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How to Start a Roller Derby League
Roller Derby

How to Start a Roller Derby League

Editor on June 13, 2011 with 1 Comment

I started up the Middlesbrough Milk Rollers with my best friend, Germaine Leer. There wouldn’t be derby in the North East of England if it wasn’t for her. I just want to say thank you to her for reading the article in The Guardian, and asking me to do this with her. Roller derby saved my soul and continues to save others on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, you’ll be next.

Firstly, welcome to the family, you’ll love it. Assuming there isn’t a team near you, first thing you need to do it start spreading the word, and get one started where you live.

You can find out where the nearest teams are to you pretty easy as we’re all online, there’s a maintained list on here:
Social media is your best friend here – befriend as many teams as you can, and check if they’ve heard of others trying to start up a team near you – you may find there is and a lot of work has been done for you, but even if you don’t, those contacts in other leagues are invaluable.

You’re joining a sport where everyone wants to help everyone. I skate with the Newcastle Roller Girls now and have never met a nicer bunch of broads. Check us out if you need help.

The Game
So you’ve found out there isn’t a team near you, you’ve made friends on the internet, and you’re ready to start kicking arse. Find out about the game by watching this:

Then get on the WFTDA website and be amazed by the sheer amount of rules:

Go watch, you’ll learn by seeing others doing it, so get along to as many bouts as your purse will allow. It will help it all make sense, and you’ll make great contacts. Ask them how they started off, ask them if they can help you, and keep notes of the teams and players you make friends with. It will be useful later on.
You can follow tips and tricks online to teach yourself the sport and skating style that you’ll need to play derby:

Your Team
You want to skate, but you can’t do it all on your lonesome my love, you need to get others to play with you. You need at least 14 skaters to bout. Before you get this amount you can still join in with other teams, go to mixed scrimmages, and practise. But you need 14 to bout.

Get yourself on skates and get yourself out there. Meet like-minded men and women then will want to do this with you, go to sports centres and scope out areas to practise in (tell them what you’re doing and ask for discounts when you do eventually book in, most places will do this for a new sport!). Put up posters, post on facebook, twitter, gumtree, get the word out there, you’re starting a roller derby team, WHO WANTS IN?

From then you need to pick a starting date and just go for it. Whether you use that date to organise your first get together in a pub, or to meet up at a sports hall, just do it. You need a date to head for.

Invite everyone who has shown an interest, contact the girls you’ve met across the UK and invite them. They can really help by telling the interested girls and boys just how mint this sport is.

Firstly – well done. You’re off on the road to being a roller derby goddess. You’ve got a group together who are happy to take part, and you’ve got contacts across the UK. Sit back for a second and take a deep breath.

Get yourself a hall to use for practising it. Don’t just think about leisure centres, colleges, universities and schools have spaces you can rent. There are sizes you need for playing derby, but for now, a flat surface is all you need. (Later on, you’ll need to look at this:

Some places will be worried you’ll mark the floor. You don’t NORMALLY, but it may happen. If they want a reference, ask your new contacts in other leagues. Also, as of February 2011 we became a recognised sport by the BRSF. Tell them UK leagues are represented by UKRDA - the governing body for derby in the UK.

Now, barter them down on costs, and then spread the word. Spread the cost with your skater mates until you can get enough people together and you can set up a bank account and standing orders (oh the joys!).

You need to try to get help wherever you can. Ask the council to sponsor you, ask companies in the area, do fundraising, and use it all as a recruitment tool. It will take time so don’t beat yourself up, but a new member from every event will soon mean a team for you to play with, so think baby steps.

It’s dull but necessary. But there are some fun bits.

You can mix in the fun bits to keep you going… stuff like choosing team colours (check here to make sure no one else has the mix you’re thinking of:

Thinking up a team name should be fun too, and a logo. But then comes the boring stuff…

Now you’ve got a team going, and you’re practising regularly, have some money coming in from sponsors and are doing fundraisers, you need to sort out your pennies.

You’ll need a bank account, you’ll need a couple of skaters you trust, and you’ll need some structure to your league.

Ask other teams to share their constitution and other paperwork, and just re-write it to suit you. Or use it exactly with the league name changed!

All members need to be as active off-track as they are on-track to ensure fairness. We found that until we had a committee the founders and Captain/ Vice Captain did all the work. This is going to end in derby-overload so try to keep away from this approach.

When it feels right, do a vote on who should be the captain. Then Vice. After that you can decide what works best for you. We’re still learning. Each year we change it, everyone can put themselves forward to be voted back in, and each year we tweak it a bit to make it work better than the year before.

Currently we have a Captain, a Vice, and Board of Directors (BOD/Directors). We voted in five Directors, which means that there are seven people making decisions – that’s enough to have a fair say from the team, but not too many that meetings are mental.

Those top seven will discuss team issues and make decisions, but regularly feed back to the team. They also deal with bout liaison, and organise the AGM, where the full team get together to talk about the next year and vote in the new Directors, Captain and Vice.

We also have people in charge of different sections for the team; this will come in time and may not be apparent to you just yet. Give it time.

We have two treasurers, a Marketing and Communications team (including design, merch and web), a coaching committee and a reffing and NSO committee. Within those we have on head treasurer, marketing, merch, design and web heads, a head coach, head NSO and head ref. They have to pass on any issues to the BOD and can be called on at any time by the BOD to talk about their area of expertise in the team.

The treasurers are people that do finance for a day job, they have to get two others in the team to sign for cheques to make sure everything is above board and have to bring paperwork to meetings to show the forecast for the team and whether we can afford to do things. They set up our bank account and we all pay standing orders into that. (We pay £30 a month for full time skaters and £5 per session if you’re not a full time skater).

Taking The Next Step
Ok, you’re now a team that have a name, colours, and logo. You’ve got skaters; they’re thinking up names and registering them here:

Now you may find you’ve taught yourselves all you can using the internet, so why not call on those contacts now? Get people to come to you and teach you. You’re aiming to clear the minimum skills: and you need to know the rules, so of course there’s a test: on top of that, you need to get in touch with the and register with them.

Once you’ve got some rad skills from your skater mates, and you’ve ticked those three off your list, you’re ready to start playing with other leagues.

You can arrange for people to come practise with you, expect to pay their expenses but don’t pay people that ask for money on top, that’s not our scene, don’t put up with it.

Arrange to go en masse to your closest opposition/whoever has been nicest to you that isn’t too far away, and join in their practises. Or ask them for a mixed scrimmage. If they’ve been going longer, ask them to organise it You’ll more than likely need a white top and a black top, which your name and number on the back and you’ll do a pick up scrimmage. Take your trainee refs too; this is a GREAT learning experience for everyone.

If you don’t have a coach, convince someone to coach you. Whether it’s the coach from the local roller hockey team (we did this) or a sporty family member. They can find out about the game and show you how to get better. Ask folk at work, there’s bound to be some personal trainers out there you can tap for advice (I worked with Jet from Gladiators, and her and her partner came to train us before a bout – that was a boost I can tell you!).

MMR started with thanks to drills kindly donated by Birmingham Blitz Dames and London Rollergirls. Now they pass on what Jet taught them to other leagues. You must always give back what you take in derby.

You’ve done everything you need to now – so just keep doing it. Don’t forget you’re always learning. Meet new teams, practise with them. Go to roller discos and learn tricks with the dads that skate there. Go to boot camps, host boot camps, take road trips, and spread the word. Do the media rounds. Tell everyone out there what you do. Apply for grants, put on bouts. The sky is the limit now. Good luck.

Oh, and when you get to this point, look me up, I’m on facebook, and I’d love to come play with you.

By Von Sleaze, Former Middlesbrough Milk Rollers Captain, now Newcastle Roller Girls:

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Discussion 1 Comment

  1. Miranda August 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Hey, great article and extremly informative. I Live in knaresborough, North Yorkshire and there is no team here, but there is a leeds team (West Yorkshire) would this effect me starting up my own league? as Leeds is too far for me to travel to try out and practis. xx