Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
John Maddening, Minnesota Rollergirls
Travel. Not only is it helpful to play other teams, it’s necessary to get ranked! And while some leagues are lucky to have plenty of WFTDA leagues within close driving distance, others make trips of hundreds or thousands of miles to get their games in.
As a hosting league, you have two responsibilities – not only do you want this bout to be great, but you want the visiting team to have a good time, no matter what the final outcome on the track ends up being. These are a few helpful hints gleaned from the past eight seasons of Minnesota RollerGirls traveling and hosting.
Both leagues – the host and visiting league – need to have a legally-binding document that spells out the particulars of the event well ahead of time. Each league’s contract is different, but generally cover the following: • The date, time, and location of the bout • Compensation paid by the hosting team • Roster and support staff agreements • Venue access and practice time • Program, media, and promotion information • Insurance, waivers, ruleset
Any WFTDA league (especially the league that sponsored you for membership) should be happy to show you a boilerplate version of the contract they use. You can then work with your league to decide what you want to do.
Before sending the contract to the other league’s Interleague Coordinator, be sure to go over anything that might be different from the norm (no outside beverages, a no-video policy), so they’re not taken aback by special rules.
This league that’s coming to play in your house is spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to get there, and you’re the ones who are making money off the bout. Most host leagues pay between $500 and $2000 to the visiting team to offset the cost of travel, hotel, and food. This is generally paid to the opposing league in the form of a check within a couple weeks after the event. I’ve gotten a check as we’ve walked in the door for warm-ups (thanks, Sioux Falls Roller Dollz!), and we’ve also waited for months to get paid. Listing a payment timeframe in the contract will help.
Most of the people playing your team will have never been to your city before. A list of hotels of varying prices near the venue will be very helpful to your visitors. Make sure these are safe, clean hotels. The last thing you want is a team so angry about their accommodations that they’ll drag your name through the mud, lessening the chance that you can get anyone else to play you in the future!
This is a great place for your league’s Sponsorship Committee to help you out! Hotels are always looking for ways to attract new business, and most will offer reduced rates in exchange for advertising. MNRG actually offers visiting leagues five rooms for two nights in a nice downtown hotel, mere blocks from the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium as part of our sponsorship package. The hotel gets mentions at the bout, and visiting teams get a nice place to stay without the bother of searching for and paying for rooms.
Most contracts provide for the visiting team to bring support staff, such as referees, NSOs, an announcer, photographer/videographer, and sometimes a medic/trainer.
I may be biased on this point, but the other team’s announcer is a great addition to your production. They know their team better than your announcer does, and can add to the general level of announcing by bringing stats, facts, and anecdotes about the opponents that you just can’t get anywhere else. Most serious WFTDA announcers these days are AFTDA certified, meaning they know the rules of the game, as well as best practices in what and what not to say.
Guest photographers and videographers are also great to welcome to your bouts. They’ll add to the amount of media available to be used after the bout (with their permission, of course) to promote your team. Some of the best derby shots are taken by the opposing team’s photographer. They have a different agenda than your own league’s photographer, and often your skaters, while not the intended focus of their photos, become just that.
What fun stuff is there to do in town? While sometimes a visiting team may be on a tight schedule, which does not allow for sightseeing, others have more free time, and would rather not just sit around in a hotel room all day. A list of fun local attractions, such as museums, parks, zoos, and shopping districts, is an easy way to make your opponents more comfortable and happy to play. Brewery tours are quite popular (or so I’m told)!
I provide a link to a Google Map that I customize with locations of the venue, hotel, after party, and anything else that may help visitors navigate your hometown.
welcoming the other team
Do you want to meet the other team before the bout? Some leagues do (Philly puts on an amazing breakfast spread at the home of one of their skaters), while some prefer to... not get too friendly prior to facing each other on the track. You know the psychology of your league better than anyone else, so you’ll have to make that call.
This is another great idea for your friends on Sponsorship – find a brunch place that would like to host a couple teams of hungry rollergirls the morning of or after the bout! In exchange for mentions over the mic or in the program, they can provide you with carb loading before the bout... or a cure for after party hangovers the next morning.
at the venue
Make sure there is someone ready to meet the visiting team at the venue to welcome them, allow them access, and collect any leftover paperwork. The host should give them a tour of the venue, including their locker room, the restrooms, the table where they’ll be selling merch, location of EMTs/medics, and be available to answer questions. After that, leave them alone for their warm-ups. Be available to answer questions and provide assistance, but let them be together as a team.
Providing your opponents the biggest and/or best locker room is just plain good manners. In our otherwise lovely 1923 arena, we give visiting teams the best locker room, or as we call it, “the one with the bathroom”.
This is where your announcers come in. Your opponents may be ranked lower than you, but they’re in town to give your fans a show. Build them up – make their intro as exciting as yours! The Old Capitol City Roller Girls may have only been WFTDA members for three weeks before they filled in for a canceling team, and they may have been beaten by 300 points, but they left as conquering heroes, not just to the 50 or so fans who made the trip, but to the 3,000+ others in the arena that night because of their never say die attitude. Making them feel welcome is the most important thing.
Win or lose, leave it on the track. Everyone is in this crazy sport together, and the girl who knocked you on your ass an hour ago will probably buy you your first drink at the after party.
Make sure your after party is at a location that is welcoming to the opposing team. Walkable would be super awesome, but easily drivable by an out-of-towner is good too. Thank them for coming – they had plenty of choices of places to play, and they chose yours. Make sure they’re okay to get back to the hotel, perhaps appointing a designated driver from your league to ferry any over-served celebrating stragglers.
If you follow these guidelines, you can make sure that when your guests talk to other leagues about you at an upcoming tournament, they’ll be saying they can’t wait to visit you again!