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.


  1. So much of your story reflects my own experience, though on a different level. Sometimes, you just have to know when to cut the strings that bind you, and make peace with the fact that people can be royal assholes. A great many characters in your story have displayed that. If nothing else, I always have the pride knowing I walked away from a team before it destroyed my love of derby. I wanted a team, not a sorority. I miss your coaching.


  2. As a relatively new skater in this sport, its so sad to see such a well known, highly ranked league having reactions like this. I'm sure they have a different point of view, but I only hope they get their shit together; not only for themselves, but for the sport as a whole. Its hard to always keep 'nice' between large groups of women, but it can happen. Hopefully.