We are a VERY small league, like we are lucky if 6 ladies show up to scrimmage practices. We have a lot of different skill levels and I am starting to think we all have completely different goals for ourselves, rather than the league as a whole. How can our coach and Training Committee keep all these different levels engaged and excited about derby at practices? If we work on basic skills, the more seasoned skaters complain, if we just scrimmage, the newbies feel left out.Even when we do both, people grumble
This is a common issue among small leagues and even small teams within larger leagues. There are several different issues at play here and we will address two of them here; utilization of practice time and league vision.
Utilization of practice time:
1) Consider how many practices you require of your skaters in relation to the number of practices you offer. I have talked to a number of leagues who are frustrated that they have low attendance but they offer at least twice as many practices as skaters are required to attend. Now, if the culture of your league is that most people only make the minimum requirement and are not coming to twice as many practices as they are required to, don't offer that many. If skaters have fewer options to choose from you will get more skaters at those fewer practices. If you have some people who are chomping at the bit to skate four times a week and cross train, encourage them to put together cross training sessions and outdoor skates then allow them to count those as practices once a minimum on-skates attendance has been met. Cross training and diverse skating experiences will only improve the skill set of those skaters that are dedicated to improvement.
2) Create a multi-level training plan. Make your practice plans so that they address the skill building needs of your new skaters and your experienced skaters. Even if you only have one track/practice space to work with you can get creative and offer different drills simultaneously. Your beginning skaters can be on the inside of the track doing tight circles working on cross over from and your experienced skaters can on the track working on lateral movement using crossovers.
3) You could also alternate practice focus. If you have practice on Monday and Thursdays you can do basic skill building/endurance on Mondays and pack work/strategy on Thursdays. Or consistently split it between the first and second halves of practices. If there is a routine and people know what to expect they are less likely to grumble when you introduce drills because they know what is coming next.
The statement you made "I am starting to think we all have completely different goals for ourselves, rather than the league as a whole" is very telling. I encourage you to consider both overall league vision as well as the culture of skater improvement.
Overall league vision:
Conflicts within a group arise when the all members don't have the same expectations, goals and vision. Often times we assume that everyone is in it for the same reasons we are so when they don't meet our expectations we become frustrated.
Establishing group norms is an effective strategy to get everyone on the same page about behavior expectations. In our league is it OK to grumble when our trainer introduces a drill or do we expect that feedback about the practice plan be given to the trainer in private after the practice is over? These norms cannot just be written down and given to people when they start skating with the league, they need to be discussed and agreed upon by all members.
Additionally, if you're league doesn't have a unified vision of short and long term goals established through strategic planning, then you may be working against yourselves within the structures you have in place. The way you structure practices or new skater orientation might not be serving your goals.
To create unified league expectations, goals and vision you need to do the following:
1) Create explicit group norms
2) Get on the same page about what the big picture vision of your league is. What are your unified goals?
3) Each year do strategic planning where you set short and long term goals for the league
Culture of Skater Improvement:
Your league leadership should be concerned that your more seasoned skaters are complaining about working on basic skills. We can all improve by working on basic skills. The best skater in the world can improve by working on basic skills. Scrimmaging is where you cement the skills you have practiced a thousand times. If you have skaters who want to scrimmage (or even just do scrimmage drills) all the time then I would call those people recreational skaters, not competitive skaters. That is like the kickball league that starts up in the summer and you just show up to play every weekend, there's no practicing. Now, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with just wanting to show up and play. But, your skaters need to get real with themselves about what they are there for. Are they there to challenge themselves to be the best skater then can, to always be learning and growing and improving? Or are they there to scrimmage because that's the fun stuff?
We really love the idea of the Growth Mindset and we have found that it is one of the most positively influential cultures you can bring into your league.
You can find some more info here www.mindsetonline.com or watch the Ted Talk below.
Consider this quote :
Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures... I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners."
Having said all that, there are definitely ways to work on basic skills in a way that challenges both new and experienced skaters. Work on plow stops by having your beginner skaters working on basic form and edges on the inside of the track and simultaneously your experienced skaters can be working on an intense stopping obstacle course, backwards plows, or slow blocking drills using snow plows. This goes back to creating a multi-level training plan.
Addressing these two areas will get our league all working together pointed in the same direction.