Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
• supporting your volunteers
• creating healthy habits
• living fit
• game day coaching
• mental toughness
• how to tell your team you are leaving
• plus more, including the WFTDA roller derby world summit, officials across the pond, welcome packet ideas, J blocking
Bobus Maximus, Sheffield Steel Rollergirls
Skaters often ask how to support and show appreciation for volunteers, and while many individuals and leagues are getting it right, there is always room for improvement. The leagues with larger, more stable officiating crews, in-house announcers, and photographers, work hard to make them an integral part of the league. Volunteers want to feel welcomed, supported, and included – like the league cares about their needs. This is more about attitude than anything else, but there are steps you can take to create this kind of environment in your league. If you think official and volunteer development is as important as skater development, then read on.
As a skater, failure is encouraged as part of the learning process. Why can’t it be the same for volunteers? All too often, officials are expected to be perfect from the start; skaters grumble if a penalty is missed, and there are complaints if an NSO makes a mistake with the paperwork. When you train with officials, allow them to mess up. Respect this is part of their learning process.
A good announcer can have a big impact on the atmosphere of a game, and on how involved and informed the audience is, but this too requires knowledge and skills that must be learned and developed. Even those born with the gift of the gab need time to learn about the sport, and the specific requirements of roller derby announcing.
Have you ever had a photographer cover your bout, but then not share the photographs with you, or share photographs that were a little blurry, and poor quality? This sport is difficult to photograph, and it takes time to become great. Be patient and allow your photographers the time and space to develop their skills.
practice is for everyone
During practice, have clear expectations and proper provisions for officials. Practice sessions are where your officials build confidence. Think about having officials train each other. Many leagues run dedicated ref and NSO practice, and it’s also useful to have combined practice so refs and NSOs can learn how to work together effectively. Don’t just throw your NSOs in on game day and expect them to know what to do. Think about whether you can provide funding, and definitely provide space at practices for your officials. Can you go one step further, and synthesize skater and official training so that everyone is working together?
How about welcoming announcers to practice sessions and giving them the opportunity to try new things in a low-risk environment? Encourage photographers to attend the occasional scrimmage – especially useful if you hold games at your training venue. Not only will this help announcers and photographers develop their skills, it gives you the chance to get to know each other.
communication is key
Leading up to game day, include your volunteers in the organization of the event. Let them know when and where you are playing and involve them in travel plans for away games, maybe even offer subsidized travel. Provide a detailed document of information about the leagues and skaters playing for the announcers, and make sure they have it in advance of the game. Provide the photographers with information about the venue and any restrictions. Provide water for everyone as a minimum – don’t forget about your announcers.
With a high turnover, due to retirement and burnout, and increasing numbers of games, there is always a high demand for officials. It can be high pressure and high workload, and negative attitudes towards officials could impact on your ability to recruit officials for your games. In short, make sure that doesn’t happen; encourage teammates to be supportive, don’t expect perfection, and don’t heckle officials. Be aware that officials might not make every practice, especially if they have worked lots of games. Helping out officials in other leagues, networking and working with others contributes to the bigger picture of growing roller derby. Your officials do more than you know.
appreciate and celebrate
Saying thank you on game day is great, but don’t forget to thank volunteers for behind the scenes work too. Nurture them, support them to build an effective team, and encourage them to gain experience. Celebrating the ones you have may be an effective way to recruit new people. If your volunteers get accepted into a big tournament, shout about it. Let everyone know how proud you are to have such talented people working with you. Encourage officials and announcers to work towards certification when they’re ready, and make sure to always thank your photographers for those pictures you’re liking and sharing on Facebook. Maybe encourage them to share their work more widely too.
we can be so much more
Remember that roller derby is still an amateur sport. Officials, photographers, and announcers are giving you their free time. Be wary of expecting too much for free. Think about what you can offer your volunteers. Recognition is important, but what else can roller derby give to them? What has derby given you? Confidence, improved skills, maybe derby has opened doors to new opportunities. How can you help it do the same for your volunteers?
When volunteers tell you they work hard, instead of countering with, “we work hard too”, just listen. Roller derby is not a competition to see which group is hardest done by. I think it’s well past time to retire the saying “by the skaters, for the skaters.” We are so much more than that. There’s another common saying in roller derby: ‘Don’t be a dick.’ Instead of worrying about what not to be, how about actively being a force for good? My final piece of advice: talk to your volunteers. Get to know them as people. Find out what they need to feel involved and valued. It might be as simple as fetching them coffee while they work, or as long term as supporting them through a certification process. Ask. And then listen.H