Monday, June 28, 2010

Setting Up For Your First Bout

Derby Helper has some statistical tracking that tells us what sort of web searches people make that point them to us. There's a small but consistent stream of traffic from people who are searching for guidance on how to setup a track for a league's first home bout. We would have posted something informative for those wayward souls a long time ago but to be honest, all those Fire Elementals in the Taming the Flames quest aren't going to cast magic ice blast on themselves. And besides, nobody ever actually comes out and asks us, right?

From: Sarah H.

I'm on the fresh meat team in my league and have been assigned to help set up for our leagues first official bout. It will be held at our local YMCA where we practice.

Other members of the league have been given other various duties such as concessions, advertising, skater management, etc. My task involves creating/marking the track, scoring table, penalty box and team seating. I'm sure there are other tasks that will come up along the way that we haven't thought about yet since this is our first bout.

What have I left out? Do you have any suggestions for making the process run smoothly? Any advice for a derby bout would be really helpful.

Well crap.

Ok Sarah, I'm going to rest my level 10 sorceror in the corner of a rest shrine and take the time to address this issue for you because as it turns out, I used to have a very active part in the bout setup for my local league and can give you some pointers on audience ergonomics, working around some of the common space limitations and most importantly, pimping your track for maximum bling-osity. (Bling-alarity? Bling-gasm? Pick your favorite.)

Audience Ergonomics
Organizing the flow of your audience one they're inside the building is critical to making sure they're willing to come back next time. If you were to do something silly like, say, lay out the benches so that they block off access to half the bathrooms in the building (like we did in my league for almost two years) then you would tend to have really long bathroom lines, a lot less willingness to buy drinks at the concession stand and a lot more arrests for indecent exposure in the back corner of the parking lot by the tree line. Make sure that the position of the track inside your gym, arena, barn, whatever has not only the mandatory 10 feet of outside ref track available but also a walking path to get from one side to the other. If you have a tight fit on the ends, which is common, taping off a 2 foot wide no-standing lane will keep people from having to push and fumble their way through a mob of rabid suicide seat occupants every time nature calls.

Check with the fire marshal to get the maximum legal occupancy of the facility so you don't unwittingly do something dangerous like accidentally allowing in 400 more people than the law allows.  (Did that ever happen on my watch?  Ma-a-a-a-ybe...)  Merchandise tables and concessions should optimally placed so that if there's a line, it doesn't impede the flow of people moving from one area to another.  Limiting your access points to just one entrance helps immensely for most facilities, as this frees all the other points up for easier passage of traffic across them.  Don't get yourself a ticket from the fire department by cluttering those access points up though because (in America at least) you generally can't block any access point for use as an exit even temporarily if you're anywhere near the maximum occupancy of the building.  Again, check with the fire marshal to see what local ordinances may apply.

Space limitations
If you're so cramped by the room dimensions that there isn't enough room for everything you need to put on the outside, you might have to give grudging consideration to setting up the benches "Windy City style", as seen best at about the 2:20 point in this video of when the Windy City Rollers played at Cicero Stadium:

Yes, that's two full team benches wedged in with all the referees and NSOs in the infield of the track. Not the easiest way to do it by any stretch but it's an option if floor space is ridiculously limited.

Also, if like most leagues you plan to use a laptop and projector to display the scoreboard, be very wary of putting it on the outside of "turn 2 and turn 4" as they call it in NASCAR, meaning the second half of each of the curves. Due to the increased likelihood of contact and the laws of physics, skaters are most likely to exit the track at high speed in the mid to later part of the curve and therefore more likely to plow into caches of expensive electronics in this area. (Yup, this happened. The announcer had to give the score verbally after every jam for the rest of the bout.) If these danger zones can't be avoided, set the table or stand as far back as possible and maybe even consider having someone large sit in front of the table with a blocking pad to play "goalie".

Sure, on setup evening you COULD just tape down a couple of ropes and a few lines and call it a night. Or, you could turn your track from drab to fab with the help of some rope lights:

This crappy screen capture I made from a video does not do justice to how cool this looks.  It ain't cheap to do but if you purchase rope lights along with rubber ramps to protect them, your track will look like a combination of magic and sex to the spectators walking in the door.  And best of all, you can even buy them in your team colors.


There you go Sarah, a few helpful tips from your friends at Derby Helper who are totally not mad that while writing this post, their sorceror was discovered by a wandering zombie and had his skull used as a buffet.

Hey readers! Help out all the newbie bout coordinators out there by adding your tips down below in the comment section!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Making The Team

So Derby Helper,
Im asking you for advice if you have a second to give it. I am trying out for a derby team this Saturday & I wanted any tips that would help me stand out from the rest. The tryouts only consist of basic skating ability since the rink we will be trying out on doesnt have derby insurance. I can speed skate, on derby skate ( rollerblader for 13 years & just bought derby ones last week) crossovers, figure 8s, changing elevations, ive been working on my sideways skate that Im not the best at, I would like to do the jammer position since Im fast & little. I dont take shit & I work construction for a living so I know a lil about rough & tough. Question...does size matter when it comes to selection a player...

Any advice you could offer would be appreciated. Thanks for your time

Hope to be aka P**** R***

Well to address your last issue first, the International Rollergirls Master Roster says that the name you want is available so you're set there unless some jerk puts your idea on some internationally-read roller derby blog somewhere. (Not guilty!) More importantly however, the apprehension you are feeling as your tryout date approaches is completely normal. You know what you can do on skates but you don't know yet how that will translate to the derby world. Fast & little is a perfect recipe for a jammer so I think you're on the right track there but don't rule out being a blocker because some of the most effective blockers I've seen are shorties who are nimble enough to maneuver through the pack and keep getting in the jammer's way over and over again. Given the set of skills that you listed, I think that the skating part of the equation will take care of itself for you. All you need now are a few ways to earn the favor of the rollergirls who will be evaluating you. So to help you seal the deal, here are three sociological tricks you can use use to earn their acceptance:

Show Your Tattoos
Roller derby hurts.  Tattooing hurts.  It's no coincidence that girls who are attracted to derby tend to have tattoos.  Having a tattoo shows that you're willing to endure pain to achieve something.  Having two or more tattoos means that you didn't just do something that one time when you were too drunk to make a good decision, and also shows that you were willing to go back under the needle already knowing full well how much it hurts.  High pain tolerance + willingness to suffer to achieve a goal = perfect roller derby candidate.  Since you're in construction, I assume you have at least six or seven pieces of ink so make sure to wear something that shows every bit of work you have that won't get you arrested.  (Note: Every piercing you have that isn't in your earlobe counts as two tattoos.)

Look Badass
The same way that uninformed voters tend to vote for whoever they think looks the most "leader-ish" in their campaign pictures, derby folks who haven't seen you skate yet will make a subconcious decision about your potential based on the toughness of your attire.  Since they are basically trying to figure out how good you will be at intentionally plowing into people you don't know at full speed, you will not get nearly as much mileage out of a freshly-ironed, sunshine-yellow "WWJD" t-shirt as you will from a ripped black t-shirt that says "I love my AK-47".

Contribute To Their Non-Solid Caloric Intake
That's a fancy way of saying, "Buy them some booze."  This is a tougher one to pull off, but if you do it right, it's worth it.  Before the tryout, say something like "I just got paid today. After we're done, who wants to go to Barney's Pub to celebrate?"  This gives them positive reinforcement that is associated with your success.  If you are anywhere close to the borderline skills-wise, the thought of a frosty mug of beer they didn't have to pay for will tip the scales in your favor.  Booze is the lifeblood of roller derby.  Harness its power.

Hey readers, the comments are right below if you want to tell her anything I missed!

(Also, congrats to Sally Strych9 for getting your tattoo publicized twice!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Filing Your New League Paperwork

Back in December, I posted a helpful guide to starting your own roller derby league. While that article does contain many pieces of useful information on initializing and building up the real-world side of roller derby (attracting new skaters, raising funds, finding practice space, etc.), I have subsequently gone through the process of starting a junior roller derby and I now see that there is a gaping hole in that post. Nothing ever gets done anywhere without the government sticking its nose in the middle of your business, which is annoying unless you do like me and visualize that sentence from the perspective of a proctologist. So here's a bit of helpful info from my wife Slugs Bunny on what you'll need to do to appease the paperwork gods and get your league rolling.

(Important note: This is written on the assumption that you are in the United States. If you gone through this process in another country, please send me the pertinent information for that country and I will gladly add it to this article with a shoutout!)
1) Get an EIN number from the IRS. You can do this on-line. It's free, and you get it immediately.

2) File for non-profit corporation status with your state. In TN, this was something I could do on-line. We spent $100 for this. You need the EIN from step 1.

3) Fill out form 1023 with the IRS for your exemption letter. It will cost $400 for the usage/filing fee. You will need the Non-profit status letter and the EIN from above, along with by-laws, articles of incorporation, etc. As soon as I have mine finalized, I'm happy to share these with you so you don't have to start from scratch. (Editor's Note: See below for documents.)

4) After all is said and done, you then need to pay for USARS. I believe it's $400 to cover your practice location for one year. In addition, the girls will also need to pay $40 a year and get individual USARS as well. (Editor's Note: We have since discovered it can be as little as $80 if you will not be having a bout in a given calender year, great for brand new startup leagues!)

ALSO: To open a bank account, the bank has to have the exemption letter. So, we can't open an account until the exemption letter from 1023 comes back. :-P

And to save you 34 hours of composing the needed paperwork from scratch, here are the documents that we submitted to start up our junior league (which are based on documents shared with us by the Nashville Rollergirls.  Thanks NRG! *hug*).  They are posted as web pages so you'll need to copy the text, paste into a new document and then edit the names and locations and customize the terms for your localized purposes.  Failure to edit properly may accidentally give me ownership of your league, which I will then rule with the iron fist of a cranky despotic tyrant, so proofread like crazy before submitting!