaters and leagues in our general region have been. Skaters have been driving hours and hours out of the goodness of their hearts and love of the sport to give us tips. It is a beautiful thing, seriously

6. Have fun. Absolutely. Why do it if it is not fun? I was self-trained for years in another sport and a cardinal rule for me was to end my training sessions on a positive note. Even if I was working on something really hard and failing big time, I would switch to something that I could succeed and have fun at toward the end of the night. The last impression was that my sport was fun and I could do well at it. Made showing up the next day much, much easier.

Thanks for the insights.
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Old April 9th, 2012, 11:52 PM   #13
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I think that making sure every member knows they are valued is important too. From the newest recruit up to the veteran members and that includes NSO's, Refs and volunteers. Making it a requirement that everybody works to ensure the smooth running of the league means that it's everybodys baby and fosters even more pride in the achievements of all.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 12:05 AM   #14
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Having a bod with past leadership experience is essential. Poor or childish leaders can ruin an organization in a blink of an eye.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 03:21 PM   #15
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Quote:
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2. Transparent and fair. How does this apply to rostering? Rosters seem to be the most difficult hurdle of all. How much is a coach or captain obligated to explain their choices?
IMO, rosters should be based first on attendance and dedication, not skill level. If you have a fantastic skater who can't be bothered to make it out to events or work outside of practice she should not have a spot on the next roster before some one who is very involved with the league outside of practice.
We have a 20 person roster for our travel team with new prospects popping up monthly it seems. I know in order for me to succeed on the travel team I feel I need to make it to every practice, skate outside of practice, attend every non-mandatory travel practice and up my game. Not every one on my team has these same asperations, but it is my goal to win MVP something this season AND make/stay on my team's power line up. Getting the girls to have personal goals to achieve helps out too.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 08:57 PM   #16
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Quote:
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IMO, rosters should be based first on attendance and dedication, not skill level. If you have a fantastic skater who can't be bothered to make it out to events or work outside of practice she should not have a spot on the next roster before some one who is very involved with the league outside of practice.
Ignoring skater talent could leave you with a a very dedicated team that doesn't play all that well. All the dedication in the world won't make some skaters great.

I think there's a middle approach that works much better.
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Old April 11th, 2012, 12:47 AM   #17
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Ignoring skater talent could leave you with a a very dedicated team that doesn't play all that well. All the dedication in the world won't make some skaters great.

I think there's a middle approach that works much better.
Care to share that middle approach? Personally I'd much rather skate with a girl who is dedicated and tries than skate with the best skater in the world who thinks her sh!t don't stink
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Old April 11th, 2012, 01:43 AM   #18
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Care to share that middle approach? Personally I'd much rather skate with a girl who is dedicated and tries than skate with the best skater in the world who thinks her sh!t don't stink
There's all kinds of things that should be considered, not just talent and not just attendance/dedication. A great skater who skips a lot of practices probably isn't going to be picked, and of course she's less likely to be all that great anyways.

Going with attendance/dedication alone works fine for rec derby, I guess. Not as well for competitive derby with actual stakes.
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Old April 11th, 2012, 01:53 AM   #19
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Key thing to avoiding loads of league management grief is to have bylaws which the skaters voted into place. If the skaters approved those rules, they can never really say "That's not fair!" Then enforce them equally with everyone so that they're worth the paper they're printed on.

Keep the lines of communication open between the board, the membership, the skaters, the coaches, and captains. And for that matter, the officials and other volunteers.

Oh yeah, make sure you watch "Hell on Wheels." A lot of the ways modern roller derby works is because of went down in this film. It's a bit of a textbook case of how not to run a league. The film is available on DVD and I think you can still watch it for free over the web. The DVD is kinda neat because there's two separate commentaries by members of the leagues...
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Old April 11th, 2012, 02:32 AM   #20
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Care to share that middle approach? Personally I'd much rather skate with a girl who is dedicated and tries than skate with the best skater in the world who thinks her sh!t don't stink
Yes! And the board should have terms, not "for life"...
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