Last weekend I participated in (part of) a leadership retreat for the Minnesota RollerGirls. Seeing all of these strong leaders in a room together made me realize how important it is to step up and take on a league job (outside of just playing roller derby, of course).
Most roller derby players are already over committed. We work or go to school, many are raising children, and we are all constantly juggling other family and friend commitments. Derby already takes up almost half of our evenings (and many weekends) for travel, practice, bouts, and other derby-related things. However, derby is a skater-owned enterprise, and it is run by the hard work of volunteers and people committed to keeping the league and sport running. Therefore, it is important to harness a “yes” mentality – go to events, promote your league, agree to help wherever you can.
If you are new to your league (or just don’t know much about your league), take the time to learn about your leadership structure. What are people doing behind the scenes? And who are these people?
If you are already in a job with your league, make sure that you commit to fulfilling the job duties. You should be proud of what you do for the league and how you keep it running!
If you don’t have much of a job, volunteer to go to events and do odd jobs: Set up chairs before a bout, pick up trash after practice, find the person organizing the event and ask what needs to happen.. It is amazing how much of an impact this has – even the slightest reprieve from a league commitment can help.
There are not many sports where you have to both practice the sport and organize your own competitions – everything from setting up the track to filing league taxes. This should be exciting and empowering – you get to be a part of an organization, learn how it runs, and see your hard work pay off. Taking on a role might even help you build skills that transfer to other areas of your life.
What if you’re already in a leadership position and your league is having trouble recruiting volunteers? Here are a few pointers:
1. Allow for short-term commitments. If someone tells me that my volunteer commitment is for the next 3 years, I’ll most likely say no. But if it is clear that the expectation is shorter, or you are free to stop committing whenever you need to, it is much easier to say yes.
2. Don’t just take anyone that wants to fill a volunteer position. If that role is something that requires a special skill, it might be better to have veterans step up to help until you find the right volunteer. It will be harder to work with someone who cannot do the job as opposed to just chipping in a little extra work until you find someone who can do the job on his/her own.
3. Make sure the volunteer positions are clearly defined. What are the duties? How many hours will be devoted to the position? Who else will you be working with? Who is a good contact for help with questions? Sometimes, people are afraid to volunteer for “big” sounding positions because they don’t know what is involved. It could be that once the position is explained, they will find themselves more than capable of doing the job.
4. Ask people directly to fill a certain role. Usually sending out blast emails about open volunteer jobs will not suffice. Find people in your league who do not have volunteer positions yet (because everyone should have a volunteer position, amiright?) and ask them personally if they would be willing to fill a position. Going back to #1 – even if they aren’t willing to do it forever, they might agree to a shorter time frame, which will give your league more time to find a good fit for the role.
5. If people have been asked to fill a volunteer position but they still have not volunteered for one, maybe it’s best not to pressure them too hard into taking on more tasks. Having disdain for a commitment or building resentment for a job that must be done is not healthy for your league.
6. Make sure to publicly thank your volunteers…both the skaters and the non-skaters. They are a huge part of the league family and deserve to be recognized for their hard work!
It should feel great to help your league grow and succeed. I love the feeling of meeting with a group of others, talking about goals, dividing up tasks, and making things happen. It’s so cool that such a diverse group of people can accomplish so much, and all because they care about roller derby. So get out there and help your league!