Generally speaking the purpose of this blog is to give insightful responses to people's questions about their league's business and to offer helpful tips and tricks for running your league. I am going to break with that today because there are some things that I want you to know about me and where I am at. I'd like us to connect.
2016 was hard
2016 was hard for a lot of people, I know, and I am no exception. My wife and I had to move out of our house unexpectedly and ended up moving five times culminating in buying our first house in the fall. I started grad school, which is totally awesome because I am able to get all academic about what really turns me on, organizational development. It's also impacted my life in all the ways you'd expect grad school too, especially considering I am still working full time. Last year I continued to deal with a derby-related back injury that has caused me to miss work, visit the urgent care, ER, PT, and chiropractor more times than I can count. This 2 1/2 year old injury has impacted my quality of life greatly and changed my relationship with the sport.
The last few months of the year, leading up to the election here in the US and following it, were particularly stressful. I'll admit that in many ways I did not cope with that stress in a healthy manner. I spent large portions of the end of the year well lubricated. I will also admit that I still am not OK. I don't think that I am going to be OK for some time because I don't think that my country, the place I live, my community, is OK. The state of my country, and the world, has also caused me to reevaluate my priorities and think hard about where I am putting my energy. I feel like I have been, like many people, asleep on the job for some time. I am putting more real time and energy (read: not just sharing s#@& on Facebook) into fighting for social justice. I am attempting to build community around activism in my life. I am trying to connect with the people that are near to me and cultivate energy to make an impact.
Towards the end of the year Prime, Brawly and I had some tough conversations about where RDS is at and where each of us is at. Brawly and Prime decided they no longer wanted to be primary consultants for RDS. Prime is busy with her awesome derby training business Iron Octopus Fitness and of course, her life which includes a toddler and her own derby league. Brawly is being her awesome self and exploring new derby horizons. She's also enjoying "not being in charge". Prime and Brawly are still my two best roller derby friends and I imagine they always will be. We continue to bounce ideas of each other, I use both of them as a resource, and they will still contribute to to RDS from time to time as guest consultants. I decided that I still really want RDS to exists and I am OK if that means it is a slow moving animal. I love roller derby and I am passionate about organizational development, so RDS is the perfect side project for me. I never expected to be able to devote my energy to RDS full time; I never expected RDS to pay my bills. We only charge for some of our products because it wouldn't be sustainable for the associated costs or running a business to come out of pocket ('cause grad school). But I find myself with more and more side projects and less and less time for this one.
With all of this in mind, I've been doing a lot of soul searching. I've been coming up with answers to questions like, 'Is roller derby still a significant part of my life?', 'Is this a 'good' place to put my energy?'.
The answer to those questions is 'yes'. I still believe in roller derby. Aside from the actual game itself (which of course I love), I still believe that roller derby, as a whole, is doing good in the world. I don't say that with rose colored glasses. I know roller derby isn't a utopia. I know that in every league there are issues, there are cliques and power struggles. I know that body shaming happens. I know that racism exists in roller derby. I know that misogyny still exists in derby (you'd hope it would be the one place you'd be safe from mansplaining). I know that there are serious flaws with WFTDA (and I assume MRDA, but I don't have any experience with the organization). I know that transphobia exists in derby. I know that roller derby has not been, and is not still, a safe place for everyone. And I do believe that the community that has been built around this sport is having the tough conversations around these topics that need to be had. I believe that the DIY and punk rock roots of the current wave have lead to inspiring models of those involved in sport being self-governed. I believe that our organizations are a powerful challenge to the idea of sport as a money making machine. I believe that roller derby is contributing to athletes being elevated from the status of commodity to that of empowered decision makers in their sport. I believe that roller derby is helping to pave the way for inclusion of nonbinary genders. I believe that we are contributing to the movement that is changing the way the women's bodies are considered. I believe that roller derby has created a rare place where women can be front and center and in charge. Now, our work is not done. But I do believe the work we are doing is good.
And so, I am still here. And this is where I am at. While I propel this ship mostly alone and put more of my limited personal resources into involvement in other organizations and activities you will see less content coming from RDS. The blog posts that rattle around in my head will take longer to get typed (I've been meaning to write this one for like three weeks), public webinars will remain infrequent, new products will take a long time to develop. But, I am still here. Please email me with your struggles and I promise to still devote the same attention to helping you find a way through. Please anonymously submit your questions to the blog. Please contact me to run your annual goal workshop and provide leadership skills training, if I can't make the trip in person we can do it virtually. I'm still here, working to help leagues be successful and sustainable so that this amazing sport and community can thrive and continue to do good work. I will just be a little quieter.
I've been following you for quite some time, and the information you've provided through your blog and posts on facebook has been incredibly useful to me as [leadership in a growing] league. Our league's culture has always been exceptional--one of mutual support, positivity, warmth, and welcome; as well as one of professionalism. Unfortunately, for the first time something's emerging that could threaten that established culture--we're beginning to see a pattern of gossip.
The gossip is stemming from one specific member [A] who is a prominent voice on the league, heavily involved in the leadership, and a long-standing member. She's also one the oldest members and one the members with the most "professional" background There are two other members [B & C] who regularly participate in the gossip, but A is the only one who seems to instigate it. When I've witnessed it happen, it's in a small group at practice sessions while gearing up/down--which makes it worse because if others overhear, it could hurt their feelings/offend them, encourage them to gossip themselves, or just sour them on the league altogether. Our positive, supportive culture will look and feel hypocritical and empty if we allow this to continue. We want to nip this behavior in the bud now.
I’ve read through your free e-book, Top 5 League Struggles & How to Fix Them, and it’s been very helpful. Specifically, the example of addressing conflict avoidance league-wide has given me a great structure to work off of when outlining a solution. However, I do have some additional questions that I’m struggling with that are specific to our situation. I figured I’d bring them right to the source, and see if the fine women of RDS have any insight!
1. In the scenario in the “Toxic Culture” part of the e-book, I know that gossiping was the symptom, and conflict avoidance was the root cause. I’m not sure if that’s the case here--“A” has no trouble voicing her opinions directly when working within the league leadership, or challenging others on their opinions. She seems to just enjoy the act of gossiping with other people. Does this mean that gossip is the root cause, or is it still conflict avoidance, or is it something else entirely?
2. I’m concerned that in trying to create a “no-tolerance” culture towards gossiping, it will result in some feeling like their language or interpersonal communication is being “policed” or "censored". How do we avoid this?
We are so glad to hear that RDS has been a meaningful resource for you! Thanks for coming to us with this issue, I hope that I will be able to give you some tips that will help your league continue to be successful. This is a long reply, so hang it there!
The situation you are describing with skater A is certainly a challenging one though not uncommon. Your instinct that this behavior needs to be addressed before it becomes a group norm that will affect your league culture is a good one.
Gossip is a challenging behavior to address partly because it is so indirect, so passive-aggressive. Sometimes it is a symptom of a larger problem like the culture mentioned in the ebook or a variety of other scenarios. Gossip can stem from group members feeling insecure, lack of confidence in leadership or any number of reasons. Gossip can also just be an individual issue. Some people have developed a habit of gossip because it's what people in their family or friend groups do, some people feel powerful when they gossip, some people use gossip as social capitol to build relationships and sometimes people just get out of touch with their own values and expectations of behavior.
One way to determine if a behavior is a group norm or an individual habit is to observe whether or not other group members are participating and/or supporting the behavior. From what you described it sounds like gossip is currently limited to just a couple of individuals. It also sounds like there isn't a strong culture that is shutting down the gossip. With that in mind you will want to address this issue in two ways.
First, if the gossip is indeed stemming primarily from skater A, she needs to be confronted directly.
Second, you will want to reinforce with the whole group that direct and open communication is what is expected in the league and instances of gossip should be confronted.
Skater A is clearly very invested in the league and wants whats best for the group, otherwise she would not be so involved. It also sounds like she has good communication skills in her tool belt. That is great because she may not need skill coaching so much as a simple conversation. I would recommend having someone from the league sit down and having a one-on-one conversation. It should be someone she trusts and respects. It should also be someone who has seen the gossiping behavior first hand so it does not become a 'she-said/she-said' conversation. During this conversation you will want to:
Here is a blog post that includes some other tips for having difficult conversations with league members. http://www.rollerderbysolutions.net/ask-rds/the-cold-hard-truth-or-at-least-how-to-deliver-it
Next you'll want to reinforce your positive culture and group norms. Has your league sat down and had a straightforward conversation about your values and how they are reflected in your group norms? This is an incredibly important task that should be done at least annually. Especially as our organizations age and mature it is important that we are explicit about our standards of behavior. In the beginning of starting our leagues we are all on the same page about our attitudes, beliefs and actions and it is dangerous to roll along year in and year out assuming that everyone is still on that page, especially as we start getting new members. To have a strong, intentional culture you need to be openly and directly discussing things like values and expectations.
I hear your concerns about making something non-negotiable, about having a no-tolerance policy towards any one behavior. One mistake that we sometimes get into when we talk about thins being nonnegotiable is that we mistake it for meaning that if there is an occurrence then that person needs to be severely disciplined or kicked out of the group. A nonnegotiable norm just means that every time there is an occurrence it is addressed in some manner and the appropriate/desirable behavior is reinforced.
To specifically address your concern about people feeling like their language or communication style is being policed, I have two thoughts. First, there is a difference between gossip that is and isn't hurtful, right? We all talk with our friends about stuff that's going on, bounce ideas off of them and ask for advice. Those conversations are problematic when they are used to damage people's reputations, spread untrue or unfavorable information, and to rally people over to someone's 'side'. So, when you are talking about what sort of communication is and is not OK in the group, be as specific and descriptive as possible. This illustrates one of the reasons that having a group conversation about communication and group norms is so important; it is the opportunity for everyone to get on the same page and come to agreement about exactly what you mean.
Second, it is OK for you, as a league, to say 'this is what we do here'. This is how we communicate, this is how we behave, these are our values and this is how we demonstrate them through our norms. And, if you aren't down with these values and norms, then maybe this isn't the place for you. And that's OK. Then it's not about picking on any individual or group of individuals or putting down their actions, it's simple about asserting, 'this is what we do here'. And then people choose whether or not it is the right place for them. To make sure you are being fair though, your league's values and norms should be a part of your new skater orientation so that new members know what they are getting into. And, group members should have input in developing and evaluating those values and norms, which is why it is important to workshop it annually.
So, how do you keep from feeling like you have to 'police' people, or keep people feeling policed? That's where the strong group culture comes in. If it is a norm in the league that people don't gossip, that they use direct communication to deal with issues as they arise or they let them go, then if there is an instance of someone trying to gossip, other group members will say, 'hey, I'm uncomfortable with you talking about that person to me', or 'is there some way that you can deal with this issue head on?', or 'this sounds like a conversation you should be having with so-and-so'. So, group members aren't policing each other, but they are encouraging each other to follow through with the behavior agreements that everyone has made.
It's really important that in addressing the gossiping behavior that you deal with both components, the individual and the group norms. If you do only one or the other you will not have as much success and you will likely be back readdressing the same behavior in the near future.
Has your league ever tried to implement change? You know, adjust our season, revamp your new skater program, restructure your league leadership, move from home teams to an A/B/C model? Because the modern incarnation of roller derby is still a young sport, all of our organizations are relatively young. That means it's likely our league have all experienced lots of changes. There are many different models for change management and a variety of tools that can help facilitate the change, but no matter which models or tools you use, following these eight guidelines will help ensure the changes you initiate are successful and sustained.
This list is taken from Leading Change by John P. Kotter. Our comments about application to roller derby leagues are in bullets.
Establish a sense of urgency. Fight complacency about current performance by examining current performance and measuring it against competitors or other benchmarks.
Create a guiding coalition. Build a team of energetic, capable leaders who have expertise and credibility to lead the change.
Developing a vision and strategy. Create an engaging description of the future and the path that will be taken to get there.
Communicating the change vision. Communicate regularly, using multiple media, in jargon-free language what the change will mean and why organizational members should be enthusiastic.
Empowering broad-based action. Remove organizational, systemic, skills, and policy barrier to making the change successful.
Generating short-term wins. Implement a number of immediate and visible changes to prove the success of the change effort and provide motivation.
Consolidating gains and producing more change. Overcome the tendency to become complacent and continue to promote even greater changes.
Anchoring new approaches in the culture. Ensure that new employees and new leaders represent the desired culture.
If your league has planned changes coming up and you would like to create a concrete plan utilizing these strategies and ensure the changes are successful and sustainable, drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to help.
Dear How Do I Change Things,
Hopefully you have had a chance to have those difficult conversations with Skaters 1 & 2 Or, at least, you have an idea of how those conversations will go and you have a plan. Constructively confronting a member of our team is an important skill. But those kinds of conversations should be the exception in your communication with your teammates, not the norm. What I mean by that is that there are other kinds of conversations you need to be having to lay the ground work or agreed upon behavior norms and shared values. By having these kinds of conversations you cultivate a culture in which deviance from the expected behaviors is minimimal.
First, your team/league needs to be in the same page about its vision and goals.Imagine showing up to a practice and not everyone knows what the team strategies are or maybe even the end game of a roller derby bout. Like, the jammer doesn't know if they are supposed to lap the pack to get points or pass off the panty to the pivot immediately upon clearing be pack. Or the blockers don't know if they are supposed to chase the jammer down when they are 19 ft ahead of the last blocker or return to the pack. Wait.... I've been to practices like that. Anyway, the point is that often times we come into our league assuming that we all have same vision, purpose and goals for our league. I mean, we're all here to play derby, right? But unless your league is intentional about establishing, articulating and implementing those things, there's a very good chance that everyone in your league is not on the same page.
League Vision. Is your league competitive, recreational or are there components of both? And exactly to what degree is it competitive or recreational? Is the vision of your league to be an inclusive organization that has a place for anyone who wants to play derby? Or does your league exist primarily to support a WFTDA charter team whose goal is to rise in the rankings as high and as fast as possible? Or do you lie somewhere in between? If there are both competitive and recreational components to your league's programming then the vision for each need to be articulated.
Based in your overall league vision your team needs to establish its goals. What are the benchmarks by which you measure whether you are achieving that vision. Those are your long term goals. What are the incremental steps to achieving your long term goals? Those are your short term goals.
Now, to the situation with skater #2. Hopefully the coaching staff has a sort of metric for choosing who to play during games and that metric is based on your short term (bout and season) goals. Now that metric doesn't need to be written out on a piece of paper and you check after every jam to choose who goes in next. But, the coaching staff should be able to articulate how you make decisions of who to send out. Because those decisions are made based on your short term goals which are based on your longer term goals and the vision that your league has agreed upon (or at least have been a part of the conversation around), you have a basis for that conversation with Skater #2.
Maybe it goes something like:
'What I hear you saying is that you didn't get payed as much today as you thought you should. As you know, one of our main goals for this bout was to play a very defensive game and shut down their jammer. In the first several jams so-and-so was more effective at blar blar blar."
' One of our team goals right now is to maintain calm heads on the track so we can see the game clearly. You were shouting at your teammates and that contributed to your line being chaotic. Because of that we made the decision dir dii dir."
You see what I am getting at?
It is absolutely the coaching staff's prerogative of who to play when. And, if your team has an understanding, or better yet is bought into, the reasoning behind those decisions it makes those conversations easier.
It takes it out of the realm of 'why isn't coach playing me?' into 'what can I do to be played more?'.
Let me backtrack for a moment to address the texting on the bench scenario in the context of team goals and agreements. Once your team has established a vision and both short and long term goals the team needs to then set a plan to achieve them. Of course there is a training plan to get there, but that's not the business we are in here at RDS. In addition to your training plan the team needs to come up with a group development plan. 'What do we need to do to be the team that will get there?'
A successful team doesn't just build the skills and learn the strategies to win on the track. They also foster the dynamics, culture and team work of success.
Your team needs to sit down at the beginning of the season and talk about what that looks like. You need to make commitments to each other about showing up on time and being present at practice, always doing your best, demonstrating support for each other, accepting feedback and other behaviors that cultivate a positive group culture. They need to talk about what exactly showing support for each other looks like. Whatever you decided it does look like, I guarantee it doesn't look like a skater pulling our their cell phone on the bench when they don't feel like they are getting the play time they deserve.
Through this exercise your team will have made agreements to each other about the kinds of behaviors they will having during practices and games. There are a couple of important points here. First, it's the skaters who set these expectations and made these agreements not you or other coaches. This means they are more invested in the agreements and more likely to hold each other accountable.
Because you are playing the dual role of the skater and the coach, we recommend that during the group discussion outlined above you take a participatory role instead of one as a facilitator. And it is of utmost importance that you model these agreements, because to act as though you are exempt from them will only erode your credibility.
This work will not be easy. But on the other side you and your league will be stronger for it.
RDS offers how-to guides for leading your league in vision work, goal setting and group norm setting or we can create a custom plan for your league. Email us at email@example.com for more info.
I''m a skater-coach for my team, which means I program, run, coach and organize vet practices.
So far this year, I've received great feedback from the team and most skaters are very happy with the way things are set up and our team game play seems to be thriving. But so does the drama.
I have one teammate the regularly goes behind my back after I explain the drill and changes what I've explained to do; so I have one group that is doing the drill as expressed and another group that is doing something completely different. If I attempt to correct them, she becomes incredibly defensive and snaps at me. Her attitude is so terrible to the point that when we are bouting, she will refuse to give me a high five when I attempt to initiate it or I get nasty looks for trying to encourage her line.
Her attitude is infecting our team and dividing us by making our teammates feel like they have to choose sides. Unfortunately, this has brought us to the worst situation I believe I've ever been involved with in a team environment.
At our last bout, one of our teammates (skater #2) was apparently unhappy with the amount of time she was on the floor playing, so after halftime, she took her phone to the bench and, in her own words when I asked her about it at practice the week after, "I didn't get much playing time. I needed something to occupy my time."
I work very hard to teach my league mates what I've learned from clinics I attended, build them up and give as much positive feedback as possible, while pointing out where they can improve. I work to try to celebrate every skater's successes and point them out to others when they do something awesome out on the floor. But the never ending drama and nasty attitude keeps showing up on the floor.
At this point, the constant tension at practice and our bouts caused by 1-2 skaters is making me and others think about transferring to other leagues or retiring. My only issue is that I'm in a leadership position with this team and I don't want to give up on them mid season. This is my home league, where I started derby and I don't want to leave just because those few skaters have turned the league into drama central.
We're only done with 3 out of the 9 bouts scheduled for the season!
Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to give up on my team, but I also don't want to be treated by crap in front of the whole team by teammates that don't respect me.
Dear, How Do I Change Things,
I have been working on my response to this over the past several days and finally have come to the conclusion that I have too much to say for just one post. For long term positive change there are two components that needs to be addressed. Today, in Part 1, I am going to write about how to address this individual behavior and in Part 2 I am going to discuss how to cultivate a group culture that will foster the kinds of behavior you want to see from your team mates.
I have so many things to say even on just Part 1 and I hope they all come out clear.
This is a sticky situation indeed. The dynamics of this situation are made more complicated due the fact that you are a coach and a skater.
Let's start with skater #1. Is sounds like you have tried to semi-casually address this behavior but it hasn't been received well. At this point you need to have a sit down conversation.
It is super important that you address this behavior right away. There are a number of consequences for letting undesirable behavior go unchecked. If we don't say something is 'not OK' then we are saying that it is 'OK'. From their perceptive if they have been doing something for a long time and no one has said anything about it and then it's brought up, it can feel out of the blue. And that's pretty unfair to them. The other big danger is that the longer the behavior continues to more other people are getting the message that it's OK. You run the risk of this turning from the undesired behavior of one individual to a full-blown group culture.
First, isolate the conversation. Don't have it during a practice or in front of other people. Let skater #1 know that you would really like to talk with her about some things that are happening during practice and games so that you two are on the same page and can be good team mates.
If you don't think the conversation will be successful between just the two of you, hopefully your league has some sort of conflict resolution system in place that offers mediation. If you league does not have anyone who is designated to assist in conflict resolution then ask a league mate who is neutral, trusted by both you and skater #1 and has good communication skills to help mediate the conversation. We find that if you need to constructively confront someone on their behavior and they are already feeling attacked, or triggered by you, it can be really helpful to have a third party to make sure both of you are following the ground rules of the conversation, call a 'time-out' if anyone gets off topics and use reflective listening and rephrasing to facilitate understanding.
Another option is to have your co-coach (assuming you have one) speak with skater #1 about the expectations of behavior at practice and identify how her current behavior isn't meeting the expectations. If the two of them can come to an agreement about what her behavior at practice will look like moving forward then the three of you can have a mini-meeting afterwards where they summarize what they came up with. The important part of this meeting is that skater #1 makes a commitment to you about what their actions at practice will look like moving forward.
It's really important that at the end of the conversation Skater #1 also has some appropriate ways to give you feedback if she doesn't think the drills you are leading are the most appropriate or if she prefers a different kind of motivation or support during games. So, make sure you leave an open door of communication with her. Let her know that while the league expects everyone act respectfully towards each other that you are also interested in hearing her feedback and her concerns. And even if you don't implement the specific suggestions she brings to you, you think that the training committee is richer for having more perspectives and ideas to consider. And when you say these things, you need to really mean them.
Now, here are some tips on how to actually confront the behavior. First, check out this blog entry . The other tip I have for you is to frame it in terms of what 'we' expect from our team mates and what is needed for the overall good of the team. That way you are taking it out of a claim of a personal attack and putting into the frame work of her being a positive team mate.
"It is important for our team's success to be cohesive during game play. This will only happen if we are practicing drills in the same way. If any of us are using eye-rolling, or other non-verbals that are dismissive of another team mate, that will only break down our positive communication on and off the track"
Instead of this:
"It undermine my authority as coach when you tell your line to practice a drill differently from what I have instructed. Refusing to give me a high five is a blatant act of disrespect."
Now, both of those statements are true. But one of them is more confrontational land makes it about how she needs to respect you and the other is about what you need from her to be the best team mate she will be. And the later is much more likely to be received well.
One important thing for you going into this.
You need to check in with yourself and be really clear about what your intention is regarding addressing this. What is your goal? Do you want skater #1 to live up to certain behavior expectations that the team has of everyone? Or are you feeling hurt by her actions and you want her to apologize?
One thing that sometimes happens to those of us in leadership positions is that if someone in the group acts in a way that we find to be disrespectful it hurts us on a personal level. As a leader, especially as a volunteer, we build relationships with our constituents. We are putting a lot of ourselves out there and a lot of work into the group to be successful. So when someone behaves in a way that we find disrespectful it can hurt on a personal level. Owning your own feelings. Recognizing that when other people's actions trigger a feeling in ourselves, we are still responsible for our own feelings. So, when confronting Skater #1 on her actions sharing how you feel, as a member of the team and as a coach, when she behaves that way may be appropriate. But don't go into it expecting or hoping for her to fix your feelings. Be ready to own them and let it go if she isn't willing or able to meet you there. When you address her actions as you would like to see them moving forward do it from a more clinical perspective. Identify the specific behaviors that will contribute to team cohesion as opposed to break it down. Instead of looking to her to make amends with you for your hurt feelings, look for commitments of positive future behavior. You are looking for agreements specifically around behaviors, not feelings. Ideally, you and Skater #1 will move past this situation and develop a coach/skater and skater/skater relationship full of mutual respect and interdependence. And from that a friendlier relationship might grow. But, if you have an deep or hidden desires for this skater to feel bad for the way she has treated you, to feel a greater respect for you as a coach or to like you more as a skater/person after the conversation... let them go.
Now, after you two have made agreements about specifically what behaviors you expect from each other that reflect respect, you need to know how to bring it up if/when there is another occurrence of the negative behavior.
First, address it RIGHT AWAY.
This is so important. If you think that she may be triggered by you, then send the other coach over to her line to remind her of what the drill is. In between drills, or right after practice pull her aside and let her know you are checking in because the agreements have been broken. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help her live up to the agreements and invite her to participate in the next drill, or the next practice if she can refocus and demonstrate the behaviors the two of you agreed upon.
Also, and this is SUPER IMPORTANT, you need to let Skater #1 know when you see her doing the things told you she would do. You need to recognize them and thank her for following through with her agreements and let her know that it means a lot to you that she is willing to work on her skills as a good league mate. Since you two don't have a deep personal relationship, don't make a giant deal out of it, but definitely let her know you see it.
For Skater #2 it sounds like so far it's only been one incident and so you don't need to have the same kind of conversation you do with Skater #1. First, if something like this happens again with Skater #2 or anyone else, it needs to be addressed immediately. If you are skating and therefore cannot speak with her on the bench, get the other coach to do it. If that is not possible, pull her aside at half time or right after the game. Again, do this in private. People tend to get extra defensive if they are being confronted in front of others.
Remind her of what the expectations are of skaters who are on the bench. Hopefully your team has already set up clear expectations (more on that in Part 2). Reiterate what criteria the coaches choose to put people out on the track (more in Part 2) and point out the reasons she wasn't being played as frequently during that game. Ask her what you can do to help her improve on the components she is lacking to get more play time. Most importantly, let her know that when she pulls her self phone out on the bench she is sending a very clear message to her team that she is not invested in them, she does not support them. Make it clear to her that whether she is on the track, on the bench or in the bleachers she is a member of the team and needs to behave as such. When skaters choose to let their ego get in the way of being team-focused it is damaging to everyone. What her team mates on the track see is an individual who is upset that they don't think they are getting what they deserve. What they should be seeing is their sister (or brother) skater cheering them on, looking for compliments and feedback to give them when they get off the track and who is still invested in the team's success.
Here's a great blog that was posted the other day about what makes a good bench.
In Part 2 I will talk about how to establish some group norms that will help support the behavior you want to see with both Skater #1 and #2 and will also help foster a culture that will prevent these sorts of negative attitudes and behaviors. So keep your eye out.
*edited May 28th after some great feedback in Facebook*
Have you addressed in any of your Q&A what types of things should be in policies? And what types of things, maybe not? I've been asked to review a 'policy proposal' for my local league, about having an 'open skate' - that is, time where the rink is open for people to skate at. They have written it as a policy, to include who is allowed, how much they have to pay, what the expectations of the trainer on duty are (e.g. open door, turn on lights, turn on music, make sure people are current on their dues or pay a $5 drop in fee)... I'd like to point the author of this policy to something (that's already been commented on)... about what things could go into policies, and what things, maybe not. Just an idea...?
We currently don't have a FAQ about policies... yet. We talk about it a little bit in our ebook which you can receive free by signing up for our email list.
As a rule, policies should contain foundation rules/practices of your league and provide a framework for decision making. They should not be a specific account of general practices or situation specific, those are procedures or best practices.
There are several reasons for that.
P.S. Hopefully when your policies are written or revised there is a rigorous process that you go through including input from key stakeholders, buy-in from the membership (preferably approval by membership) and alignment with long term vision and strategic plan.
We recommend instead that your policies provide a broad framework and that you create supplement procedures or best practices. In the policy it could be written that the Trainer on Duty is expected to follow ToD Best Practices or Open Skate Supervision Procedures (or whatever) and then you write that document to include all of that situation specific stuff you want the ToD to do. If anyone isn't following those procedures or best practices that is a training and orientation issues. Whomever 'supervises' that person needs to sit down and go over the supplemental document, find out why it isn't followed, articulate the value that following the expectorated holds for the league and then get agreements of compliance moving forward. It should also be written into the policy who is responsible for reviewing the ToD Best Practices and how often they need to be reviewed. Not which month they should be review and that Sassy should do it, that would be too specific. Instead something like, 'reviewed at least annually by the Head of Training or the Training Committee'. Reviewing your policies, practices and procedures should be a core component of your league's business practice and therefore needs to be included in policy (remember, it's nonnegotiable).
Helpful trick: if your policies are digital (which makes have current versions easily accessible... but that's another post) then you can hyperlink procedures of best practices within them. So, if the policy says, "Trainer on Duty will follow Open Skate Supervision Procedures" then hyperlink said procedures so that DoT don't have to search around for them. And if you are smart about how you draft and update policy documents, you can ensure that the most up to date procedures always occupy that link.
Hope this helps! Policy review is one of the services we offer here at RDS. If you'd like us to review your policies, email them firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start looking at them. We charge $30/hour and it typically takes 1.5-3 hours. You will end up with clear guidance and suggested edits to make your policies sustainable, cohesive, and match your league's vision and values
One (or more) of us was sitting in blissful derby saturation at The Big O when a policy issue came up within their league. There were emails, there were discussions, there were things happening. And it was kind of annoying. Because #thebigo2016. But it happened.
You might be wondering how we -- the consultants of a company that prides itself on helping leagues handle the business end of their league (ha, ha, business end) -- ended up in a situation where the foundation of our own league business was brought into question.
Are policies not really as important as we say they are?
Do policies even matter if they're just going to blow up in your face anyway?
DO WE EVEN KNOW WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT?
No. No. And yes.
There seems to be this pervasive idea that policies are a rigid foundation that's put in place to support your league. And that once your foundation is in place, you never have to think about it again. The first statement is true and the second is false. (Think about it this way. If your house suffered a severe flood or withstood a major earthquake, wouldn't you want to recheck the foundation?)
Here are some ways to reframe -- and review -- your league's current relationship with it's policy:
You need to check in on it periodically to make sure it's doing okay. That it has the sustenance it needs to survive and that it's growing in the direction that you want it to. Your policy is not a child. It doesn't need you constantly hovering over it's shoulder helping it make good life decisions, but neither it is a lump of rock that you can just ignore.
Think of your policy as a tree. You need to water it occassionally. Maybe pick aphids off the leaves. Sometimes you might just want to sit in its shade. In that vein, you need to take care of it periodically, make sure it's healthy, and change any conditions that might be hindering its growth.
The policies that your league decides upon, votes in, and cultivates like an apple tree are important. They need to have the final say in all the things. The reason why your policy document exists is to avoid abuses of power. If one of us wants to come in and run your league into the ground, we hope you have a policy to protect you. This scenario is most often what we think of when we imagine worse case scenarios for our league. Right?
But let's not forget the main purpose of the policy: to protect the league and the skaters. Adhering too strictly to policy can be an abuse of power too. If you find that you're constantly having to refuse skaters things that would protect their league status or make maintenance of their status easier, you might be going too far to the extreme in the other direction.
Really this goes back to the first point. If you have to be super dictatorial to keep your policy intact, you might need to go back and make some provisions. We like to recommend "wiggle room" addendums.
For example, if your league has a policy stating that league meetings MUST happen on the last Friday of every month, but every member of your board is unavailable the last Friday in May, what do you do? If they hold the league meeting at any other time, they're breaking policy (and opening themselves up to grievances). But they can't follow this policy. A "wiggle room" addendum to this policy might state that, "The Board has the right to reschedule a monthly meeting on a case-by-case basis, however meetings should be held as closely to the end of the month as possible."
This does 2 things:
We don't recommend that you run around randomly changing policy for whatever reason you want to. But, if you've recently dealt with a situation that wasn't addressed very well in the policy or your league constantly feels like it's butting it's head against a certain policy, CHANGE IT.
In this case, perfect shouldn't be the enemy of good. It takes forever to write the "perfect" policy (which doesn't exist, by the way), so just write one that works. Trust us. The next time the situation comes up, the new policy will either be perfect enough or get rewritten again. And neither one of those outcomes is that big of a deal.
How do you know if your policies really need to be reviewed? Start by changing how you use them.
When a specific situation arises, you should always turn to the policy first. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
If the intention and the wording do match, PROCEED.
Would you be interested in learning more about writing effective league policies? Comment below or email us at email@example.com to let us know you're interested!
A couple of months ago we posted a blog about confronting people in a positive way, otherwise known as giving feedback. But what about when you are the one who is getting the feedback?
Being able to accept feedback is an important component of being a positive league member. Next time someone in your leagues asks if they can give you some feedback, try the following.
This list is taken directly from the book The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Our two sense are added in orange :)
We are offering these tips for when someone in your league gives you feedback (or constructively confronts you) about your behavior that has broken the group norms or is otherwise detrimental to your organization. But practicing these actions when given feedback on your skating skills or team performance will also help to make you a coachable athlete.
Kouzes, James and Posner, Barry (2012). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations. Wiley. San Francisco.
One of the biggest things that we advocate here at RDS when it comes to communication and approaching league conflict is to assume good intent. That means that when someone approaches you or you get triggered by an action or behavior, you force yourself to assume that -- all things being equal -- the person that triggered you was just trying to help.
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE: You've been busting your hump behind-the-scenes trying to create a cohesive promotions plan for your league, but all of the jobs that you put out there come back unclaimed or unfinished. In order to combat the lack of league interest and help that you're receiving you have taken on several of the highest priority jobs yourself. (Sound familiar?) A league meeting rolls around and a newish skater stands up during open floor and starts talking about how her old league was great at promotions and she's brimming with ideas. What do you do?
Chances are good (if you're anything like me or the rest of humanity) you want to deliver a hard backhand to her jugular.
However, that stress and anger is on you, it's not about her. The assumption of good intent is important here. She may not even know that you are currently killing yourself as the Promotions Head or that 2 of the 3 ideas she's suggested are impossible in your town for whatever reason. Whoa, tiger...you have to curb your initial throat punch reaction and remember that she wants your league to succeed too.
Most people do have good intentions, particularly around things that they love.
But there's a corollary to the "assume good intent" rule that is even more important, especially if you serve in a leadership position in your league.
It's not enough for you to assume good intentions from others, you also have to make a commitment to DO NO HARM.
Whether you like it or not, if you hold a leadership position in your league, your words have more weight. So the first rule for tempering the weight of your words is to cope with negative emotions: anger, intimidation, disparagement, shame. Feeling these emotions is fine -- you're probably not a robot -- but when you release these emotions at others (even unintentionally) they have the impact of devaluing the other person.
And you know what happens when someone feels devalued? They won't work for you.
YOU represent the league. So really, they won't work for the league. Or the team. And they'll build up resentment and...well, you can imagine where that's going.
So great. I can't even let one little thing slip out when I'm angry? Is that what you're saying?!?
Not quite. You're human and it's important for your league mates to see that too. The way to approach both effective assumption of good intent AND doing no harm is through GOOD COMMUNICATION and BUILDING TRUST.
The 4 tips above can help you make sure that your communication as a leader within your league is positive overall. Really it's the Golden Rule.
Do no harm, assume others mean no harm, and see your league flourish.
**This post was inspired by the book: Be Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz
It happens. It happens in roller derby just like it happens outside of roller derby. Sooner or later someone is going to display some behavior that doesn't jive with your league culture*
*Side note- if you league culture isn't recognizable enough to know whether or not someone's behavior jives with it, then you need to take a step back and establish an intentional league culture (there are other blog posts about that).
Confronting someone's behavior can end on a positive note where that person has a clear understanding of what is expected of them and some tools to achieve those expectations.
It can result on tears, anger, yelling, denial and no indication that the behavior in question will improve whatsoever.
The kicker is that the language you use when approaching someone about problematic behavior largely contributes to the success of that conversation.
Needless to say, facilitating a constructive confrontation is challenging. It requires practiced and skillful communication.
Try the following tip the next time you are tasked with talking to a league-mate about their negative behavior.
When framing the behavior, make it:
About the behavior, rather than about the person.
"During that scrimmage you called the ref names."
"You were inappropriate at that scrimmage."
An observation, rather than an inference.
"You rolled your eyes when the coach was giving us feedback."
"You don't care what coach has to say."
Descriptive, rather than judgmental.
"You raised your voice to the point that you were yelling and you leaned your body and face towards her so you were coming across as being aggressive."
"You were being a douche bag"
Specific, rather than abstract.
"You have gotten on the track at least ten minutes late three times in the past two weeks."
"You are always late to everything."
Sharing of information and ideas, rather than giving advice
"Some people 'take a minute' when they start to become frustrated." -or- "I know someone who, after a bad call, sits at the end of the bench and recites their goals for the season to themselves to get their head back in the game."
"You should stop and count to ten and take deep breaths to calm down."
Exploring alternatives rather than giving answers.
"What are some things you can try when you start to feel upset at a ref's call? Are there any coping skills you use outside of roller derby that work for you?"
"You need to use comping mechanisms to calm yourself down when you become angry."
Now, utilizing these techniques doesn't mean that everyone is suddenly going to be super stocked to be getting confronted on their behavior. However, framing the conversation this way can help people not be on the defensive. Instead of feeling attacked, your league mate will feel like you are invested in helping them be successful on and off the track. They are more likely to be open to listening to what you have to say and to think critically about their behavior and how it might be negatively effecting their team mates.
These communication tools are covered along conflict resolution skills and more in an upcoming webinar Sunday March 20th 12pm-2pm PDT. Follow the link the the FB event below.
Conflict Resolution and Communication Skills for Roller Derby
Gibb, J.R. “Defensive Communication” Journal of Communication 11,3 September, 1961