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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.