How to present yourself

Image by Billy Alexander from

After Rollercon several new sites appeared on Facebook.  One is Roller Derby PR which is a needed meeting place of representatives of leagues who are trying to present their organizations to media, fans, potential sponsors, and the communities as a whole.

You have quite a story to tell and the willingness of the PR and other directors to help the new, the confused or whomever is extremely impressive.  But how to do it on the best basis appears to be quite an issue.

I have to admit, the name Roller Derby is a blessing and a curse.  Modern Roller Derby, although basically the same game from which the old one is derived, is a much different animal.  And as there are more and more stories, TV and web features, there appears to be a couple of patterns in which the current leagues are shown.

There are two recent videos from BBC and ITV television in Britain.  To show the lack of awareness, BBC either ignored or didn’t know that there are some 70 leagues in the UK, and their reporter in South Florida did a pleasant feature on a great league in the Sunshine state.  And the opening footage was of 50’s Roller Derby and then had two girls fighting.  And the focus was how Roller Derby is back in the US (no mention of the 1015 leagues at this moment worldwide).  The ITV was a longer piece and featured a “presenter” as they are called on that side of the pond visiting an English league and “skating’ with them (a man, by the way).  Again, very pleasant.

So it seems there are two variances of when a league is able to get TV coverage (which everyone should strive for):  Rock ’em sock ’em Roller Derby is back, or a housewife, school teacher, psychologist has a full-time life and also skates in this current women’s hobby thing, Roller Derby.

Nothing wrong with that, but as one comment mentioned, why do all these cute pieces have to be the same?

What is TV looking for?  fillers, personality pieces, oddball features, etc.  How can you change that or do you even want to?

One of the benefits of having the 400 plus joining Roller Derby PR is creating a unified POV that can change as is required.  What if instead of sending out the usual press release or newsletter or posting on your site that gives the next game, the score of the last game, who scored, etc, you create a semi-standard paragraph that most can use.  For example, modern Roller Derby was started in 2002, and has spread from a few leagues in a few states to well over 1000 today in 36 countries encompassing some 40,000 participants.

All leagues are amateur, no skaters are paid, they volunteer for community activities, etc, etc,…….And build some stars, with photos and bios so people will be intrigues to see Battling Betty Page, the skating Brain surgeon and mother of three, etc.  And if you are a WFTDA league or some other that has a championship tourney, stress how the upcoming match may determine your qualification to get into the regional tourney and maybe make it to the finals in Denver or whatever……many of your fans have no idea what meaning your games have.

Stress the seriousness of the sport, the national championship, the different types of leagues, the upcoming World Cup, teams and players involved (big story!) and of course your league is a part of this worldwide association…..And check out Derby over 40 on Facebook:  almost 500 have signed on and many are over 50 who are skating…..that is a story in itself, and you will find many others within your league.

Take it outside your local story, although that is obviously a big part of it.  Make certain you distribute to all media to expand your base; sometimes it may seem all you get is friends and families to your games.  And you want to send on a consistent basis, not just when there are games.

It seems like too many stories because someone suddenly discovers “Roller Derby is Back”.  It is really up to you to let them know this is a serious sport far more over ground than even any of you realize, and you want to be treated with respect and admiration.  Not all will want to get away from the pat on the head features as that is at least some coverage, but everyone within your organization must be prepped on what to say and feature if they are interviewed;  and that is why I suggest you create your own version of what I state above so it becomes your continuing mantra.

I am not in charge

You don’t have to listen to anything I say because I am  powerless….Although I am the Commissioner (look it up on the official Derby name register), all it means is I get to rant and suggest and I don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks.

Assassination City Roller Derby. Photo by

But I do.

If some of you can take criticism (oh what a way to start!), I would like to talk about Derby presentation today.  I know that I have mentioned before about making your games into events.  Yes you have to be concerned about the skaters;  without them there is nothing.  But if you want to grow and expand your audience, concentrate also on the spectators.

I got the feeling at Rollercon that many leagues do not really have a plan in how to promote your events and how to maximize your presentation.  I am  not talking merely about the production.  If you don’t figure ways to  promote, people except for friends and family will  not come.  And if they walk into your venue and they don’t get a little bit excited you are already in trouble.  Is the front of your arena clean and fan friendly… you have well-appointed members of your league there to greet them; give them programs, tell them where the vendors are, and more?  And when they go into  the rink area is it well lighted enough so they will focus on the game and  not be easily distracted.  Are there decorations or other types of banners to enhance the setting.  And I would love to see the minor  penalties go away so there are no excess people standing in the infield.

And the warmups:  are they disciplined and exciting… the end do all the skaters get in a line and do a fast powerful pace for a few minutes to show the teamwork and skill?  And I am certain there are other things you can think of…..Are your announcers in sync with what you want to present?   so important….and how good is your demo  of the game?

Roller Derby now has over 1000 leagues worldwide and the attention on your league will only increase because of the growing interest.

Now here is the part that just pushes everything to a higher level as far as I am concerned, and it was so important to me and Roller Derby of my day…..what are the skaters wearing and how do they present themselves.

OK right away I expect to hear ” it is our game, we put our numbers on our sleeves, wear tattered hose etc”….I understand and those that feel that way will continue to do so.  But to look at what you need to in order to move to the next level; your uniforms and gear must be of the highest order and signify sleekness, power and speed.  They should have numbers on them, not added, your league’s name and logo on them all part of the original design.  The leagues that are doing this are setting themselves off from the street-skating look.

I will continue this discussion with some suggestions that I have for you.  Stay tuned or just throw a skate at me.

Derby Love,  Your powerless Commissioner.

unsung heroes and not sung enough about heroes

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Photo from by Ove Tøpfer.

And when they have occurred in Roller Derby unselfish people jump in to fill them.

We all know this game is a disease; when it grabs you it just won’t let you go.  In no way am I aware of all of you who give your time and effort and sweat and blood for no other reason that it is what you want to do, without looking for excessive reward.

And the first thing that comes to my mind is what the Seales have brought to the table.  How many of you think you are entitled to watch great Roller Derby from Boston, Chicago, London, Australia and the countless American cities that Derby News Network brings to you every week on DNN?  They and their ill-paid compatriots have done more to let people see what is going on than anyone.  I was in television production and distribution back in the day, but this whole idea of carrying everything on their backs and making connections so that you and I can sit at our computer or iphone and watch the top teams in the world play is something we certainly take for granted, without giving much thought to how Dumptruck, Val, Tara and the technical people often jump in their cars and drive thousands of miles so you won’t be disappointed.

And we all learn from these telecasts:  how the game should be played and what should not be part of Roller Derby.  They help all to understand the strategy, the speed, the conditioning that are necessary, and the game becomes the same wherever it is played.

And the Seales are not making a fortune and have sacrificed so much to make this happen.  In their case, Derby Love is almost not enough.  When you get a chance, go to their website, see what they have to offer and even help with their fundraising if you can.  To have this kind of TV coverage is not a right, but a privilege.  God Bless all connected with DNN.

There is an enigmatic soul in Virginia who goes by the name of cat of nine tails.   If you try to friend her (as I did) you will end up with a new friend in Australia who is a dominatrix and an erotic performer…..well friends are friends.

As basically a marketer I find that is an invaluable site.   You find how many amateur leagues there are in the world (as of this moment, 977) and an encyclopedic cross section of indices that let’s you see every league’s websites, how many different governing bodies, men’s leagues, flat track, banked track, etc, etc.  I ask all to look at this site often and utilize it.  You are in Bumfrick, Albania, and you want the media to pay attention?  Hell, we are part of the fasted growing sport in the world so don’t ignore us…..just go to and see how big our brethren are in London, New York, South Africa, Israel, Brazil France, Germany, Australia, etc.  And I have spoken to this lady who does all of this, and if she wants to be known, she will be.  We have our own Google because of her.    Please send her a message on that site and let her know how much you love what she is doing.

There are dozens more to be appreciated, and I hope to hear from all of you who are publishing, taking photos, putting yourselves into producing fun and serious items for your sisters and brothers, but I have to address the people behind Rollercon.

How can you create something that incorporates both West Point and Disneyland?  Why start Rollercon of course.   Ivanna and all the others who have given so many hours to create this monstrosity of an event, with 27 pages of skating instructions, ref training, announcer bellowing, and seminars on everything that could possibly be of interest to anyone associated with Roller Derby is a herculean task.  And adding the hosting facility, the meals, the parties and the dynamics of coordination for 5 days of activities that go from early morning to late at night is mind boggling.  And each year it gets done and this year was the best!  Thousands of people doing what they came to do at a very reasonable price.  So are these people going to rest until next year?  No, they have already started for next year and,  just for fun, are adding London and Australia as new venues.

So of course if you haven’t done so, let the Rollerconites know what you think.  In just a few years it has grown from a grass-roots event to a very finished product, and that doesn’t just happen.

Kudos to the Seales, the mystery woman, and to the people behind Rollercon.  If this is what being underground means, then there is nothing wrong with it.

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RollerCon 2011

This still will not be a long post, but it is something I want to write before the feeling drifts off.

Judi Flowers was at her first Rollercon.  And I know that it changed her life.  I did not know Judi when I was promoting the game, and she has kind of picked it up by osmosis.  And she has seen some of the games in this area.  But at Rollercon the aura just overwhelmed her as it does everyone who attends…..and now she is busy starting to design and participate in the culture.  On the drive home she told me that she is just trying to digest this “invasion of her senses.”

Ivanna and her crew have created what to me is something that grabs the whole essence of Roller Derby:  I don’t care  what league or ruling body you belong to, we are packing into a very few days something that will stay with you, whether you skate, referee, or participate in any way in the game we all love.  You will get instructions, guidance, seminars, and dance your ass off partying.

I feel a sense of redundancy when I say I love you all, I love what Roller Derby has become to you and what you have brought to it, and the way you honor me and my family.

What has truly bothered me is the different ruling bodies who have brought sense and order to the crazy way this has all evolved since 2002 have probably unwittingly created restrictions that keep you all from participating and competing with each other the way you do at Rollercon.

As Reagan said to Gorbachov, “tear down the wall”.  goddamnit, it is Roller Derby.  Leagues or teams of equal ability should play others of the same level without worrying about if it is sanctioned or not.  The more you play those closest to you geographically and skill level, the  more you will improve.  And  you might learn something about the others’ rules that you feel should be incorporated in your game.

California has more leagues than anyone.  There should be a California championship tourney, and the teams do not have to be of the present makeup, but maybe by county or city.  I know that this is a concept that Donna Hot Flash is working on, and it could certainly apply to other states and regions.

Why do you all get to skate with and against each other at Rollercon but not elsewhere.

If you really want to honor me, Loretta, Frankie, Ann, Joan,Judy Sowinsky, and all of the great skaters of the past, figure out a way to make this happen without damaging your present alliance.

Keep watching here for more of Rollercon from the Commissioner’s point of view.

And Ivanna and crew, you are amazing…..thanks to all the wonderful volunteers it went off without a hitch; it was the most complex, complete “convention” I have ever attended.  If you did not learn to skate better, ref better, learn at seminars, become a better announcer or any other category that is necessary for your league, it certainly wasn’t Rollercon’s fault…..the parties and functions were amazing.

If I can, I will be back next year.  And please post those photos.