Running A Public Roller Derby Bout: 10 Lessons Learned!

Author: Hell Cat
Last weekend, Bath Roller Derby ran their first ever public bout! Presenting a double header, offering a mixed opener and headline West Country showdown, we had a blast (and did a win!) Now that the dust is settled and the bruises have developed, here are the top ten lessons I learnt from running our first public derby event...
1. Watching People Fall In Love With Derby Is Amazing
Our first bout sold out! Just shy of 400 people filtered through that hall, and the vast majority of them were derby first timers. It was incredible to see so many folk 'get' the game, start to recognise the tactics deployed, go crazy for lead jammers, scream encouragement at fallen blockers - and remember how it felt when we went through the same emotions. The picture above says it all really!
2. Make It Easy On Yourself

I'm so glad we gave ourselves extra time to get set up! Doors opened at 1.30pm and we had access from 10.30am. Three hours to lay the track, put up signage, set up stalls, sign waivers etc seemed totally excessive when we were booking in our session, but we needed every minute. I'm sure we'll get slicker at future bouts, but for that first event, I'm so grateful we didn't overstretch ourselves and add extra stress.

3. Audio Is HARD

One of the trickiest parts of set up was getting our sound levels right. Horrible sports hall acoustics and a venue suddenly full of people meant that our microphones were pretty useless early on - bad news for the demo jam explanation! Skate out songs were also close to inaudible. Sorry about that! I think we nailed sound eventually but that's definitely something we'll aim to improve on for next time.
Photo Credit: Ginnifer Rollason
4. Horrible Injuries Are Horrible

Sadly we had two serious injuries in our opening bout. The first, a broken ankle, occurred within the first few minutes. Although there was nothing that could be done but wait for the ambulance crew to do their thing, I hadn't mentally prepared for what would happen if someone went down and didn't get back up. Whilst it was obviously nothing to what our poor skater must have been going though, it felt like a bad dream I couldn't wake up from and had me rattled for the rest of the bout. Next time, we'll have a response strategy in place; what the announcer should say, do we turn the music up or off, what do we communicate to the other skaters etc.

5.  Other Leagues Are Awesome

We had such brilliant support from other leagues. They offered skaters for our opening bout, NSOs, announcers, projectors, spectators, publicity and just general all round great advice. We're massively indebted to them, especially Bristol Roller Derby. We want to pay it on!
Photo Credit: Ginnifer Rollason
6. An 'Oh Shit' Kit Is Vital

I work in event production for a living and I'm so glad I put my event 'Oh Shit' kit tactic into play for this first bout. Pack a bag with all the little essentials that you won't have time to run about looking for on the day; scissors, tape, sharpies, blue tac, phone charger, contacts list, string, stickers… So handy. Do it.

7.  Team Work Makes The Dream Work

The effort we put into honing our team work on track was definitely matched off track. There was no way that we could have pulled off an event like this with anything less than the help and support of the whole league. From cake bakers to track layers, NSOs to LUMs - there wasn't one member of the league who didn't pull their weight and it really showed.

8. Booooooo(ze)

This was a bit of a bummer. Our venue is unlicensed, and while we totally get that many people are used to drinking at derby games, our awesome announcers made it very clear that drinking sneaky booze would jeopardise BRDG ever getting to use the venue again. Despite this a few people carried on (including skaters, who we would have hoped had our backs!) As the main contact with the venue, it was a bit of a buzz-kill to have to deal with this issue literally seconds after I came off track. A lot of grovelling ensued. Rubbish.
9. Event Brain vs. Game Brain

Turns out running around doing busy, organisational things is a crappy way to get your game face on! Mentally, I was all over the place at our first whistle. Perhaps this will go away with more public bout hosting experience, or perhaps I just need to plan for it next time and get some kind of strategy in place. Either way, it's definitely something I took away from the experience that I hadn't thought about beforehand – live and learn!

10. New Levels Of Respect For Host Leagues

It's a no-brainer of course, but it's not until you run your first public bout that you realise quite how much work goes in behind the scenes. Retrospective extra admiration for all the wonderful host leagues who we've played in the past! Thank you!

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