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9 things roller derby has taught me about entrepreneurship

Today is Saturday and tonight is Bout Night!

For those of you that don’t know, I used to skate with the Rage City Rollergirls.

That was two years ago…and despite being semi-permanently benched… I’m still a derby fangirl, a derby sponsor and a lifelong sister to my derby teammates.

Tonight, I get to go cheer them on, which is not unusual.  But this time, for the very first time, I’ll be sans kids!  It’ll be just me and my derby sisters.  And that got me to thinking.

How much has this amazing sport and how much have these amazing women taught me?

1. You’re going to fall down. And its going to hurt.

Falling is just part of the game. It happens all the time for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s totally your fault, sometimes it’s not. It doesn’t matter. The point is, it’s going to happen. Often. So, prepare yourself. Gear up properly. Learn how to fall without getting hurt. Learn how to get up…fast. Don’t be afraid to practice this. Often. Protecting yourself so you can stay in the game…that will prove to be your most important skill.

Also important to remember:

Even when shit gets hard, don’t forget you’re supposed to be having fun.

2. Be proud of your bruises!

Every time you get knocked around, knocked down or slammed into the track, you learn something new. Maybe next time you’ll zig instead of zag. Maybe you’ll realize you need to improve your juke. Or maybe you just need to bend your knees more…get lower and tighter…make yourself less vulnerable. Either way, that bruise has taught you something valuable. Wear it like a badge!

3. Everyone wants you to succeed…even your competitors.

We live in a wonderfully supportive world. The people you’ll be competing against on Saturday, will happily teach you everything they know today. They’ll cheer you on & celebrate your successes…big and small. Authentic, loving support is all around us, so don’t be afraid to speak up when you need help or encouragement or a kick in the pants.

4. On bout day, you’d better bring your “A” game!

If you don’t, you’re seriously going to get the shit knocked out of you. Yes, I know I just said how lovingly supportive everyone is right? And they are. But, they still want to play hard and they still want to win. Your teammates want to kick some ass, your competitors want you to put up a good fight and the fans feel kinda icky when the point spread is too high. No one benefits when you leave your best tricks at home….so bring everything you have to the track…every single time you lace up your skates.

5. Falling forward is still progress.

Sometimes in derby, especially when you’re new to the game, you feel like all you’re doing is falling forward. Everything else becomes a blur. You know you’re not doing everything right. You suspect you’re not doing anything right. But you’re moving forward…somehow. And you can hear your teammates cheering you on.

Ya know what? That’s okay!! Stumbling your way across the finish line is still finishing. The more you play, the better you’ll get. The path through the pack will become more and more clear. Strategy will come into play. All of that will happen…but not if you stop playing at this clumsy, stumbling stage. Falling forward is how you learn!

6. Sometimes you need a whip assist.

As a jammer in derby, your goal is to get through the pack of opposing blockers and score points. But sometimes, you hit a wall. No matter where you turn, you can’t get past it. Your heart is thumping, sweat is dripping off your nose, the muscles in your legs are screaming, that blister on your foot just popped….you’re working as hard as you possibly can. To no avail. You just can’t seem to make any forward progress.

Then, you look up and see a hand. Your teammate reaches through the pack grabs your wrist and….with every ounce of her will she lends you all of her momentum, pulling you through the pack and propelling you to the next level. You’re free from the wall and ready to take on the pack again. Who is waiting to give you a whip assist? Your spouse? A friend? Your business partner? A coach? Know who these people are…before you need them.

7. This game will consume you.

Once it gets in your blood, you will live and breathe this stuff. You’ll wake up thinking about how to improve your stride, how to get more fans at the bout or the best way to teach your newest recruit how to booty block. And you’ll think about it all from the moment you wake up, until the moment you can force your brain to let you sleep.  When you aren’t on the track, you’ll be wishing that you could be.  It will distract you from day-to-day living.  As much as you’re training your body, you also need to train your brain if you plan to maintain some semblance of balance in your life. But then again, you know how I feel about balance.

8. You won’t always be able to play.

Sometimes you’ll get hurt or you won’t have the time to commit to roller derby. Or you’ll have to put your own business on hold to get a job or your family might need you to take some time off.  For any one of a thousand reasons….sometimes you’ll have to sit on the sidelines.  And that sucks. Because you’re, you know, consumed. My best advice is to relish every moment of track time your lucky enough to get. Make the most of it. And if you have to take a step back, then find ways  to stay involved with your league (in derby) or with your industry (in business).

9. You have to sell tickets to survive!

At the end of the day… no matter how much you’re loving this lifestyle…no matter how much you enjoy the game…you can’t sustain it if you don’t sell tickets. Money isn’t the goal…playing the game is the goal.  Living the life is the goal. But without money, you can’t play. Money is the thing that allows you to live this life that you want. So get your ass out there and sell some tickets!

What’s your #10?

I know quite a few of my readers are part of the derby community. If that’s you, tell me what business lessons you’ve learned from the game. Even if you’re not a derby fan yet, what would your #10 be?

Support Local Roller Derby!

There are all-women leagues, men’s leagues, junior leagues and even a few co-ed leagues out there. You can find most of  them here. They all need sponsors and are usually more than happy to take work in kind (meaning you donate your expertise instead of cash).  If you don’t want to be a sponsor, maybe you could sell tickets at your place of business.

At the very least, buy a ticket and go to a bout. You’ll have a blast and you might even learn a thing or two about your business.

Photo Credit: Painmaker Sally gets a whip assist from Spenard Itch.
Greg Morgan
took this photo at Rage City‘s Solstice Bout in Summer 2010.

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