If somebody had told me a year ago that I
would leave my original league in the UK (MKRD), my family and my partner
and fly across the world to Beijing, and jointly set up a roller derby league
in China's capital that has a population of over 20 million, almost no notion
of what roller derby is, or even a word for it in Chinese... I would
have laughed at them and offered to lay track every practice for a month...
However here we are, a year old and not going anywhere.
well and truly joined the worldwide roller derby family and boy are we excited!
Here at BRD we want to help and encourage derby to keep on travelling around
the globe, so we have begun creating a series of articles with tips and tricks
on how to set up your own league in those tricky to reach places and countries
that are yet to be blessed by our 8 wheeled sport.
The following will give you some pointers regarding the first steps to setting
up your league.
1. Forums, Social Media, Press and Skating Venues.
So you have touched down in your new country and home for the foreseeable
future and, gasp! There is no roller derby in sight, stay calm… here is
what you can do.
Get your internet up and running.
It's time to hit those internet forums and see if there is anybody around who
also wants to skate and potentially help you set up the league. It's always
easier to get something up and running with many heads put together.
Types of forums:
- Magazine and newspaper
- Expat forums.
- Sport and skating forums
(including inline skating, they can be won over.)
- Local outdoor/activities.
You want to post all over the place!
Here is an example of what I first posted to the Beijinger Forum when I arrived
I am a derby player
from the UK.
I play for MKRD, Milton Keynes Roller Derby!
I moved to Beijing coming
up to a week ago, and I am suffering derbyhomesickness. If I don't get on
skates soon, or meet some
kindred spirits, then I am going to put some locals on skates whether
it or not!
My thought is this,
firstly, are there any players out there? From around the world or also native
Chinese, or people interested in skating
and the sport?
My second thought is,
if there isn't already a team, then I would like to set up a Beijing roller
team, I have heard hints of one in Shanghai.
I am happy to
introduce people to the sport, train and teach.
Lets bring roller
derby to China!
Cheers all! "
It only took a couple of hours before Hooten' Annie, who
formerly skated with the San Angelo Soul Sisters (SASS), got in contact
with me and we started planning the league together right away.
If you have no luck with the forums you can move onto
using social media (see below).
Now it's time to
spread the word of your shiny new league.
We actually created
all of our social media sites before we had any players other than ourselves,
we did this for two reasons.
Firstly, so that we
could gather interest from local press and to have an online presence in Beijing.
Secondly, we did
this so that we could recruit new players, and introduce expats and locals to
the idea of roller derby by having a website with information to direct them
Types of social media:
- Weebly Website (Free!)
On your league's websites you will need to
have basic types of information such as:
- What is roller derby?
- Where will you skate, price
and kit requirements.
- A recruitment page. For
example 'Join us!'
- Contact information
Do not worry if you are not at the stage of
knowing where you will skate etc. You can post on your skating venue page
"Venue needed, please contact us if you are able to help!" The
social media is there for people to find you and to start spreading the word of
The internet has been our saviour, because let’s face it, Beijing is BIG! It has allowed us to build up social networks and put the word out there that derby has arrived and it isn’t leaving.
Press and Media
Now that you have your social media sites, it's time to find different forms of
media to advertise that you have a league and you need players to fill it!
One of the best ways to do this, is to get in contact with the local press.
Prepare a short and interesting introduction that you can email out to the
local newspapers and magazines. You can request an interview, or an article
about your league and how it is bringing a new sport to the city/country. It
won't be long before you start receiving interest from potential recruits.
You can also make flyers, and posters to leave around town, we recommend leaving them in gyms and park notice boards, and if you are lucky enough to have skate rinks around the place, then obviously post flyers there too!
We have found that actively going out and recruiting in-person to be one of the most effective forms of recruitment. Here in China everybody uses the mobile phone app 'wechat' to keep in contact, it is well worth finding out if your country has something similar that you can use.
Our players recruit everywhere, and funnily enough, public restrooms are pretty effective! We have been to many bars, live gigs and events where we have ended chatting derby to people in the long restroom queues and recruiting them!
So do not be afraid to chase down anybody who you can communicate with, and to present them with the idea of roller derby. You just never know, they may be new to the area too, and want to make friends or take up a sport.
Finding a Venue
Now you may be wondering why the venue was left until last?
Well, it's very useful to have skates and a place to skate when starting a
roller derby league, but sadly when setting up one overseas it isn't always
likely that you will have access to the above. However, that doesn't mean you
can't begin recruiting skaters and interested parties through the various forms mentioned
You can still run off-skates training, social events, and meetings to solve
these issues with your new recruits, you do not have to do it all alone!
Our next installment will help your league begin preparing your resources and policy manual, finding a place to skate and how your league can find kit.