Imagine: you and a group of friends are heading out to witness your first Roller Derby bout. You won tickets on the radio and even though you saw Whip It, you really don't know what to expect. Everyone is cautiously optimistic and in good spirits as you arrive at the venue, relaxing a bit after finding awesome seats in the beer garden. After everyone has had a few sips of their drinks, the lights are dimmed and skaters start taking the track as they are announced, with fans cheering loudly for their favorite players. The atmosphere reaches a fevered pitch as a whistle blows to start the first jam, and they're off!
After a handful of jams, it's painfully obvious which team is going to win. By halftime, you and your friends are tired of seeing the winning team pummel the other team mercilessly, and it doesn't look like skaters on either team are having fun anymore. You realize the teams are so outmatched that the second half is going to look a lot like the first and decide to head out to a local club. What could have been a climatic event ended up so disappointing, you decide not to waste an evening like that ever again.
How many of you have heard of stories similar to this one? Unfortunately, I have heard variations of this many times when talking to people whose first (and last) Roller Derby bout was a blow-out. I have also witnessed throngs of fans leave at halftime and not return when the score was embarrassingly lopsided. You may think, "but we got their cash at the door, so why should I care?" Well, if you want Roller Derby to stick around, you may want to think about taking steps to reduce the chances of blow-out bouts.
For many leagues, bouts are the main source
of income; however, in addition to selling tickets, leagues are often able to raise money through selling merchandise, concessions, split the pot/fundraisers, and alcohol. To get the most income per bout attendee, leagues need to create an environment where fans want to stay for as long as possible. Once a fan has left the venue, they are no longer contributing to your league's bank account.
Not only that, but if they left because they had a bad experience, how likely do you think they will return? How often do you return to a restaurant after a bad meal or to a store that had horrendous customer service? For me, the answer is often, "never."
So what are leagues supposed to do? Here is my advice...
Bout equally matched teams/leagues. If your home teams are lopsided, switch skaters around to even things up (at least for bout day). If your league is ranked 100th, don't invite a league ranked 40 to bout you (and vice versa!). I understand that sometimes it is necessary to bout a mismatched league, which brings me to my next point.
Don't publicly bout mismatched leagues. Every bout doesn't have to be a ticketed event. If you don't have a facility to host a non-public bout on a separate evening, try having the mismatched bout before or after the main bout. Many leagues have their venue the whole day of the bout, sometimes the whole weekend, which means the non-public bout could be held Friday evening or Saturday morning, then the public bout with evenly matched teams Saturday evening.
Use good sportsmanship at all times. This means when you find yourself in what could potentially be a blow-out bout, you take steps to keep the score competitive and the fans entertained. This doesn't mean you stop trying when your team is pulling ahead or play dirty when they fall behind. When trying to even out a lopsided score (in your favor), send out a
less experienced line-up instead of instructing blockers and jammers
play half-assed. If your team is on the losing side, keep their morale up by reminding them of things they are doing well and making sure any skater who is getting upset, angry, or so tired they are dangerous on the track, sits out until they have calmed down. I like to have skaters come up with a personal goal prior to any bout, such as using newly learned strategies or skills, and remind them of these goals in either situation. Working on these goals helps to keep skaters fully engaged whether their team is ahead or behind.
I hope my advice helps your league to avoid losing fans and income in the future. If you have more tips on this topic, please share them in the comments section. Speaking of comments, in my last article I said I would give away some coupons to The ShockerKnot to some of those who left comments...here are the winners:
- ReoCurran Nightmare
- Bella Hooker
If you see your name listed, please shoot me an email at 2N1SkateShoppe@gmail.com and include your real name and address. Congratulations! If you didn't win this time, I'm sure I'll have another contest soon so just keep reading my articles here on Rollin' News.
Until we skate again!