I really don’t know Suzy that well. We have met and talked on several occasions but are not really close friends. But there is really something about her that portends well for the future of the game (and obviously I am not the only one to see that.)
Suzy is taller than you think, obviously very strong, and a hell of a skater and, very importantly, very charismatic. If I were to compare her to skaters of my day, you would automatically think of Ann Calvello because of the aura around her. However, she is a much better athlete than Ann, and remember that showmanship was a big part of our game - and Ann portrayed it to the max. Probably the one woman skater I admired the most for her agility and physicality was Judy Arnold, and she didn’t stay with us that long.
It is hard to make a comparison as we skated 5 games a week, but I have the feeling that wouldn’t be a problem for Suzy.
Suzy portrays the game so well: she is a great interview, her photos in ESPN The Body Issue were amazing, and she is trying to make a living from this so far amateur game. She has been endorsed by “Derby Baby” and toured for the film, she is sponsored by Riedell and frankly I don’t know her other products or arrangements, but more power to her.
I rotate the cover photos on my home facebook page fairly regularly, and a few days ago I put up one of Suzy and me at my house in Sonoma after the festival screening of “Derby Baby”. The response has been amazing; she is a magnet to all those in Derby.
But this is not just about Suzy and what she has become to the game. It is about the need for personalities that will make the game more identifiable to the public (and potential sponsors, etc). If you notice, the NBA teams promote upcoming games with the stars that are on the visiting teams; women’s beach volleyball features Walsh and her partner; Shaun White has raised his brand of snowboarding to a whole new level, and look what Gaby Douglas means to women’s gymnastics.
OK, so our game has not had the benefits of network television or even heavy coverage in the media, but we have PR people and others who must pick up on the “stars”, and like it or not we must have them and feature them. Look at Atomatrix or any of the other names on the DNN nominees for 2012 All Stars. Get their background information, and start bringing out your own stars. And you will find that when you start building up the stars on incoming teams, you have started to really lay the groundwork for the future.
Wouldn’t it be great if one of your fundraising promotions would be for an all-star game against your league. If you advertise, and your PR people exploited it, you might create a whole new fan base. Your league would have to have sufficient arena capacity to be able to afford a guarantee, but only you can decide if it would be worth it.
Many leagues have complained about falling attendance this past season. I strongly suggest you plan out every game of the upcoming 2013 year, how to make each one an event (girl scout night, student’s night, etc) and make the evening more entertaining with pre-game and halftime entertainment.
And don’t forget about the stars!