Derbology: The Struggle – A New Sport and a New League

For all intents and purposes, Roller Derby is a new sport. The roller derby of today isn’t your grandmammy’s roller derby.

Most notably, this is not our job, we are volunteers. The players, the referees, the Non Skating Officials, production committee are all dues-paying members. Everything that makes a Saturday night bout happen is done on the backs of volunteers. Whether or not you’re a skater, roller derby is a very time consuming hobby. Each skater must attend about 75% of all practices, generally. Each member must have a job within the league. My job is PR and I write you these blogs. Each skater must help out on bout night, and/or during various events where QCRG is represented, for example, parades. My favorite volunteer event is collecting food for the Food Bank of WNY at Rock out Hunger.

Photo by Chris Kalisiak
Photo by Chris Kalisiak
When QCRG was founded, the resurgence or derby had only happened about 3 years prior. Leagues started popping up independently all over the country. There was no precedent to follow and today league structure varies greatly from one league to another. We are still in the learning phase of our own organization. QCRG is constantly addressing their marketing strategies and updating draft procedures to give our fans the best production we are capable of.

With that said, let’s consider QCRG home team bouts. When the scoreboard is nearing a 200 pt differential, fans start to wonder why our teams are not more evenly matched. The obvious answer would seem to be- “one team has more of the good players”. It’s not as simple as that, and it stems from the lack of maturity of our sport, and our league. Factors to consider are:

  1. High skater turnover. We are volunteers, and this is our hobby. Unfortunately, we all have to have “real” jobs and make a living too. We have families and obligations. So when these things become overwhelming, the hobby is the first thing to go. Finances, injuries and pregnancies also add to these numbers. The more successful teams are generally the ones that have a core group of girls that have been together for a longer period of time.
  2. Referee turnover. Again, volunteers. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of rules in roller derby, AND because this sport is still in its infancy, they keep changing. These rules can take years to master, and when a ref has to move on from derby, all that knowledge is lost. Let’s be honest, it’s not an easy job. There is not a whole hell of a lot of incentive to skate around and get sneered at by the competitive skaters.
  3. Coaches are hard to come by. When you decide to start a softball or soccer league, you might put an ad in craigslist asking for coaches with any softball or soccer experience. This is not so simple in our baby sport. The only people with any derby knowledge are the ones who are presently in the league. When a team is in need of a coach, sometimes the only option is just someone who is willing. Coaches come and go, and they are hard to replace.

We love our fans. My only hope is that they can bear with us during our growing pains, and in the mean time, RYE BREAD FOR ALL!

~ Knockin’ Das Boots