Archive for December, 2012


Skater Retention in small, feeder leauges

   Posted by: Bitches Bruze    in Business, Coaching, Motivation

Recently, on the Yahoo Roller Derby Coaches group, someone asked about how to deal with skater retention. They have a smallish league that just made WFTDA apprentice, but they seem to be losing people to two higher ranked leagues in the region. What really concerned the original poster is that several people who have left, according to this league’s assessment, had no chance of ever making it to the Charter for those WFTDA leagues. Losing any skater has an impact, especially on leagues who aren’t very big to begin with. I was asked by some people to make my response more public. I’d like to work on this a bit more before publishing it off my blog, but, for your reading pleasure – my original response:
This sounds like a business decision. These kinds of questions face business owners every day, regardless of the kind of business they are in. You’ll hear business owners say “I’m losing customers to those who can sell for less than me.” Being the “low price guarantee” is usually a losing proposition unless you can become the biggest and survive slim margins for a long time.It’s my belief one of the biggest challenges facing most leagues who find themselves in constant transition is that they are either always reacting to their perceptions of the business environment or they have made improper business assumptions.

“We’re just a small market league.”
“We can’t play slow derby because we lose ticket sales.”
“We must be WFTDA to succeed.”
“WFTDA would be an obstacle to our success.”

These are all presumptions I’ve heard from league owners and leaders which I have found have challenged the ability of those leagues to succeed to the extent they could succeed. For every assumption in business, it’s possible to find an example that would prove it wrong or right.

Everything in your post is about “the other leagues.” What is it you want YOUR league to be? What is it the majority of your skaters (who really are your primary customers) want out of your league? Have you actually asked that question and found the answer indisputably or are you assuming or working with limited, anecdotal data? Just like every business can’t be the lowest price in a given market, every league can’t be the #1 ranked WFTDA league in a given market and there are plenty of other categories of derby-skating consumers out there.

Once you figure out what you want your league to be, give it a time line and a plan and stick with that plan over your time line. Look at your progress at various check points. If half way through, your plan is clearly not working (“Our plan is to be the #1 WFTDA ranked league in the next 3 months”), then you need to reevaluate. If you’ve made some progress but not enough, it may not be the goal but the timeline that’s wrong. Or it may be the goal. Have some tough-love conversations with your self and your league.

Nearly every skater has “options” within some kind of commutable distance. It may be different coaches. It may be they don’t feel valued at one league. It may be they see time or skills opportunity elsewhere. It may be that they simply aren’t happy where they are for umpteen possible reasons and “something else must be better.”

All this ethereal stuff will drive you crazy until you set down your goals and work at each aspect of your league business to satisfy your goals. Retention is easier and less resource intensive than recruiting. But if you work toward retaining without a purpose for retaining, it won’t happen. Ever. If you’re losing people because they really want the opportunity (without the guarantee) of skating for a WFTDA ranked travel team, then working toward WFTDA membership is the right way to go and you’ll just have to trust that the time and investment it will take to obtain that will be worth it and you’ll be able to retain (or attract return skaters) once that happens. Do you have a plan to accept return skaters once you make WFTDA membership that makes their transition easy?

Skaters are free to choose – always. It’s the one asset we as skaters have to manage our own derby “careers.” If you have a league that best fits my derby needs, I’ll give you my dues, skills, and personal resources. If you don’t, I’ll find another that will.

It’s a beautiful challenge, really.

Do focus. Stop reacting. Do the best with the resources you have and work toward your mutual goals. Don’t worry about the customer you lost so much. Be open to taking that customer back if it will suit your league’s needs.