Chelsea Urquhart - Nodak Knockouts
How To Keep New Skaters
My league has an issue that I'm sure many have faced before. We struggle to recruit and keep freshmeat skaters. We get people interested, they come for a few practices, and then they stop showing up because it's either too hard, or not what they expected. Some of them simply fall off the face of the earth. And sometimes they have our extra gear, or jump the gun and spend hundreds on gear, and then don't ever return. It's a killer cycle.
So how does a league keep their freshmeat engaged, excited and invoved in derby? How do we stop the drive-by members and turn people into full fledged derby league members? Every team and league needs new members, in order to keep growing or to stay alive as older members start leaving the sport. I've realized that there are some easy things a league can do to keep freshmeat.
Make them feel like they're part of a team.
Some teams have a very good program in place, and their freshmeat come in and do a program and feel very welcome and invited. These are usually the larger teams, and I think most of us smaller leagues would kill to be to support a program like that. For a while, my team had an open recruitment policy, which meant we had skaters at all levels together as our "beginner skaters", and it was hard for us to keep things moving forward for all skaters. We do have to separate all skaters for the first few weeks while they learn to skate, but we've really started to try to include everyone in drills that they can do. We promote them as a member of our team, and an important part of our league during bouts and other events. Making people want to be apart of the team is huge.
Keep skills progressing at a good rate.
Like i said before, we have an issue with having newer skaters at all levels- from first time on skates to almost ready to pass benchmarks. It's really hard to coach these people at the same time! We've started using basic Level bench mark skills from the WFTDA Minimum Skills, based on the Junior Derby Level skills (Level One are basic skating skills, stops and falls, Level Two are the more advanced skating skills, and Level Three are the hits and speed skills). By having a clear path of skills for new skaters to achieve, we've been able to adjust our practices and drills to their skill levels, as well as keep each practice interesting for everyone.
Make goals for them as well.
We have team goals for our advanced skaters, but most newer skaters only focus on passing the minimum skills. It's a lot to think about at first, and for some people seeing that laundry list of minimum skills for the first time can be scary. I've talked to skaters who like breaking it down even more then the general "Pass My Minimum Skills". Having a direct path in where they want to go and where they want to move forward helps skaters a lot. I like starting with basic skating goals- "My goal is to be stable on my skates and learn a cross over and two ways to stop by a month into this". Having a specific goal, as well as a specific timeline is the only way to make goals achievable. Then, as the time comes that their goal was supposed to happen, you can sit down and readjust if it was too hard, or focus on other ones if it was too easy.
Invite them off skates events
We had a bit of an issue with having a very separate "Old skaters" and "new skaters" group. It came from our venue space, which was very small and not usable for two groups at once. But, by including our new skaters in our fundraising, our hanging out, our skate maintenance, or photo shoots, we made sure that we were becoming friends with them off skates. Lots of people join derby simply to make friends! So be friendly! Ask the newbie you don't know to lunch one day, or see if she wants to start a car pool with you. Being locked in a car with someone is a great way to get to know them.
I think that final paragraph sums up the best way to get skaters to remain with your league- become friends with them. Being someone's friend is important and being open and welcoming to everyone is how you get people to stay interested and want to be involved.
How has your team worked towards a welcoming environment for newer skaters? How do you get skaters to come in and stay in with your league and turn into veterans?