Monday, March 11, 2019

Treating People Like Humans: Derby and You

I honestly don't know how to create titles anymore that don't sound like they're a freshman-in-college writing something they think is a lofty masterpiece for an english literature class.

But I digress.

Today we're going to be talking about the idea of "treating people like humans"--otherwise known as "not being a shitbag."

It's been bandied about that the number one rule of derby is "don't be a douchebag." Its gendered connotations aside, it's a really good derby lesson (and really good life lesson). "But," you may say, "Ria... What does it mean to 'not be a douchebag?'" Let me explain!

1. Remember we are all here for the same reason!

So, hey. Remember when you joined roller derby and you really enjoyed the novelty of the sport? Remember when you found a tribe of like-minded individuals trying to have fun?

Yeah, that hasn't gone anywhere. In amongst the politics and people-dynamics that happen within every subculture, is that nugget of "what you fell in love with derby in the first place." Find that. Remember that we're all here for that feeling.

2. Remember that we're all doing our best.

Officials, remember that the skaters are doing their best. Skaters, remember the officials are doing their best. Like, why would you go into something like this and not put in the energy? Give people the benefit of the doubt. Let them screw up, call them on it, but bring it from a place of learning and love, not of they're-screwing-it-up-on-purpose or they-don't-care.

3. Remember that roller derby is a silly sport.

I've said it about a hojillion times... But think about what we're doing with this sport:
  • The players are skating around in circles hitting people.
  • The referees are telling the skaters that they're skating around in circles incorrectly.
  • The NSOs are tracking how the skaters are skating around in circles correctly and incorrectly.
  • The announcers are letting everyone know how people are doing at skating around in circles.
  • The bench coaches are making sure the skaters are skating around in circles strategically.
  • The photographers are taking pictures of people skating around in circles.
  • The spectators are watching people skate around in circles.
When you think about it in its base components, it brings a sense of levity into this. It helps take ourselves and our hobby a bit less seriously.

4. Remember that nobody gets paid to do any of this.

It is a hobby. Outside of some very rare sponsorships and even rarer WFTDA BOD positions, nobody gets paid to do this. Everyone's putting their bodies, pocketbooks, and energy on the line. That investment means a ton when you remember that everyone's doing it. That in and of itself requires some baseline respect.

5. Officials are human, too.

I've harped on this about a thousand times on facebook, but we're at a critical juncture of this sport where we have more and more leagues, and less and less officials. Not just in relation to the amount of leagues there are (i.e. static amount of officials versus more leagues), we're actually in a lower amount than we've had in a long time.

Do you want to contribute to a culture that makes it seem absolutely insane to try to officiate for?

6. Skaters are human, too.

Officials, you aren't exempt from the "don't be a douchebag" rule; you're involved. When you officiate, and you get a heated skater giving you the "aww, c'mon" or "are you fucking kidding me" face, that isn't just at you. That's because they've been training to play. They put their bodies on the line for this sport. It doesn't excuse actual abuse--but remember when you're officiating that adrenaline and frustration are real things that can contribute to that.

Before assuming that someone's just a jerk 'cause they're acting like a jerk, stop and give them the benefit of the doubt too--how would you feel if you had an oops and you had to sit out and let your team down for a whole thirty seconds? Make sure to give that leeway.

7. Life is too short.

Seriously. The meme going around with the Marie Kondo clutter stuff is that if it doesn't bring you joy, you should probably get rid of it. Physically, mentally, calendar-wise--these are all good things to think about. Does derby still spark joy for you? Over my years of observing this sport the most toxic people are the people that have fallen out of love with derby and decided to start poisoning it for the rest of us. I'm not sure it's a conscious thing, but it definitely happens. When you start feeling garbage about the sport, maybe take a step back and see if this is still something that you should be doing? Nobody should be doing a hobby purely out of habit--they should be doing it because they enjoy it.

If derby sparks no joy for you anymore... Get rid of it.

Otherwise, let's make sure to encourage the joy in others.

8. We only have each other!

This subculture is still niche, as large as it's gotten. And honestly? We're the island of misfit toys over here. That's what makes it so great.

Derby started as the sport that the small group of huddled masses in the rain developed.

Let's not throw that community away by being trash to one another.

9. Everyone has their role to play.

Skaters play the sport.

Referees are another boundary of the sport, like the track or the engagement zone. They make the conceptual rules actual boundaries.

NSOs make the games official, and make sure that everything's documented.

Bench coaches are the kabuki dance between skater and official, fighting for their team, giving a broader context to gameplay, and overall being the strategy-maker.

When you realize we all have our roles to play, and that the game itself engenders feelings, it's easier to step back, give a wider context to the actions that people make in the sport... And just overall acknowledge our shared humanity and purpose with the sport.

10. Just be good to one another.

I'll say it until I'm blue/purple/black in the face--it's all about treating one another with love and respect. Bottom-line.