Over the last couple of years, roller derby has gone through a shift in popularity. More and more people from the general public are beginning to realize roller derby exists and are starting to come to bouts. Wouldn’t it be amazing if over 3,000 people attended every local season bout?? What if we started showing up on sports channels and in local news? This would be amazing – and is also very likely to happen in the next couple of years.
With the increase in popularity, roller derby athletes need to become more aware of the fans that attend bouts – especially the ones that are watching derby for the first time. If they don’t have a good experience, they will most likely not return. And although each league has a different way of putting on bouts, I think each derby player also has a responsibility to engage with the fans and to make good impressions on everyone they meet.
Sure, some derby players have a reputation for being “mean”, but if you are actually mean to people, that’s one less person in our derby audience. At bouts, no matter how tired I am or how ready I am to leave, I always try to engage with anyone that stops me to chat. I try to give them my attention, my autograph, a picture with me, whatever it might be. I ask them if they are having fun and I try to make the experience overall more enjoyable.
I am relatively shy so I have a tendency to avoid people whenever I can. It is hard for me to be engaging sometimes, especially when I am in a hurry, am hangry, or have been keeping my husband waiting for 25 minutes while I try to get out of the venue. However, it’s those small moments before, after, and during a bout when you engage with fans that make a lasting impression.
Recently, I have started being considerate and nice in the hours leading up to the bout. Why, you ask? We have fans that line up to get into bouts hours before the bout starts, which means fans might also be arriving at the venue when I do. So it is not unlikely that I will encounter someone attending the bout as I drive towards the venue and into our parking garage.
Therefore, I put aside the urge to honk at that guy who isn’t turning right on the green arrow; I don’t tailgate drivers even if they are going 30 in a 35; I don’t steal anyone’s parking space (like I’d do that anyway…heh). You never know – maybe that person you just cut off is going to the bout, and they see you are in a roller derby uniform. That’s -1 point for roller derby.
When you are in your uniform or could otherwise be recognized by someone as a derby player, you are representing your league. You are making an impression on fans and you are impacting the popularity of your sport. So go make some friends for the sake of roller derby!