Category: roller derby

“Let’s talk about the fans…”

I am taking off my “Miss Marlene” hat and put on my “Hotmess Holland” helmet to bring you my first blog post about roller derby. This post is in response to Derby Deeds Podcast #205; Tara Armov launched a great talking point when she said, “Let’s talk about the fans.” Where do fans come into play? As skaters, do we really see their value? Do we show them enough consideration?

Roller derby has always prided itself on being a DIY sport. We pay to play. We run our leagues. We do it for us, because it makes us happy. But is that really enough to bring this sport we all love into the limelight? No. For the general public, roller derby is not a nationally recognized sport. It is for us, the members and stakeholders, but not the everyman. In the podcast, they refer to WFTDA as a club and focusing on growing its’ membership, and I couldn’t agree more. The WFTDA is doing a fantastic job in that aspect. So, who is responsible for fan support and growth? If not the WFTDA, than it has to be your league and the skaters. But unfortunately, a lot of times, we fall short in this challenge.

First, really think about yourself as a skater and ask, “Do I value the audience?” We all want to say yes, but that might not be the whole truth.

1. Jam Line

This past home season, we received feedback from fans that they felt the jam line was too far away; they wanted to see the starts. The majority of the seating was on the north side of the track, the benches were on the south side of the track along with the jam and pivot lines. I proposed we switch it for the remainder of the season. A good chunk of skaters did not care for the idea and pushed back. Why? It was too far away from the benches. Just let that sink in for a minute. You mean to tell me it’s too much of a pain in the ass to skate 20 more feet to the jam line? Sounds like you don’t value the audience and their bout viewing experience.

2. Demo Jam

Why does every skater look annoyed when they are told there is a demo jam? I asked this season that we have a two, slow lap demo jam; I think that only happened once. In our town, roller derby is still new and the audience was still trying to grasp the concept of the game. Once again, I was approached by patrons asking that the demo jam be slower so it’s easier to comprehend only to get flak from skaters when the request was passed on.

3. Bout Attendance

I am surprised at the number of skaters who don’t care about  bout attendance. Sometimes skaters don’t think they need a crowd to bout…wrong. No derby league can thrive without fans and a solid volunteer base. Bottom line, leagues need money. Fans equal ticket sales and butts in seats.

4. Volunteers

You can’t put on a bout without volunteers: referees, NSOs, announcers, bout production volunteers, etc. Most of the time, it is our friends and family that fill these spots, but not always. As skaters, let’s make more of an effort to get to know all of them. It can be something small: take time to say “thank you”, sign thank you cards, or say hey at the after party. Or something bigger, talk to your league and see if you can get them specialized t-shirts or throw a kick-off potluck at beginning of the season.

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Fans and volunteers are our support system. Think of them like business partners; their involvement directly effects the success of your league. I’m not saying bend over backwards every time you get a complaint, but actively listening to feedback is crucial. Your league is a business and you are selling a product. You are selling your team and the experience of roller derby. The general public is not going to care about WFTDA and higher level derby until they care enough about the game. To do that we have to get them to care about their local leagues and hopefully learn to love the game enough to support roller derby as a mainstream sport.

derby love copyPhoto by Roller Derby Combat Photography