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Published on September 19th, 2011 | by King James

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What I Want You To Read: Sports 101

Roller derby, despite its uniqueness, has a lot in common with other sports. And by that, I mean it has the same problems and hurdles as other sports. Training, strategy, evolving game play, penalties, fans, statistics, rankings: all issues that other sports have dealt with and overcome in one fashion or another. But when it comes to roller derby people seem to treat our issues as unique. I have made a short list of books that should be required reading for anyone wanting to analyze roller derby as a true sport. Not only are they wildly entertaining to read, but they are informative and will change how you think about sports.

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won – If you read just one book, make it this one. This book takes a look at every major assumption in sports, from home team advantage to the value of draft picks, and does actual research into whether it is true or not. Think of this as the “Mythbusters” of sports. Before you know it you will be questioning every assumption you had about roller derby.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything & SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance – Both of these books delve into what makes people do things, also called incentives. Incentives drive everything we do, even in roller derby. Skaters sometimes intentionally draw penalties, so why do they do it and what makes it worth it? Why are teams driven to run up the score vs. being a gracious and fair winner?

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game – The Oakland A’s were one of the most successful teams in baseball in the late 90’s and early 2000’s despite having one of the smallest payrolls and being considered a collection of misfits. How did they do it, and what can we learn from it?

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game – Lawrence Taylor changed football by his very presence. Teams had to adjust just to him, and strategy and positions have never been the same since. Is a player like this lurking somewhere on your roster, being underutilized? Challenge assumptions about what type of skater fits best in a position or play style, and you may be surprised.

King James is a retired coach for the Tallahassee Rollergirls, and runs SouthCentralDerbyNews.com in his spare time.

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