Published on May 20th, 2013 | by Jam Slanders1
Ask Jam Slanders: Derby Dramafest!
The theme this week is Jam’s least favorite: derby drama.
I started derby last year. My league’s founder, also captain, taught me a lot. But as practices went on I noticed that she is a total psycho mean bitch and is always sarcastic. Also we recruited new girls and at first they like her, but when they get to know her they see her the same as me. She won’t admit that she’s wrong ever!! It is so frustrating that it’s exhausting. What should we do?!
Even when you’re in a happy league spot, sometimes you’ve got to deal with difficult people. This is difficult-squared when that person is in power.
You have a couple of approaches. This is one of the reasons why leagues typically have HR departments—so that you can express your concern anonymously and have it passed along to the skater or appropriate body. If you don’t have an HR rep (or if you don’t think the HR rep will treat the matter appropriately), you can consider asking a trusted vet in the league or even contacting the person directly (IF you can keep your shit together and address the matter constructively.) What you should NOT be doing is 1) sighing, eyerolling, or showing other signs of anger/frustration at practice, or 2) going on social media to post passive aggressive complaints that your teammates can see. (Or anyone, really…no one wants to see that shit.)
Instead, use technology to your advantage and take the time to write an email rather than confronting her face-to-face, where you risk losing your temper or saying something rash. Write it, but don’t send it right away; have someone else look over it (preferably a cool-headed teammate or friend) and wait a day or two before you do to make sure you’ve done it in sound mind and with the right approach. Again, if you can send this to an HR representative to be sent anonymously, that’s the best approach.
The most important thing is to frame your concern positively. Accurate or not, calling her a “psycho mean bitch” won’t get you far. You acknowledge that she taught you a lot, so start off by saying all the things you are grateful for (her help, her commitment to helping fresh meat, her knowledge). Then keep your own angry bitch mode under control and mention that you think it would be helpful if she was more constructive and positive in her comments rather than sarcastic. Note that it’s hurting players’ feelings and team morale. (P.S. Your original unedited email was rather difficult to read, so find an eloquent, grammatical friend to help write this or it might backfire.) End the email by again thanking her for all the work she’s done for the league and close with something yay-go-team.
Secondly, you need to reflect and see if there’s anything you can do. Yup, that’s right—even in the case of psycho bitches, responsibility is almost always on both ends in interpersonal conflicts. Just as you’re feeling unable to communicate with her, she may be feeling like she can’t express her frustration with you, so it’s coming across as bitchiness. Why is she snapping? Is she upset because she feels you have a lot of potential as skaters and just aren’t getting there yet? Is she upset because your league isn’t performing well this season? Are you and others getting aggravated with her attitude, so you’re subconsciously not respecting her by not paying attention, talking during drills, being slow to return to the track, or doing drills the way you want to rather than the way she’s asked you to? Point is, your best approach is to stay 100% focused on your skating, following her direction, and pushing yourself harder than ever before to give her nothing to complain about with you.
Despite all this, it isn’t a guaranteed fix. Some bitches just be bitches. It sounds like you’re getting a lot of new people coming into your league though, so be patient—eventually the positive will outweigh the negative, or your skating skills may develop enough that you’re the one helping to run practices instead.
Where I’m from, there are 2 derby teams. One team split off of mine before I even started playing. None of the original skaters are still on my team. For some reason, these girls on the new team are holding something against the team I’m skating with. They are slandering us horribly in the community, telling people we are not even a team, and pulling recruits away from us. They have actually told girls that have left our team to go play for them they are not allowed to talk to us anymore. This past weekend both teams were invited to attend something in town. One of their board members’ husbands started bashing our team on Facebook where girls from their team joined in and it got back to the girls on our team.
My team is not really sure how to handle this. I’m thinking we should approach their board. My girls don’t deserve to be disrespected like this. They work hard—really hard—and I just want to make sure we still look like ladies and make sure we handle this correctly.
Thanks for the help!!
Water Under the Bridge
Groan. Nothing is more annoying than ye olde league drama resurfacing. Jam herself was in a similar situation once upon a time where my league had bad blood from before I ever joined. It took a season or two for the last of the grudgeholders to retire or chill out, but soon enough our leagues were BFFs. The funny thing is that the old rivalry was sustained by their fans and their community, so even as we were friendly on the track there was always that nasty undercurrent around us (not to mention some creatively offensive signmaking). So, you’re right to be concerned with how this not only affects your team, but the community in which your teams are operating.
First, if there are other teams in your area, reach out informally to people who have been around a long time and know both leagues. Ask them what they think the best approach is. They might be willing to serve as an intermediary and talk to the other league about chilling out. Or, they might be able to host an event on neutral ground, like a clinic or a mixed scrimmage, in which both your leagues can participate in and get to know each other.
For another approach, your instincts seem right—although Jam wishes a simple “Grow the fuck up” would work, it seems reaching out to their board with a courteous, respectful, and formal email is a good start. Don’t highlight the petty Facebook remarks or anything that looks like finger pointing—just suggest that your league acknowledges there is a history between the leagues, but in the name of derby and sisterhood you want to know what can be done to make sure you all are both helping to build a healthy derby community going forward. Be proactive with an idea that could get your leagues to bond—for example, you can suggest a fundraiser for a charity both of your leagues want to support (like puppies! Everyone loves puppies!) Make sure there is no competitive element and that you both are getting credit for your contribution (e.g., all promotional materials should have both teams mentioned.) And, even if they don’t hold up their end of the deal (let’s say they promote it without mentioning you), be the bigger people and still share the limelight, work with them at the event, and be friendly and mingle rather than staying in your own corner throwing side-eyes.
It can be a slow battle to kill with kindness, but word will get out both within their league and around town that you all are the nice ones. Even if they try to remain nasty, their numbers will eventually wane because it’s only a rivalry when both parties agree to participate. By ignoring it, you’ll take the wind out of their sails and eventually they will get over it. This might result in the two of your leagues ignoring each other rather than being friends, but that’s better than being a target of their hostility.
Finally, if none of these things work and the hostilities continue, you should seek advice from a regulatory body like WFTDA if this applies. It hurts the sport of derby as a whole when leagues are violating derby rule #1 (Don’t be a douchebag.) Not only does it prevent growth by deterring skaters and fans, but it undermines our credibility as derby players and as women because it looks like some petty, immature cat-fighting kind of shit. This ain’t high school and it ain’t the WWE.
I’m Jam Slanders and I’m here to tell you what to do with your life. I consult with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. I’m here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or we’ll make one for you.
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