It’s time to talk about EROC
That’s the European Roller Derby Organisational Conference. A space for European roller derby to come together and talk about the issues that impact them. The big issues used to be rankings and games. This year we focused on intersectionality and inclusion. Could it BE more clear how much our sport is growing and moving forward?
We’re in a place in our sport where we can focus on “others”. (It’s ok to feel that this time should have come sooner).
After any great event, after the rush has subsided and the conversations start to settle in your brain, there is the obligatory reflection blog. But what happens next? The goal is for the energy that builds through the event to emerge on the other side with action, or at least more conversation, so that at the next event, the discussion has moved on and we’re all not just still asking the same questions.
This is more than just a reflection on EROC, this is a commitment to those next steps.
The Contradiction and the Red Lines
The over-arching message from the event: we want to give space to those who aren’t heard.
We want to be conscious of our position of privilege and acknowledge that others need an opportunity to be in the center. We need to do more than just prop a door open. Sometimes we need to leave the room. Or at least sit back against the wall and leave a clear path to the buffet. This is where we are in European roller derby. This is where the thinking has got to but there’s a whole lot of “what does that look like?”
We want to be inclusive. But we don’t want to be totally inclusive. Oh, this one sets my head spinning. We want to ensure that we are providing a space for those who have barriers to participation. But we don’t want people who don’t think the same as we do. Who aren’t as open as we are. Who aren’t as liberal as we are. This theme came up over and over through the weekend. It seems that political views and openness are our Red Lines for inclusion. We want to include everyone except those who restrict our ability to be who we are. It’s a fair want. But can that be reconciled?
I don’t have an answer to this one. The consensus is that leagues will draw their own red lines. And those lines, in turn, will drive the culture of our sport.
But before we draw any lines or give people space, we have to not only create a space for them to get their feet in the door but make it the kind of party they want to attend.
My two workshops.
No surprise there. It’s what I do.
I want there to be a coaching qualification because I believe by having a structure in place to train our trainers, it will help us to keep people in our sport, bring more people to our sport, and address some of the barriers of those who can’t currently participate in our sport.
It’ll make everyone currently playing our sport better and it will help us open doors to those who aren’t here yet.
We looked at the benefits of coach training and then looked at what we thought a qualification could look like. We looked at coaching structures in other sports and we set parameters for how it could work in roller derby. It was a good chat. It was visionary. But it wasn’t that far beyond the chat that we had at the Derby Stance Coaching Summit in 2016 .
One big change for this workshop — we did have the WFTDA Education Programme Manager in the haus. Listening. Noting that it’s a great idea but we need people to do it.
So, people, let’s do it.
Let’s move this to more concrete thinking and keep the conversation going while we find the resource to make it happen, so we’re not just starting from square one when we get it.
The sustainability of our sport.
A bit of a left field topic for me, I mean, it’s not coaching. But it’s a conversation that’s important to have and has links straight back into inclusivity.
The topic was built around the DIY mentality of the sport and asked concrete questions around the links between member contribution to the sport and the lack of long term retention across most leagues. We looked at how other sports built their volunteer structures, found their funds, and whether we could reconcile those differences with our view of For derby, By derby.
The key differences we found were
1) Consistency in how clubs operate
2) Large recreational athlete base
3) National recognition of the sport (and its importance)
What sticks for me is point 2. We do not have a system or culture that widely supports recreational derby. Every league is a team, every team is ranked, every skater has to contribute to the greater good of the team, league, and sport. No one “just” skates and the community doesn’t support those who might want to.
Not only does this approach minimise our potential for growth and wider recognition, it also kills our fan base and potential to support our competitive teams. It also makes us not particularly inclusive. Not everyone who can scrape an hour together to skate can also find the time to spend 2 hours on derby admin.
A little while ago, I wrote about accessibility, particularly cultural accessibility and progression accessibility. Changing the way the community thinks about recreational skating can start to break down some of these barriers. So, we’re going to give it a try here in Bradford.
We’ve registered a social enterprise: All IN: Community Roller Derby.
All IN takes a whole systems approach to removing the barriers to participation in roller derby at a community level. This includes creating culturally accessible spaces to introduce the sport and providing a place to play and train recreationally and on the terms of the athlete.
In the interests of making space and opening doors, our long-term vision doesn’t end with getting people involved in the sport, but developing coaches and leaders from within the communities.
We’re only at the beginning and we’re a lot of funding applications away from the next step, but we’re uber excited to look at how community roller derby can build our sport.
We’ll let you know how it goes!
(Note: we talked about so much more in that workshop and I can’t get it all into text. Luckily EROC recorded the seminars and will be releasing them soon )