Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Easy Fix for a Huge Derby Problem

Skaters don't want to admit it (half the time all these new skaters don't even know there was another way), but the current style of play sucks to watch.  Fucking sucks.  Deal with it.  Attendance around the country has been reflecting how poorly received this newer style of derby has been received and yet nothing has been done to fix it.  And I don't give a single fuck about what's been "discussed" in committee derby.  Fact is nothing has changed in years and that's a bad thing in this case.  If WFTDA doesn't care about fans, that's fine I suppose, but at some point, one can only fall so far back down the mountain before they are back where they started at ground level.

This type of derby removes  a tremendous amount of skill and excludes smaller, faster players more often than not.  Every year sees more and more of the skill players retiring and moving on to something else rather than play this boring, toilsome style of play.  Now I'll step off that soapbox because I assume you know that I think this style of play can eat a bag of dicks.

Here's the fix.  It's all pre-jam positioning.  90% of skaters can't make even a two-wall off the start unless they get to line-up next to each other.  So change this and the game changes significantly and for the better.  One whistle start has always made sense so that stays.  But assign starting positions to each team as crudely drawn below:

WP is White Pivot, BP is Black Pivot, W1 White Blocker #1, B1 Black Blocker #2, etc.  By forcing packs to line up like this, you will remove all of the stupidity that occurs on the 1st whistle. It's gone guaranteed.  It'll require smart and agile skaters to put together a wall of even two people in this set-up.  This will also reward the average jammer by allowing them to have some speed upon pack entry and that is more likely to bring fans back and for leagues to retain skaters.

Additionally, I think a blocker that starts in the box is considered #3 for positioning purposes.  Two blockers in the box means that team has no one starting in positions #2 or #3.

To summarize, same one-whistle start.  Add set jam start positioning for every blocker.  Pretty much done.  Game will be faster, have a lot more skill, and the strategy will be far more interesting when two relatively equal teams match up with each other.  And it will be more fun again; so, you may even get some casual fans back.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fuckheads on a Pedestal

Which two people am I talking about?  Why the two former captains I spoke so truthfully and lowly about in my "go fuck yourself MHC" story before of course!  haha 

The league that hosted us was so kind as to pay for us to go and give us places to stay.  I believe they did more than I think anyone could reasonably ask of them in terms of accommodating us and making us feel welcome.  This includes a welcoming party as well as being taken around to various places during our stay.

So what did those two former captains (and still DRD skaters) provide to this league?  Two bad attitudes as self-centered as you could ever ask for.  We were there for 8 days and there were 20 hours of practice scheduled for us.  We definitely didn't have a ton of time for sightseeing and the like, but when you're getting paid to be there, that's the gig.

I watched these two stay off skates at practice for almost the entire 20 hours & 8 days of practice we had there.  Excuses like "I think people are trying to hurt me to prove something" or "I'm tired" were what was thrown about.  But really it's because they wanted to feel idolized by someone else.  I watched them just soak up the accolades and give back so very little.  Couldn't even be bothered to participate in the drills with the ladies.  There was also a nice little get together after one of the practices in a pub and this sealed the deal.  It was towards the end of our stay and people that hadn't been able to attend some of the other things came out to this one.  The league skaters were more interested in talking about their derby experiences, which were of course on a different level than mine or the two I went with.  But that's also part of it.  People shouldn't want to hear you talk about how great you are or the like.  You're there to help the sport and the people you're working with improve.  But not these two arrogrant ones I brought with me.  They sat completely disinterested, rolling eyes and the whole nine for pretty much the entire time.  I was taken aback by such behavior and I asked about it afterwards because it came across to me as very disrespectful.  This was another supposedly "tired" time for them.  But upon reflection (then and now), it was because these moments weren't about them.  These moments were about the group and because they had no real interest in supporting them and getting to know them, they couldn't be bothered.

I've been on a lot more such trips without these two since that 2010 one.  And while I think there have been varying degrees of success depending on the league, I've never since had another negative experience like that.  And it's simply because I've either gone alone or taken someone that doesn't have that kind of ego to damage the overall goal. 

Let's extrapolate this little story for a second.  Think about how many different people are brought into help, whether it be individuals, a team, Rollercon, or whatever else.  There are a lot of high level skaters that can't teach what they do.  That's just a fact.  Paying them to come and be the belles of your little ball is unlikely to have much impact on your team.  Bear in mind that one of the little divas I'm talking about above is also on Team USA.  It's a fun cycle of derby the past three years (at least).  Certain individuals benefit by cannibalizing the sport.  Some may actually be of help in some way although your league is unlikely to get much strategy help in terms of cutting edge drills their team uses to be at the top.  (Standing still and watching referee define a pack on power jams doesn't require anyone to teach it either.  haha)  But the majority are just douches overcharging for what they will provide on track.  And that's not even counting the crappy attitudes you'll encounter. 

But this is the most interesting part of the boot camp/guest instructor phenomena.  People tend to equate spending a lot of money with improvement.  If I spent $500 on self-improvement, I believe it's human nature that I want to believe it works great and so I will think that because I want to think that.  Derby is no different.  I bring in star skater X for a couple of days at a substantial cost to my league.  Whatever they do is going to be swallowed in whole by almost everyone on the host league that interacts with that paid skater because you paid a lot of money to have them there and they are a good player with their own team. 

As with most things, buyer beware.  If you're comfortable wasting league or your own money on something that's unlikely to have any real impact on your ability to play the game at a high level, then you're going to do that.  But you should know going in that you're not going to get your money's worth.  You're more than likely providing some douchebag a vacation.  The majority of these people are just popular in the community.  They can't even live up to the realities of their performance in footage.  Hey, I'm confident and am perceived as a douche by a lot of people.  I know that and accept that.  But I would also say that of the many others trying to get a vacation or make a buck at this, a whole lot of them are douchebags too.  And they don't give a single shit about you.  They just want your money and for you to tell them how amazing they are constantly. 

So just say no to putting these undeserving types on a pedestal.  Best thing you can do for your league in my opinion.  Free your mind and your ass will follow.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Idolizing the Undeserving I

Seems like so long ago since I last wrote a story, probably because it was.  I've been very busy since being done dirty by a handful of douchebags on the Denver Roller Dolls' travel team, the Mile High Club in 2010.  Travels to a number of other leagues at all different levels of the sport, taking the occasional character assassination cheap shot from those ignorant of the realities of my story, meeting others still drinking the derby Cool Kids Aid, and a new team, who I've come to appreciate over the past year.

Something I didn't really understand until my wandering nomad year between leagues in 2011 was how glorified certain parts of the derby community are and what those folks do with that small piece of glory or fame or whatever you want to call it.  Being outside of the one league I'd ever known really allowed me to see a whole different side of this game.  And because I'm so popular as it is (hahahaha), why shouldn't I type up my own personal thoughts on this silliness.  And that's all these are, my own personal thoughts based on my six years in the sport and my experiences within it.

I think the best place to begin is with the training camp/boot camp phenomena that's at an all-time high.  I have been a part of a number of these things with varying degrees of success.  I think the concept of such a thing is a solid idea and could help the sport grow a ton.  But I generally don't think these have had enough of positive impact on the sport.  Why do I say that?  When I think of some of the people that have been given this opportunity to influence others, they don't care about the people they work with.  They won't remember your names, they won't listen to your stories, and they generally won't be able to help but a handful of skaters within any large group of skaters.  I watched this happen firsthand when I went overseas to a league in Europe in 2010.

I won't say I'm perfect, but I'm a hell of a lot better than most people that might come into your league.  I say that because I have a work ethic that most don't and I also don't price myself like I'm a shiny gold turd straight out of the ass of Buddha himself.  I do this because I'm not trying to make a living at this.  I don't see many leagues that should be paying others for help at this stage.  Most leagues don't have the money to afford it and the majority of the people out there will just bring you some stale drills, some primadonna attitude, and take advantage as much as they can.  Sucking the derby teat as it were.

And that's what I witnessed in 2010.  We had a league that was so gracious as to host four people from my original league (this douche narrator included).  And before I get going, I should mention that this vacation was a game-changer for me.  The things I saw from the people I traveled with disgusted me to the point that I knew our friendships could never be the same.  To start with, let's talk about the two skaters that went with me.

End of this chunk!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chapter 10: The Aftermath

"Turn from the fear of the storms that might be." ~Kyp Malone

Upon sending my notice in to HR, I contacted a handful of MHC skaters to thank them for the experiences we had shared over the past couple of years or so. Although I wasn't remotely okay with what the team and its leadership, past and present, had done, I was still okay with individuals on the team at this point. I absolutely cut ties with the most obvious offenders here and I don't regret that for a moment. I considered what I had seen to be their true colors; how they would respond if times were difficult for them if they had someone around to blame. But we're talking a small number of folks at that time. But unfortunately, this would change.

Something I had seen over my years in this sport is that when a person leaves a league or the sport entirely, they are generally completely forgotten about. I've often been as guilty of this as anyone else; so, believe me when I say there's no self-righteousness there. Most people you meet are just acquaintances as it is and then there are people that must be tolerated because we're all in the same cult...whoops...I mean league. So when I left, I knew I wasn't going to hear from the majority of people within the Denver Roller Dolls. I was okay with that and wouldn't begrudge most of those skaters for that. It is what it is.

But the following months would see supposed friends flat out avoid having anything to do with me. There's a part of me that can understand that I suppose, even though it's not my way. A good friend of mine referred to my old team as a "cult" and I think that's a pretty relevant turn of phrase in this case. If you have someone like me that just got done dirty and is able to freely express themselves, it's going to be difficult to listen to when you have to be a team player and drink the kool-aid. It's also going to be difficult to claim me as a friend once the witch hunt is done and the persecutors are talking shit about me. And I know they did. ;) It was still difficult to watch people I would've done most anything for turn their backs because I couldn't be okay with what that team and its leadership had done. But, so be it. It's better to know where it's at than not. I'm rarely a victim, but on this occasion I was and it was clearly easier to blame the victim than to deal with the real core problems of that team. If I look back at this past weekend, I have to really hand it to MHC; they absolutely identified their biggest obstacle to further success when they adios-ed me. 2011 ended so much differently than 2010. Yeah...

Truth be told, the bulk of this blog was written months ago and reflects a time when I was trying to resolve those nasty months of my life with MHC. And rather than make it all vanilla and PC (which isn't my style), I thought it better to really let people see what it was like and how hard it was to deal with the shit that happened. So I kept the spirit of those words intact. Contrary to the lone commenter's words, I don't think they all suck nor do I hate them all. That is a gross over-simplification of the past nine chapters. I still have people I consider friends on that team and I thank them for being great friends to me this past year. The easy thing to do was to turn their back on me like most did and swallow the words about me that the true douches wanted them to swallow. But they didn't do that and I have much respect and loyalty to that small few that ignored the brainwash. I also still respect some skaters on that team as talented skaters because I believe they are.

Here are some of my big takeaways from my final days as coach of that team. One, things are never as good as they seem when you're winning and they're never as bad as they seem when they're losing. The losses maybe weren't the direct reason for my persecution, but the losses were absolutely the catalyst for everything that would follow. If we beat BAD, I doubt that any of this would've been done to me. I don't necessarily believe that's what should have happened because winning had buried a lot of things on that team, but that is likely what would've happened regardless. Derby is full of many skaters that have never really played on teams and often, they respond to adversity very poorly and selfishly. This is a hard hard reality of derby and it takes a lot of time and energy to try to help many skaters understand what team sports are all about. How to be a good teammate rarely comes naturally; no, these are things that can be learned if people actually pay attention to things like chemistry and the team dynamic.

Two, empowerment in the context of derby often comes at the expense of someone else. I was told a few weeks after I lost the vote that some skaters on the team didn't vote for me because they didn't like the direction the team was headed in if I was in charge. That's pretty hilarious. When did that team or that league get so open-minded to let a non-skater run things? The answer is easy. It starts with "N" and ends with "ever fucking ever". No, this is a league that will give more rights to a skater that's been with the league two months than a non-skater that's been around for years. No, I never had any real power. All I had was the respect I had earned and a strong will combined with a mouth willing to speak my mind. To suggest that as a reason for not voting for me is just silly. This was more about a new captain making it all about this pseudo-power. She wanted to run things and knew that I wouldn't just step aside for her to be the douche I already knew she was. So she empowered herself by taking away my voice. Just as the former captains had done to skaters on the team and former MHC skaters in the league. The former captains empowered themselves by bullying former boards of directors into being left alone to do whatever they wanted and former treasurers into getting what they wanted for a budget. The 2011 leadership empowered themselves by playing stupid games and making talented skaters feel like shit. This allowed them to play favorites and ignore some really blatant conflicts of interest while the people being screwed over by these practices felt like they couldn't speak up about it. The team empowered themselves by shitting on coaches with that travesty of an SOP they created. There's a long list of this; so, I'll stop here. I don't for a second believe that this is at all exclusive to my former team or my former league either. This is the real ugliness that runs beneath the surface in derby. It's mostly a clique-based machine where those on top empower themselves by shitting on others within their own team or their own league. I'm no expert, but I don't believe that's the real principle behind the concept of empowerment. But that's how derby tends to translate it. It's not a hard rule because I have seen exceptions as well, but I know where my money would go if it was betting time.

Third, for the love of fuck, be up front rather than set up secret meetings that exclude portions of your team. If not for all of these ugly events, there's no way to know how things would've ended up. I may have walked away on my own. I may have happily dedicated myself to working with the league skaters and B team with no hard feelings. I may have been voted out on the up and up. All are reasonable and thoughtful endings to my story. But as soon as a group of people commits to executing such disrespectful actions, there aren't many positive results or interpretations to come from it. People can say I wasn't scapegoated or the fall guy. I would then point out that there was only one single person out of 22 people removed from the team. Guess who that is?

Last is probably the single biggest lesson I can take away from all this. That is that it's not okay to avoid drama or witch hunts. There are going to be situations where people will try to do things against others that will require action and strength of character to ensure that person is treated appropriately. Passivity, apathy, and submissiveness are usually not the right answers to that sort of question. These are all easily manipulated traits. In fact, the people committed to using bully tactics, cowardice, or douchebaggery are counting on others not wanting to get involved or to take a stand for what's ethical and moral. When the majority chooses (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid conflict, then a small few will end up making the decision or affecting the decision to get what they want. And the actions of that small few will then paint everyone with the same brush.

It's also that much harder when the small few are your leaders as well. On a team in a sport like derby, most skaters equate resistance or standing up for themselves or others as reasons you'll get cut from the team. Rock the boat and you'll be drowned. The worst part is that the only thing between that perception and the truth is the trust people have in their leaders. If someone is in an environment with less than ideal leaders, they can be cut or benched for all sorts of made up reasons. "You didn't look good at practice yesterday or in the warm-up or whenever some random skating situation happened." "You don't play well with this person." "You ask for too much help on the track." And whatever else. Even if the reason is actually valid and true, if you don't trust your leadership, you won't accept their reasons as valid and true anyway.

To be perfectly frank (and why wouldn't I be after all this eh?), the majority of leadership in derby lacks vision and insight. I've learned a whole hell of a lot of lessons over my years in this sport and the one I encounter the most is that real lack of understanding of others' strengths and weaknesses on and off the track. That lack of understanding as to how to get a group of people to buy into something, make them great at it, and win with it.

These are just a few of the lessons I've learned from this ugly experience with the Mile High Club as well as from my many experiences with derby overall. I imagine in a year's time that I'll finally be able to look back at MHC in 2009 warmly without having the way it all ended a year later blocking such great memories from my view. At least that is my hope.

Until then, skate slow and go backwards.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chapter 9: Freedom?

"Don't let a win get to your head or a loss to your heart." ~Chuck D.

The final step of the hunt was now at hand. There were three candidates in the running (if you count your prick of a narrator): the assistant coach, the B team coach, and myself. After however long it took for the team to vote, I get a phone call right after B team practice telling me I had lost in the vote. I wasn't surprised obviously, but that doesn't mean hearing that you've been successfully attacked politically in the shadows is any easier to hear either. There had been 19 votes in total for me (8 yes, 10 no, and 1 abstain), but this is where it gets even more interesting.

In the following months, I would find out that at least two of the skaters never even voted at all. So consider this math equation. There are only 20 people eligible to vote (supposedly), I received votes from 19 of those people, and yet 2 people never voted. 20-2=19? And that's just the two I know of; there may have been more than that as a few of those skaters were terrible about doing anything computer related. You're probably thinking how would that even be possible because a Yahoo poll or a forum poll don't even really allow for that to happen. Well, that's why you use Survey Monkey instead. Because you can give that link to someone not on the team to cast a vote or because you can just use a different computer to vote again. Of course something like this was how it all ended too. 8 chapters of a political, cowardly witch hunt and they can't even vote ethically? Yep.

So now you have me bumped out of a team I had a huge hand in building. So now you also have the former assistant coach as the head coach. A person who never contributed a drill to the team. A person that while a likeable guy, was never passionate about derby. A person that avoided conflict consistently and had been constantly in my ear that I should just wait because these last few months (the previous 7 chapters) weren't what I thought they were. I was just making shit up I guess. Truth be told, I brought him into coaching and he had successfully ridden my coat tails. He now was the head coach of a team he hadn't done much to build. I'd say that must be nice, but I personally can't even fathom ever doing that because I'm not wired that way. It is what it is though. The team voted him in and I guess being better liked instead of respected counts for more when a witch hunt is afoot.

And then there's our B team coach, who is the live-in boyfriend of Alexandra (former captain B). It's truly impossible to overlook this conflict of interest considering all that Alexandra had done to spearhead this whole cowardly episode. But what's a little taint afer all the team and its leadership had already done? It's totally cool at that point; why not? Our B team coach was at least passionate about derby and that I can respect. But I never cared for how things happened between MHC, the A travel team, and the B travel team. New MHC drills would show up at B team practices with new names because Alexandra would tell him about them. He didn't ask me or even Sukie (former captain A) what the drills were for or how they applied to our team and everyone knows that Alexandra doesn't know that shit. Then he would just throw them out to his team, making it seem like they were his ideas. He never stuck around after a scrimmage or came to an MHC practice to see new drills. Guess you don't need to when your girlfriend co-captain is just feeding you everything at home. Also never saw what to look for in a drill either; derby always seemed to be more like a fantasy sport for him. Having not played anything competitively on skates, it always seemed like he lacked the insight into what contact was like and what it was like to be in the action.

I do have to say that such intellectual thievery really bothered me and Sukie because it wasn't done ethically; we're all the same league, but at least ask the people who know what they're doing what new drills they have and then have the common courtesy to give credit where it's due. But that was never my experience in 4 years with the league when it came to anything under the DRD umbrella whether it be drills, committee work, or whatever else.

I realize that folks outside of that team probably think I'm just jealous or that I'm bitter about losing the vote in speaking about the two current coaches. That is not the case. It's a case of watching something you sweated blood to build, on and off the track, being given to people who did nothing to build it. It's a case of watching that same something play the exact same way all season in 2011 because they lacked insight and vision.

So you can say I'm jealous or whatever else; that's your personal right to have an uneducated opinion if you like. But anyone that thinks that should try putting in hours of your time earning respect and building a team on and off the track. A team that went winless in the first 6 months of 2008 to a third place medal at nationals in 2009. And then watch as that same team backdoors you and hands all of your work to others. If you can go through all of that (plus a team-initiated witch hunt )and then be warm and friendly to the people that did that to you, you can say whatever you want about me. Of course, if you go through all of that and respond like that, you probably are a living miracle because I would think having absolutely no spine would lead to death.

Just to wrap up the rest of this story (I'll post some final thoughts on this whole episode in another day or two), I submitted my two weeks notice to the league the same day as being told I had been voted out. I couldn't accept a lesser coaching role in a league where this type of thing could happen nor could I expect to peacefully co-exist with some of these cowards either. I didn't go out in a big ball of flames by telling this story to my league or filing some grievance against these people. Not because I'm that kind of awesome, but because I didn't want to put some of the skaters I cared about and respected through all of that.

And just to be crystal clear, I personally do not claim to be perfect. I make mistakes in judgment and in actions like everyone else. I also don't believe I should've been automatically voted back in as a head coach because I had always been the head coach or because of our past success. This story is also not the crucifixion of St. Angus. Even though I'm not perfect or worthy of being called a saint, I don't in any way believe that makes what these people did okay either. Anyway, this is the bulk of the story. Chapter 10 will follow with other thoughts and experiences since all this happened.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chapter 8: The Dark at the End of Tunnel

"Punish me. I do not deserve it. But because I do not deserve it, I will accept it so that the world will know that I am right and that you are wrong." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Before I get to this conversation between myself and the current captains, there are a few things that need to be added so that some might understand what I had heard and what I knew going into that conversation. I had been told that Jane (current captain B going forward because someone was getting confused) had been campaigning for awhile for my assistant coach to be the head coach. This was not surprising because Jane had full control of the assistant coach and could have him do whatever she wanted. I watched this happen for the full 2010 season on their home team where he was coach and she was the captain. The puppet strings had been attached for a full year and Jane is all about getting her way without a fight. I also heard about Jane telling MHC skaters that they just needed to hang in there because the job was almost complete. Whatever job might that be I wonder?

Of course, where I get lectured for supposedly "rallying" the troops, here you have your current captain doing the same shit, thinking nobody knows about it. I wonder if she was told that was inappropriate. Nah, that doesn't fit in with the pattern of this tale. Jane had also asked Sukie (or former captain A) for all of our team's drills from the past seasons and had also asked the former captains for their thoughts and opinions on running the team. But I was left out of those discussions for some reason. Sorry, I forgot that you don't ask scapegoats for those things because we didn't even let the scapegoat tell his side of the story in the first place. So why on earth would we want to know what it was like running the team? Funny thing about Jane asking the former captains for advice on running the team was that the former captains still thought they were running the team through her because they were doing all the work for her. That's what happens when you work with some types of people.

And if we want to talk about drills, the bulk of those weren't really the former captains to give to be honest; that's especially the case for the things we did in 2010 as neither former captain showed much interest in contributing drills to the team. If it was something to do with glitter or dancing, then they had full rights to that because those were the main things they contributed in 2010.

The former captains had let their team and their teammates down with their attitudes, their "leadership", and their work ethic (or lack there of), but they were clearly not identified as a reason for this team's problems. I mean sure, they were told by the team what their shortcomings were and how they had affected the team. But upon hearing what the team's problems with them were, they chose to blame me. And upon blaming me, it was like they instantly absolved of those faults and the damage they had done to their team. It's almost like, gasp, the team heard what it wanted to hear about everything being my fault. And from there, the team and its new captains had just ran with it. Didn't matter that I often stepped up to make sure things got done, with the captains' approval, because when you lose, you weren't doing the right thing for the team. No no, it's a negative then because it's me or I'm a strong-willed man or whatever other bullshit people want to float. This is the culture of negativity that we had and though I never intended things to be like that, I get to own my piece of that culture being there too.

This is what I knew and how I felt going into this discussion with the current captains. We had a conference call to discuss things. I felt that Zorro (current captain A) made an honest effort to understand where I was coming from and why I was upset. I still believe that and she was trying to keep me from walking away before a vote had even taken place. Unfortunately, her words were consistently undermined by the words of Jane. I hear things like "I don't know how I could work with you." Or better yet, she goes out of her way to tell me that the team voted for the captains to have full control over things and for the coaches to have no say. This is what she tells me, essentially trying to throw things in my face for some unknown reason. Oh wait, she was upset by a couple of raw emails I had sent to the current captains where I talked about how shitty things were, how I felt like the team had stabbed me in the back, and how I felt about the captains enabling all of it by doing sitting back and leaving me with no voice. Hard to understand why I'd be upset I guess. So, let's get me on the phone so that you can grossly exaggerate the feelings of the team by manipulating a single vanilla voting option on a poll. Frankly, I don't even understand why she participated in the conference call because she had a clear agenda and it wasn't to bring me back.

Although, that's not really true. I would guess that her participation was solely so that she could later say that she was on the call and that she had tried to talk to me. That's her two-faced way of doing things and I had seen it for awhile as it is. I knew of her transgressions and bad feelings for others; things that were usually directed at her teammates in one way or another. I had seen the other side of this person. Zorro was the complete opposite of this though. I sort of wish that she wasn't a captain so that she never got thrown into the mud with the former captains or Jane. Although she was part of the problem to a degree with how the current captains had been treating coaches (guilt by association), I never felt like she was trying to drive me crazy or drive me out. I respected her for what she tried to accomplish and that respect still remains.

The rest of the conference call went like this. Me: I don't like this for this reason. Zorro: I can see that, but this is what I think the team is trying to say. Jane: Snide comment that undermines everything Zorro had just said to me. They tell me I have a day and a half to decide if I want to submit my name and that's the conversation. I thought about what Zorro had said because Jane's words would've only convinced me to burn a bunch of bridges while telling the league there's no fucking way I'm going to consider working with this group of people again.

In the day I took to decide, Alexandra (former captain B) was complaining about it being unfair that I missed the deadline. Why would she complain? Besides the obvious douchebaggery she had led against me, her live-in boyfriend, our B travel team coach, had also conveniently entered his name for consideration as an MHC coach too. But I'll follow up on this in the next chapter.

My decision was to submit my name. I didn't believe for a second that I would be voted in; why would anyone think they would after weeks of this sort of treatment? No, I submitted for personal closure regarding what had happened. I submitted to have that personal validation that the months of secret politicking and shady tactics would influence the voting the way I expected it would. I submitted also to give a few skaters an option other than just being stuck with the other two candidates. But I didn't expect to win. I even texted an MHC skater as much the day before I submitted my letter of intent. I had chosen to believe bullshit from some for weeks, but at this stage, I knew what was up.

Chapter 7: SOP Shenanigans

"Patience is a virtue until its silence burns you." ~Tunde Adebimpe

At this point, everything was left waiting on this coach SOP. The coach vote wasn't going to happen until the SOP was finalized and I wasn't really all that gung ho about returning given all that had happened and where things were clearly being steered. But I had confidants telling me to wait before making a "rash" decision. How being continuously disrespected by that team and treated like shit by friends could lead to a "rash" decision is not something I can logically understand. At the end of the day though, I am a fool for the concept of team and always have been. I relented from walking away and did wait for this SOP to be created and sent to myself and the assistant to review and give feedback upon.

Though I made a decision to wait, I felt completely betrayed by this team in my heart of hearts. Depending on the skater, I had worked with most of that team for 2 to 3 seasons and didn't really understand why things were being done this way. We were a top 5 league in the sport, had taken home 3rd place nationally in 2009, and were true innovators of a style of play that would completely change flat track derby going forward. Though we should have done a lot better at 2010 regionals, a couple of narrow, last jam losses versus all that had been accomplished prior lent no logic to this course of events. But I often deal in cold, hard logic (though not exclusively haha) and that left me blind to what this group of people had become. It made it easier to be blind because the few people close to me were telling me the piss coming down was just rain. That made it seem possible that my instincts, screaming betrayal at the top of their lungs, were inaccurate this time around. I wanted to give these people the benefit of the doubt because of the ties we had built in the past years. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is also a massive change in my personal philosophy on life and people because my life experiences have shown that benefit of the doubt just bites you in the ass later. I wanted to believe that the bulk of the team could see through the slimy tactics being used against me. I wanted to believe that the bulk of the team could see and at least quietly appreciate the things I had done for them.

Just so it's said once aloud, 2010 was far and away my best personal year as a coach. I had greater self-control, a better understanding of how to help jammers, and a greater sense of purpose to the whole league instead of just the travel team (though no one could say I neglected MHC at all). Of course, the access I received to help the rest of the league was only because of our success nationally in 2009. Before having success, I wasn't really allowed any sort of access to newer skaters or home team skaters. But knowing that the perception of the travel team within the league was that we were mean and clique-ish made me push to have a chance to work with skaters not on my team. Of course, I was never smart enough to run a regular league practice (haha); so, I had to do different things to help the newer skaters and the lesser trained of our league. Like an individual hitting practice where I would just take hits from skaters and try to help them with technique and such because one of our most arrogant MHC skaters had been consistently teaching our brand new skaters the wrong way to hit. And while all this bullshit was going down with my team, I was running some offseason practices where I would only work with non-travel team skaters (no A or B team allowed). While there was a big witch hunt directed my way first thing in 2010, that was also only related to things that I had done in 2009. I had also chosen to distance myself from the former captains intentionally because I didn't think it was right that the highest group of leadership in the league was perceived to be unapproachable and a clique on its own. That is not a reputation I wanted; so, I set about changing that reputation rather than taking the route of the former captains, which was the route of bitching about it but still doing the same things that lent credibility to the claims in the first place. So, I find it sickly ironic that the year I was on my best behavior and was across the board more approachable and helpful than any year prior was also the year where I would be under constant attack.

Back to the story at hand. The SOP took for-fucking-ever to even get the first draft done. The longer I was blown off regarding this SOP, the more agitated I was becoming. I still was receiving very little communication from the current captains, which only served to agitate me more. Then finally the SOP comes our way to look at. I found it hard to believe it would take so long to compile such a vindictive document. This document was a symbol of coaching castration. There were a couple of areas that were just thinly veiled personal attacks on me. In my mind, it said that captains ran everything and they chose what a coach was allowed to do. It set up a witch hunt mechanism where any skater could complain about the coach (didn't have to be all that legit a complaint either) and get the coach ran out the door if that's what they wanted to do. And yet, there was nothing added for dealing with captains who aren't doing their job, which is funny considering that I've dealt with that sort of captain in two of my three seasons. I wasn't surprised to see the SOP read as it did because all signs pointed to coaches being blamed for the team's shortcomings in 2010. Having said that, this SOP was still deeply offensive to myself and some of the language in this SOP had no business being in an SOP. I had consistently had to fight, and hard, to try to gain respect for the coaches in my time with the Denver Roller Dolls. I would be misleading people if I said this was a problem caused by the whole league. No, this was often a problem created by a few of the "privileged" ones. This document basically undid all of my struggle to gain respect for coaches as it removed any sense of worth or contribution a coach may have had and made them a puppet to the captains, which is what the team must've wanted. I had long felt like my league and the sport treats its coaches like second-class citizens and this document only served to put that in writing. Walk around on eggshells and hope you don't offend anyone, coaches, because the ruling class of DRD will witch hunt you right out the door if you even come close.

The league wasn't going to say anything about this piece-of-shit document either. Ever. Through brutal politics and nasty defensiveness, MHC captains had made themselves the privileged group within the Denver Roller Dolls and there was no one that would stand up and fight that kind of fight against them. Especially when they had chosen the controversial one, myself, to systematically execute shady politics against, there was no way they would be held accountable for it. It was always much easier for the non-MHC skaters to just go with the MHC flow and bitch about things behind the scenes than to stand up and be accounted for.

I'm again told not to make a "rash" decision because we can provide feedback on this SOP. Fool that I am, I did wait and provided feedback to the SOP. After again waiting forever for the team to vote on the proposed changes, they return the same basic document. The changes were minor and the message was still clear to me what they were trying to say without having the stones to actually come out and say it.

After thinking about this finalized document, I decided that I wasn't going to submit my name to be coach again. It was just too douche-y to be a part of and it was clearly being advertised that the team blamed me for our choke against BAD as it was. I texted the current captains about my decision first thing and then let a handful of other skaters know that I wasn't going to submit my name either. Somehow, no one understood why I was so outraged at this document. Somehow, no one else saw this document to be what it was. The current captains wanted to talk to me about my decision, but because they took so long getting things done, it was already Christmas weekend and the name submission deadline was coming up. I wish I could give them more credit for their effort to discuss things with me at this point, but the sad fact is that their way of doing things and the disrespectful way I had been treated the past couple of months had helped get me to this breaking point. They didn't have anything to do with the secret meetings; that much is true. But they were also the ones unwilling to use their leadership to do what was morally right. It's always a sad story if I am the one that can see the morally right decision and others can't.