When I joined roller derby I had no idea what I was really getting myself into. I joined to play a sport and that's the only thing I thought I was signing up for. That was not what I ended up getting, not only did I get to be part of the best sport I've ever been involved in but I signed up to run a business with a bunch of strangers. Over night I became business partners with about 50 women and men with various backgrounds, interests and desires of where they wanted the league to go. As we all know, Santa Cruz Rollergirls eventually formed into the Santa Cruz Derby Girls when we decided we wanted to become a non-profit. Today, there are about 100 league members, we're working towards our 501(c)3 and we're in the midst of all of our off-season work. By December we will be holding elections for all the "important" positions in the league and there will be a somewhat new regime in charge. This new group of people will be responsible for making all the major business decisions and overseeing the rest of the league members in their duties.
I would say 90% of women who go see a bout and decide they want to play derby have no clue of what it really means to be a part of a league. Like me they think they are just joining a club to play a sport. What we tend to see is a high turnover in new members when the realities of what we're really doing sets in and they find they are unable to meet the demands it takes to not only be a skater in the league but also a part of the day to day operations. Only 50% of what we do in the league actually involves skating, the other 50% is off-skates work. Sometimes I feel like I was duped into running the derby business, the sport was dangled in front of me and I couldn't resist and once I was hooked the other shoe dropped and I realized I was knee deep and I wasn't going to escape. I say this in a joking manner as I would never change anything that I've done or experienced because I've grown so much as a person, learned a lot about business and have had one of the greatest times of my life but honestly I never thought I would have done all the work I've done today when I first decided to join.
The question I'm starting to ask myself is how do we continue to bring in new members as more leagues pop-up in every nearby city? How do we retain the members we have with the amount of work that is required to not only be a skater but a member? To continue to be successful the workload will increase and our WFTDA membership means more bouts, more time away from our families and more money to travel. This derby thing is really another full-time job, it's not a recreation and we need to continue to bring in members who want to skate but also want to see the league succeed as a business. This is not just derby, it is a full-blown business that requires everyone to work hard and pitch in, there's no room for people to slack off.
If I could press the "Staples" Easy button, I would present myself with two choices. Choice #1 would be to just be a skater, all of the skaters would do just that, skate. There would be other members who would deal with all the business aspects of the league. There's one inherent problem in this, would we as skaters want a say in how the business is being run and the decisions are being made. It would be a hard change for us to make but if we could do it, I think we would find ourselves better players because our focus could be 100% on being athletes and derby players. Choice # 2, I would make us all be paid employees and skaters. Instead of paying to play and run the business, we would BE paid to skate and work. I would seriously kick some ass in the business if this was truly my full-time job, if I could commit the 40 hours a week that I put towards my paying job to derby.
But these dreams are not our reality and I don't know that they ever will become true. Until that day comes, I will have to continue to perfect a little thing called moderation. Every derby girl has to strive to avoid the dreaded Burn Out that tends to occur at least once a season. My goal for next year will be to keep from reaching Burn Out, I am taking on less work and am going to learn to say "No" when asked to do more than I know I can handle. Between a full-time job a part-time job, a new baby, a five year old son, my derby widow and all the other things I want to accomplish, it's going to be imperative for me to not let derby overtake my life as it has done in recent seasons. So not only am I making my comeback in the 2011 season but I will be fighting my natural urge to take on everything. It sounds like I just made a New Year's Derby Resolution but I'm not quite ready to make it official, it will have to wait for my end of the year blog post where I settle on all my resolutions for 2011. For now, I'm mulling over the idea that derby is more than a sport, it's a business and we need to remember that we have to run a business but we can never forget why we joined up in the first place, to play DERBY!