Monday, October 8, 2007

Four kinds of skaters in roller derby

I found this post on the RollerDerbyIsSport yahoo group, posted by Retro Bruizin' of the Orange County Roller Girls, in response to a thread about "poseurs." It struck a chord with me as I am currently feeling un-nurtured, like I have fallen through the cracks, and a lot like my efforts are not being recognized and maybe I should stop trying so hard.

There should be a place for every type/level of skater on every league if possible. As the new training manager for our league, I had to confront the "wannabe rollergirl" issue head on, as it was affecting practices and the athletic growth of the league. I had to plea that everyone be honest with themselves and the league on what their dedication and commitment level is, and on their skating abililites and how much time they had to commit to improving their skating. Being honest about where you fit in the league benefits both the individual skater and the league itself. I have found, basically, that there are four levels of skaters in derby:

1. The "wannabe" rollergirl. She is the one that rarely shows up for practice yet is the first one at photo shoots and bar parties. When she does come to practice, she rarely works up a sweat and the smallest injury puts her on the sidelines. More important than learning to skate is getting a great "derby name" and the cutest outfit. Everything in her life comes before derby and when confronted with hardly ever showing up to practice, she can always be heard saying, "ya know, derby isn't my life..I have more important things to do.."

Why would you want to eliminate these skaters from the league? They can be the ones that attend all the fundraisers while the travel team is training. They can be the girls who bar hop and promote the league. Again, if they are honest with themselves and realize they aren't really made for the "sport" of derby, they can become support for the league re: score girls, stats keepers, refs (Ok, more dedication is needed for that position), event organizers, etc. and become more important to the league by NOT being a skater.

2. The beginner skater who aspires to be the best she can be. She is the skater that comes in with hardly any skills and maybe skated a little in the past. She immediately figures out that she loves to skate, has found a whole new group of friends in the derby sisterhood, and will do everything possible to improve. She is in love with derby and her skates and will rarely miss a practice. She is the one that will shock the "wannabes" when they come back after 2 months of not skating and find that this "beginner" is now 10 times better than they are.

To me, these are the most important skaters and should be nurtured. Unfortunately, they are usually the first to fall through the cracks. Their determination, gung-ho motivation and optimism should be used to remind those on the edge of burnout why they play derby. Instead, sometimes the "beginners" naiveness and enthusiasm is laughed at and when not rewarded for their hard work, they stop trying. These skaters are the future of the league and if forgotten about, can leave the league with less of a talent pool to pull from.

3. The league team player. She is the skater that plays on one of the home league teams. All different levels of skaters fall into this category (depending on each leagues' policies). She is dedicated and loves derby, but still has life/time commitments that can sometimes intrude on practices.. She works hard during practice and dedicates herself to the league but sometimes needs to take time off for family, work, etc. In other words, she just doesn't have the time, commitment, and/or the skills to be on the travel team.

This category is the bread and butter of the league and the source of players for the travel team. This is what gives the league and most of its players their identity and can be the most fun and motivating part of derby. The existence of the league is based on the these players (unless it is a travel team only league) as they bring in the fans and the money. It should be the most flexible regarding practices but still require a certain amount in order to play. It could also be more motivating if league teams had a roster of more players (say 20 instead of 14) and game play was based on attendance. That could also be the determination of whether the player is ready for the commitment of the travel team or should move on to support status. Most skaters fall under this category.

4. The travel team. She is usually the player that lives, breathes and eats derby. Not only is her skill level above average and one of the best on the league, but so is her commitment level. Practicing 4-5 times a week is the norm (depending on league policies) and almost every spare moment is taken up by something derby such as training camps, weekend away games, derby events. Skating and practicing is not a chore but something she loves to do. She pushes herself to the limit at EVERY practice and rarely misses one. She treats herself like an athlete and treats derby as a "real" sport.

This is the category that can cause the most problems in a league, yet is just as needed as the "beginner" skater category. Not only do beginner and intermediate skaters need a place to progress, so does the advanced skater that can get bored with lower level practices and gets tired of playing the same skaters over and over again. Unfortunately, this category can also cause the most problems regarding team selection, time dedicated to it, and money spent on travel. These are the skaters that represent the league to the derby community and should be supported by ALL skaters in the league. And if a WFTDA league, will be ranked according to games played.

Of course it isn't as cut and dry as the categories state. There are some skaters that overlap categories and some that need to switch from one category to the other when thier commitment levels change. What I try to emphasize to the skaters is, "Everyone is just as important to the league and everyone has a place in it. Find yours. Just be honest with yourself and what you are willing to commit to."

And what's a training manager? That sounds like a good idea. Maybe that would be a nice addition to our league...


Dreadnought said...

When we're no longer beginner skaters, we can nurture the hell out of next year's group. ;)

Grand Poobah said...

There's a tacit implication in this piece that "anybody can do stats."

Would that that were true. Some people simply are no good at it. As often as not, those may be the travel team level skaters, too.

Some of those "wannabe" skaters are fairly awful at the jobs themselves. Take it from a guy who's had to fire himself from a few NSO/Stats duties.