Poverty in Roller Derby

I've worked for a few years within an area plagued by poverty. In which case, finding the derby scene in New Zealand, I'm seeing a lot of parallels. This is an opinion piece... I really want to see disagreement... Why should leagues concentrate on winning individual bouts?

The difference between wealth and poverty isn't money. It isn't food. It comes down to one thing. Options. While I find myself gritting my teeth while the all mighty middle class complain about those on welfare not making the right choices, you've got to remember that there are reasons for the choices people make.

Which leads me to one very important point about roller derby. Your smaller, single team leagues - those that may struggle to find the numbers for their next bout - need to, by necessity, think very differently about the way they manage their bench.

I alluded to this in my first post (here). Most of the leagues in New Zealand are in this position. While it's not money that's the problem (though that's also A problem), it's more to do with options. Without enough players, the league ends up having to accept bad behavior such as players not turning up to practices but ending up in games nonetheless. While they're worried about winning an individual bout, they're losing players.

How? Imagine you've discovered roller derby. You buy yourself some skates, do the 3 months (at least) of safety training, and quite probably a year or more before you're ready to go into a game... and you get selected for the occasional game BUT when you're there you're only selected to play 2 or 3 jams. That's not enough time to get over the nerves yet alone show off what you're made of. In which case, you keep showing commitment, going to training, spending the money on equipment, turning up to every game but feeling like a wallflower... It's not at all surprising that you may just decide to pack it all in.

These players need to be fostered. They're up and coming players. All derby players have probably been there. They've plateaued... Practice just isn't going to do it. Game time is where it's at. Seeing it all come together with you at the centre of it all...

This is the poverty/interdependency relationship. In order to get a mass of people (individually it's possible - via things like military) out of poverty, you focus on interdependency. On our own we can't do it. Together, we can improve education. We can look at ways of improving OUR health (a communal car, hopefully with a driver, can significantly change grocery habits for example and leads to healthier eating by virtue of having options) etc. It's about "We".

In derby, this can also be applied. It's not about that star jammer, and the cliquey blockers who are already okay... It's about the entire team. It's about making a league that's supportive to their players and allows them to grow as players. It's about being able to have enough players, who are growing, to be able to generate your own game time and create those options.

That isn't to say you can't be competitive. It's just that there are other things to think about. In those games where you're getting a thrashing, is there any harm in putting on a newer player? How about when you have a healthy lead? Does the margin matter all that much?

In which case, an individual bout, in a small league, should not be only about winning that bout. It should be about growing those players. Then, after you've got enough players for a couple of teams and you've got players to select from (a.k.a. options) should winning be the primary concern.

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DOB: 8/30/1979

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