Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
• addressing business issues
• making money with merch
• 2017 WFTDA championship recap
• Girls on Track Foundation
• wheels: grippiness and durometer
• derby workout
• plus more, including the WFTDA’s partnership with UN women, triple 8 helmet review, Do More Derby
Bob Noxious, brown paper tickets
During my quest, in recent years, to provide insight into business and personnel issues, the one obstacle I’ve always felt derby faced was being too self-reliant. The sport rarely looks beyond the league or governing bodies for help addressing one of numerous business issues. I’ve never been sure if it’s due to pride, or the fact that DYI seems to imply that we are left to our own knowledge and internal resources. That said, why don’t we seek expertise within our community that can help us? Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to cost much, if anything.
The following examples are just a few of the areas I’ve discussed with leagues where outside help could make a big difference. Though the areas of help aren’t necessarily connected, they are common issues for most leagues.
make things easier for family-oriented skaters
I’m known best as an announcer, yet those who know me understand my dedication to the sport has always been vast. Few realize, during this 13-year ride, that I also raised a family. Some of you realize how raising a family and being active in derby is an incredible challenge. After all, “derby is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.” Yep, that’s my favorite quote, quipped by yours truly. That said, you will attract and maintain both skaters and staff with children if you reach out and get a babysitter. A BABYSITTER! How easy an idea is that? Whether you find a recommendation within your club or post an ad, spend the money. I’ve been at plenty of practices where kids are running around for a staff member or injured skater to watch. That staffer or skater came to watch or participate in the practice (sometimes that was me), not kids, and it’s dangerous and chaotic. Constant calls for their parents, running onto the track, and getting into rooms or materials that weren’t child-proofed was unproductive to the parent and a potential liability to the league. No, it’s not the fault of the children. Invest in some simple games and toys, try to develop an area to keep them busy, and find someone who is trained or accustomed to handling kids. How many parents, especially women, have you lost over the years because they couldn’t balance the schedule and fulfill their minimum requirements?
Admittedly, the babysitter was more of a bonus item. It’s one of those topics I raise at seminars and eyes light up throughout the room. Yes, it’s a simple fix to a real problem. Moving onto the heavier topics...
partner with local sports businesses to better your league
One of the ideas which screams to me as an opportunity is establishing relationships with those who manage a sports program. Successful businesses and organizations look to outside resources for help with functions where they lack the expertise. Derby takes on too much, often overlooking help from others. Why not benefit from the expertise others may be willing to offer? Establish a mentorship or offer a board spot to someone who manages a successful local sports club. This could take the shape of a minor league baseball, hockey, or soccer league. Minor league clubs, just like derby, run a tight ship and need to be very creative in how they attract fans AND keep them entertained so they return. In the earlier days of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls, the BOD had a great relationship with the minor league baseball team in town. Not only would the marketing manager take the time to discuss business tactics with the league, it eventually led to two highly attended derby games played in the ballpark! We were also mentioned on nights the league would attend games, getting recognition on the scoreboard, by the announcer, etc. The relationship led to better marketing, public recognition, and two amazing special events. The cost for that relationship was little or nothing.
What about establishing a relationship with a large health club management team? You share the same challenges, right? From a recruiting standpoint, both have the same goals. To draw people into a fitness environment that is friendly, fun, and keeps people engaged for a long period of time. The club survives on memberships, by recruiting basketball, volleyball teams, soccer, and even badminton teams. Health clubs also share the same child-care issues for those raising a family. Not to mention, they could take interest in sponsorship or provide a fitness opportunity at discounted prices. Maybe you’ll learn they may even support the recruitment of players from their facility.
For those of you in Europe or other areas of the world where professional soccer/football leagues exist, could you become part of their “umbrella” of supported sports? During a recent trip to Barcelona, I toured the facilities for what might be the world’s most famous professional sports team – FC Barcelona. This storied soccer/football team, like many others around the world, is more than just a sports franchise like we’d find in North America. These teams represent the culture of their people and play a large role in the regional sport’s scene. I was amazed to learn that FC Barcelona was not JUST a soccer team, it was an umbrella under which many teams played. Professional basketball was most notable. Total, around 16 professional and amateur sports teams, for women and men, were supported by the club and its facilities. I am aware of a few women’s leagues in Europe who have support from professional soccer teams. Not only does this resolve issues that revolve around training space and, potentially, offset costs, but, if they are pursuing it, may also provide access to marketing and, potentially, recruitment help.
the easiest business partner you might ever secure – the college intern
The most logical and brilliant idea of the bunch was bounced off me by a derby colleague many years ago and I’ve thrown this idea out at numerous seminars – getting help from a college intern. Nearly every community has access to an area technical school, college, or university, which generally offers at least some sort of business education. In most cases, students pursuing an undergrad degree will need to serve either an internship or work with a local business as a consultant before they graduate. This was necessary for my own Management BA degree as an undergrad. The great thing is you get to tap into the knowledge of a business-educated student for ZERO cost. Depending on your greatest needs (accounting, marketing, personnel management, etc.) you may be able to tailor the student to fit those disciplines. All it takes is a phone call to the school’s business department and any opportunities should get rolling from there. Keep in mind that the student is also very networked. Treat them well and you may find that getting help with production, sound issues, and other needs unrelated to the intern’s work may be easily attained from friends of the student. They come to you at an age where, for most, this would be an exciting, different opportunity where interns can bring a lot of energy. Never discount the rising number of Sports Business and Sports Management programs offered in institutions today, which may be an even better fit.
Whether your league is for-profit, a non-profit, or a club, most of the work you do is the same. You’re looking to recruit more skaters, attract a growing number of fans, and maintain practice and game facilities for now and the future. The sport is for those who participate. That has been and will remain our DYI culture. Yet, it’s important to understand that nothing is given away by using outside resources. There is no relinquishing control by establishing business relationships that can help you. In the end, it makes you a better organization, faster. Learn from others and don’t think, in the process, that those you ask for help won’t learn a few things from you as well. I think, as participants, we understand the importance of and fun that comes from networking within the sport. The same argument can be made by networking within the business community.