Brown Paper Tickets is proud to present our new roller derby blog series. Take a rink-side seat as we explore the business side of derby with Bob Noxious, a veteran of modern derby. Bob will share lessons learned, advice and tips to make your team or league even more fierce. Our resident “Derby Answer Man” has a BBA in business management and over a decade of experience announcing bouts. Read more about Bob Noxious.
Take it away, Bob.
Derby’s biggest recruiting issues
Today, I’ll dispel roller derby recruiting myths and provide improvement tips. And at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a four-minute video created by Brown Paper Tickets. Watch it and feel free to use it during your functions or share on social media.
Finding fresh meat is one of the most difficult tasks a roller derby league will face, especially in the beginning. Successful recruiting is a continuous, machine-like process. You probably already know the biggest contributor to recruiting breakdowns: letting it stop.
Don’t push the league so quickly
“Bob, though we have a mix of both new and tenured skaters, we’re proud we took time to build our membership, train patiently, and design a method of continual recruitment to keep skater numbers where they need to be.”
Yeah, right. And I’m a 24-year-old Brad Pitt.
1. Leagues push too quickly to play. Once they begin play, they lose focus on recruiting. It takes 30 skaters to sustain an inter-league team. You will start with 20 trained skaters. You roster 15, play a few bouts, skaters get hurt, quit, can’t travel and suddenly that 20 skaters becomes 10. You’ll skate 10 and that number quickly becomes seven or eight. Now you can’t skate without borrowing skaters from another league – and don’t do that or you’ll never fix the problem.
2. You push new skaters to play too soon. Under conditioned and under trained equals injury.
3. And as you face these issues, what recruiting is happening? After years of seeing this same problem, I’m guessing none.
Recruiting never stops
Remember, training new skaters doesn’t have a season.
4. Generally, the core group of original skaters will produce ones who can teach skating and conditioning all year.
5. Some leagues have a separate “new skater” practice night for training, which works well. There’s no competition for practice space and new team members tend to feel more comfortable around those with the same learning curve.
6. If these practice nights have skaters coming in and advancing to the tenured group with regularity, the class can go on all season. You shouldn’t waste time, energy, and potential space rental on training two people, but small leagues can maintain a group of 5 to 10 newbies.
My experience with skater trends
7. Derby doesn’t have a strong history with universities, as undergrad students rarely surface. I spent nearly six years in Madison, WI, one of the largest university towns in the Midwest (student population over 40,000) and can only recall one undergrad skater from the school.
8. The college students who join leagues are typically non-traditional students working on post-grad degrees or returning to school at a later age.
9. Reach beyond your immediate community. Skaters are willing to go the distance to play with a league. A 60- to 90-minute commute to practice is not unheard of.
Want to attract new team members? Hire a babysitter
10. It’s shocking how few leagues cater to athletes with kids. This deters many from starting or causes them to start and quit. Offer free babysitting during practice hours as a perk. Moms skate too. Well ok, not my mom.
For crying out loud, reach out and sell your sport.
11. Host a “Skate with the Skaters Night.” Roller derby leagues charge about a $5 entrance fee to skate with derby women or men over a 3-hour period. Anyone can attend, but it’s also a way to get league members talking to curious skaters about signing up.
12. Make appearances at town/city functions. A table at a local festival is cheap, if not free. You can recruit at these town functions and they give you more exposure to the community, which grows your audience. Wear your uniforms, including your skates. Do short, demo scrimmages in the parking lot or street and become part of the entertainment.
13. Prepare a kit and take the following to your recruiting events:
–Photo album from bouts, with your best shots. Try to include photos with fans and kids.
–Recruiting info for skaters, refs and volunteer positions
–Newsletter sign-up sheet
–If there will be power, take some of your better bout footage to play on a small TV.
14. Be creative in your recruiting. Have themed recruiting events: bar party, rummage sales, restaurant tasting event or “Ask a Derby Skater” nights.
(Photo credit: Feed My Kids Productions)