~30 person travel teams are the hot new thing. Every year, more and more leagues are opting to combine their A & B level travel teams into one big team. But why? In the growing and changing world of roller derby, it’s makes sense that more people is better.
Anyone can see from this year’s championships that contact and competition are at an all-time high. Things are more unpredictable and with WFTDA increasing rostered skaters from 14 to 15, having a deeper bench is important.
What Texas Did
For Texas, a lot of people did a lot of work to get us to the place where we could combine our two teams. It took a couple years of talking and planning, deciding if this is what we wanted to do, taking surveys, talking it out, and voting.
This was not an easy task, but was very obviously worth it for us. There were some ups and downs, for sure, but we learned a lot, especially about how important it is to create and work toward the culture you want. Most of the work was done by our captains, Bo Jacks’em, Stone Her, and Me Shove You Long Time, as well as our coaches Cease Ann Desist and Eric King. Before that, captains Jackie Daniels and Aja Gair did a lot of work to prep for the coming merger. And Olivia Shootin’ John did a great job planning our games and tournaments for the year to make sure the teams were together for all of them.
This will be a very basic outline with limited details. This is a very important process and every league should assess how to do it the best for their situation and members.
To combine in 2018, the work for us started in 2017
First, we started by having one practice a week where our A and B teams worked together. For this we usually worked on the same drill on opposite sides of the track, split up by team, or we scrimmaged with or against each other. The goal was to just start working together, even if it was just a little bit, to help build for the next year.
When OJ planned our 2018 games and tournaments, she made sure that there were games for both the A and the B team. Basically, the entire team would travel together to all the tournaments.
In my opinion, traveling everywhere together was the single greatest thing we did to create our new team culture. It allowed us to really get to know each other as a full team instead of as two separate teams. We were able to really support each other like we hadn’t before and it was really beneficial for everyone.
What we did in 2018
Every practice, we practiced together
- In the beginning of the year, all 30 combined and worked on drills together.
- We have one track, so with 30 people this means running at least two drill stations if possible.
- As we got closer to our first tournament, we separated into two teams, with about 5 overlap skaters.
- These teams practiced together more regularly. Instead, when we split into two drill stations, they were based on who would be playing on what team in the tournament.
- If we could only do one drill at a time, we would trade off Texies, Chainsaws, Texies, Chainsaws, etc.
- After a tournament, we would go back to skating all together. Then again, we would separate before another tournament. It was very cyclical until playoffs/champs.
- When the Chainsaws were prepping for champs, the Texies were also preparing for playoffs, so each team had a dedicated practice. Both teams would come to every practice, but the focus would be either on the Chainsaws or Texies.
We picked a Chainsaws captain for the year
- One person was a dedicated Chainsaws captain for the year, voted at the beginning.
- A co-captain was voted on before each tournament. They’d be the Chainsaw co-captain for that tournament.
We had two travel team tryouts
- One at the beginning of the season and one in the middle. Things happen, people leave, but it’s important to make sure there are enough skaters for both teams. Otherwise, a lot of people could get burned out and the entire team would struggle.
That’s the basic outline of how we ran our first year of a combined ~30 person team. It was pretty different logistically and practice-wise, but it was pretty easy to get into the rhythm of the new setup. There was definitely a learning curve for the first couple of tournaments, but we found our rhythm near the end of the year. We all worked hard and together, growing as one unit, to be able to win our playoffs location and go into champs with a strong team mindset.
Benefits for us:
- Instead of crossover players having to learn two different sets of strategy/rules to follow, there’s one cohesive strategy across both teams.
- We lost a lot of people last year and a lot of people had counted us out for champs. We were able to build everyone up to a higher level
- Every person was valuable and we didn’t rely on a core set of skaters, but instead played together as a team.
- We ended the season ranked lower, but have a higher ranking score overall (857 vs. 834).
The one thing that’s super important is making sure there is a culture of positivity and growth. Feedback is important as well as making sure people’s opinions are heard. We’re lucky to have coaches who are ridiculously smart and amazing, who really helped make this process work and helped us be successful, physically and mentally.
The first step for you is to just make sure this is something that the league wants. Even if it takes a couple years to actually get there, it’s important that everyone is on board and understand that positive benefits that combining the A and B teams can have.