Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rollin News Cross Post - Founder's Syndrome

Wow, it has been waaay too long since I posted an article!  I wholeheartedly apologize for this and blame fiveonfive and Rollin News for taking up my time writing for them not to mention 2N1 Skate Shoppe becoming more and more popular (not complaining, just explaining).

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to follow the lead of some of my favorite shows and do a crossover post.  I recently wrote a couple somewhat controversial articles for Rollin News in which I discuss Founder's Syndrome (also known as Founderitis) in Roller Derby leagues and have posted both below for your reading pleasure.

Feel free to comment with your own experiences with Founder's Syndrome and come up with a haiku if interested in possibly getting a goodie bag.  Well, without further ado:

Board of Dictators

You are one of the founding members of your league, have served on the Board of Directors (BOD) since the beginning, and any time the league faces tough choices, you never hesitate to make decisions. The league is your baby. You were more than eager to teach how to tie the laces on its first pair of skates, you jumped at the chance to help think up and yell its first jeer, and you lovingly nurtured while it stumbled through the league's first home bout. You honestly feel if you weren't making important league decisions, the league either wouldn't survive, or would end up evolving in detrimental, why in the world would you relinquish your power? Instead, you do whatever it takes to ensure the league continues to head in the direction you know is best. Those who disagree with your decisions either don't understand your vision or don't have the league's best interest at heart. You would rather see the league “split” or dissolve before allowing anything you don't agree with to occur.

Have you met, or heard of, someone who could relate to this scenario? Have you been a member of a league where an entitled member, or members, called the shots while ignoring differing opinions, even when the majority of the league was in favor of those opinions? Did you leave a league to join or start a new league because something like this happened? Or...perhaps you find yourself agreeing with and relating to the person described above, nodding along to each sentence as if I'm describing you.

Whether the opening paragraph describes you or someone you know, I'm sure the league involved has had to deal with internal strife because of it and if it hasn't yet, someday soon it will find itself in crisis. Hopefully this article will give you some insight into this type of issue and a few ideas on how to deal with it, no matter what side of the track you're on.

Founder's Syndrome
Since I started playing Roller Derby almost 6 years ago (wow, where has the time gone?!), I have heard of, and experienced, leagues suffering from “Founder's Syndrome.” Founder's Syndrome (also known as Founderitis) occurs when one or more creators maintain disproportionate power and influence after establishment, leading to organizational and personal issues. I think this quote from the Founder's Syndrome Wikipedia article is an excellent description, “The passion and charisma of the founder or founders, which was such an important reason for the successful establishment of the organization, becomes a limiting and destructive force, rather than the creative and productive one it was in the early stages.”

Founder's Syndrome (FS from now on) isn't unique to Roller Derby leagues and can occur at any non-profit or for profit business; however, many of us never encountered it until we became involved with this sport so dealing with it has been a struggle. Those struggling from FS may not even know of its existence.

FS can be very destructive to an organization. When members feel their opinions are not being considered and their needs not being addressed, league morale plummets. When league members are unhappy, word spreads, which can cause a decline in membership. As the divide between the privileged few and league majority grows, so does bad blood and visceral hatred for those in positions of power. Volatile tension increases until the unhappy masses either implement a hostile takeover or quit to form their own league or join an existing one nearby.

Unfortunately, this isn't just a cautionary tale...and it gets worse. Those suffering from FS not only cause league animosity, some of their attempts to maintain control could be illegal. Each individual state has laws pertaining to businesses formed as corporations (which is the business model most leagues operate under nowadays), whether non-profit or for profit, in regards to items such as voting, meetings, minutes, etc. For example, in Alaska, any corporation's Board of Directors (BOD) has specific notification requirements prior to holding meetings or when proposing to change corporation bylaws. They must also keep adequate minutes of all BOD meetings and have these minutes available when requested by shareholders/members or else they could face at least $5,000 in fines. From what I've gathered, actual jail time is probably not going to occur unless something like embezzlement is going on, but just one fine of $5,000 would seriously impact any Roller Derby league's bottom line.

Now that we have discussed some worst case scenarios, let's talk about how to avoid the pitfalls of FS in the first place...

Preventative Measures
Whether you are the founder of a league or later find yourself in a position of authority, you have the power to keep FS symptoms at bay. First and foremost, have an exit strategy. If you have the mindset that you are going to occupy that position for a specific amount of time and truly want the league to thrive when the next person fills that role, the league has a much better chance of surviving. Instead of keeping information close to the vest, create/update league documents with instructions on how you perform specific tasks pertaining to your position. When it comes time to hand over the reins, don't think of it as letting go of whatever prestige or power that came with that title. Instead, think of it as a graduation. Just like completing high school or college, graduating from a position of authority is an opportunity to transition into a new phase of your life.

For the league, changeover can help keep things fresh when those elected have new ideas and different skill sets than the previous incumbents, which helps to prevent burnout. It can be difficult to hand your baby over to be cared for by a new individual. You need to have faith in your fellow league mates and believe they too are looking out for the league's best interests. Yes, sometimes new ideas end up flopping or the person you thought would do really well ends up not being a good fit, but that's ok. Mistakes happen, that's how you grow as a league and find new ways to tackle issues. Once you overcome an obstacle as a league and put safeguards in place so it doesn't happen again, your league will be stronger for it.

FS For Life
Roller Derby culture is one of acceptance, compromise, and inclusiveness; however, every once in a while you'll find someone so taken over by FS symptoms that they would rather destroy their league, their “baby,” than see anyone else take over. If you know of someone like this, please encourage them to be completely transparent and create a league with a sole-proprietor business structure. This way, there are no pretenses or false promises and those who join are aware of what they are getting into and how the league will be governed.

If you have faced challenges involving those suffering from Founder's Syndrome, please feel free to share your story in the comments section, especially if your league was able to overcome and continue to survive afterward.  I look forward to hearing form you.

Board of Diplomats

My previous article, Board of Dictators, discussed how Founder's Syndrome (FS) has negatively effected Roller Derby leagues, sometimes causing leagues to split or even completely dissolve.  I received some great feedback through emails, personal discussions, and comments to that article and would like to clarify some points.

Leagues are Unique
Some of the discussions I had concerning FS and the previous article made me realize I didn't emphasize this enough: not all league founders will develop FS.  A founder, or anyone for that matter, can be in a leadership role for a lengthy period of time of a thriving league.  When I say thriving, I don't just mean monetarily. 

Thriving leagues have clear policies in place which are followed and understood by the members and also updated as needed to keep up with changes affecting the league.  Thriving leagues address issues head on and work with members to ensure their needs are not being overlooked.  Thriving leagues conduct business openly by properly informing and inviting members to attend important meetings and providing access to league documents (BOD minutes, financial statements, voting records, etc.).

Secrecy leads to distrust, which in turn causes frustration, confusion, and internal strife; however, it doesn't have to be this way.

Delicate Balance
As mentioned in the previous article, leadership turnover has its advantages.  Newly appointed leaders often bring different ideas to the table and may be able to view old issues from a previously overlooked viewpoint.  Fresh blood also helps to prevent burn out, which occurs when someone is in a position so long that they become bored while feeling overworked and uninspired. 

While many of us have felt burned out at some point in our lives, something special happens when we find a job we are good at that challenges and excites us.  If your league has a president who does an excellent job leading your thriving league and they happen to be one of the league founders, it's not necessarily a bad thing for them to continue to serve the league in that position.  The problem occurs when symptoms of FS cause issues to the detriment of the league's ability to thrive.

Big Picture
So, how can you tell if you and your league are suffering from FS or if you have found your place in the system?  Try to take a step back and look at the situation from an outsider's perspective.  Do you feel like you have to hide or make decisions behind the membership's back or are you comfortable bringing possible changes to a vote, ready to proceed no matter the outcome?  Do you conduct business behind closed doors or is information given and made readily available for the members?  Do you feel wiped out and physically/mentally destroyed when having to deal with league issues, or are you invigorated? After honestly answering these questions, you should be able to come to a conclusion as to which side of the fence you stand (or, in our case, skate).

I hope this was able to clarify a few points and show that just because someone is in a position for a lengthy period of time, and happens to be one of the league's founders, they (and the league) aren't necessarily suffering from FS.

Thank you to all of those who contacted me to tell me their stories and experiences with this subject matter.  To show my appreciation, I would like to give away some goodies!  In order to be considered to receive one of these goodie packages, all you have to do is come up with a Roller Derby themed haiku and enter it into the comments of this article.  I'll choose a few winners and announce them with my next Rollin News article.

Until We Skate Again!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quick Tip: How to Remove Sure Grip Avenger Pivot Cups

The Sure Grip DA-45 Pivot Cups are made of Delrin nylon, and are among the longest-lasting pivot cups around, but even they should be replaced periodically. These cups are standard on the Sure Grip Avenger, Invader, and XK-4 plates using the DA-45 trucks.

If you've ever tried to remove the cups, you know how tight of a fit they are, and it is virtually impossible to remove the cup without marring the plate and likely breaking the tips off a few tools in the process!

This little hole is our saving grace!

Some plates have a small hole on the back side of the plate to allow you to push the cup out, but not these - making removing the plate a fruitless effort. So, how to get these cups out without damaging the plate, breaking our tool, and stabbing ourselves in the hand?

Luckily, Sure Grip was nice enough to put a small hole in the bottom of the pivot cup. This hole allows air to escape from between the cup and the plate when installing the pivot cup; but more importantly for us, it gives us a handy way to remove the cup.
Nothing like a good screw.

First, find an appropriately sized screw. I use a standard coarse-thread drywall screw, but pretty much any similar-sized wood or sheet metal screw should work (obviously, you want to make sure it's not a self-drilling drywall screw meant for metal studs, lest you end up with a hole in your plate and sole of your skate!).

Starting to move!

If you want to make the process a little easier, you can put a drop of bearing oil in the bottom of the cup, but it is not necessary. To begin, drive the screw into the hole using a screwdriver. The king pin will be in the way a bit, but it's easy enough to work around. (You can remove the king pin of the Invader or XK-4 if you'd like, but it is not necessary, and the kingpin of the Avenger is not removable in any case.)

Almost there!

Once you drive the screw through the pivot cup and it starts pressing against the metal plate, the pivot cup will start to be forced up and out of the cup. Continue to drive the screw until the pivot cup is pushed up to the point where it starts spinning (usually this happens once it gets about 90% of the way out of the cup). At this point grab onto the cup with some pliers and pull it out the rest of the way. That's all there is to it!


Until we skate again!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Skater, Feel Thy Feet!

Picture it:  You are about to skate for 5 minutes to determine whether you will remain a rookie for another season or skate your way to rollergirl.  You made sure to hydrate, eat well, and have adequate time to warm up, yet after only a few laps, a familiar sensation begins to creep from the tips of your toes through your feet, and soon, it will be making its way up your lower legs.  You know something bad is about to hit you...hard. 

Today we are going to discuss an issue that plagued me, as well as many of my teammates, during the first few years of our Derby careers.  Can you relate to the scenario described above?  Even if you have never actually experienced this exquisite pain, I'm sure you have skated with someone suffering from it.  The unique combination of foot/lower leg pain and numbness is often only relieved after taking your skates off, which means you'll have to spend the rest of practice watching from the sidelines.  If you haven't yet found other ways to prevent/relieve this problem, such as stretching your calves and shins before and after practice and icing inflamed areas, you may only need to make a few simple adjustments to your laces to get the pain to subside. 

But before we get into some preventative measure lacing techniques, let's take care of an administrative issue.  In the previous G Spot post, I announced the 6 lucky "Shocker's Box O' Goodie" winners; however, only 2 of them have e-mailed me their mailing information.  I have yet to hear from:

  • Ashley Dawn
  • Tracy
  • Amanda Brown
  • Amanda Duncil

If you know someone on this list, please shock them with a cattle prod and let them know they need to email me their information.

For June, I'm going to give away one (or a few if I'm feeling generous) of my popular DerbyPunk Wine/Liquor Bottle Stoppers to a follower of my new Etsy store, The ShockerKnot.  When you stop by my store and click on the "Favorite" button, why not check out the Roller Derby inspired items I've created?  You may find the perfect gift for your favorite Rollergirl/guy, or even yourself!  New items are added all the time, so visit often and get the jump on the latest creations.

Now, back to painful problems.

Lace Your Way to Pain Free Practices

In the last G Spot article, "What a Tangled Web We Lace," we discussed various skate lace attributes such as length, material composition, and color availability.  Now let's talk about how you can use different lacing techniques to reduce/relieve discomfort when skating or prevent pain from occurring in the first place.

Double Up
The "Double Up" method is a simple lacing technique involving 2 pairs of shoe laces (not skate laces) each about 45" in length.  As depicted in the following photographs, the bottom half of the boot is laced with one pair of laces while the other pair is used for the top half.  Each lace is tied off with a bow or appropriate knot and is not connected to the boot's other lace.

First one laced and tied off.
Finished Product
Second lace added.

This technique is useful for skaters who need to use different tensions when lacing their boots, such as needing to lace the bottom half as tight as possible while leaving the top half loosey goosey (oh yeah, I went there).  If your boot presses against the nerves in the foot or ankle, it can easily cause serious discomfort; however, if the skater is able to pinpoint the area where the skate irritates her nerves, this technique can help to keep the laces loose in that specific spot while still being able to tighten the boot enough that her skate doesn't fly off the track without her.  This method also allows skaters to show off twice as many crazy/cute laces, such as these ------------->

Uncrossed Laces

If you tried the double lace method and are still having pain when skating, you may need to avoid lacing over certain parts of your feet entirely by using a technique I like to call “Uncrossed Laces.”

To do this, you will end up with your skates laced normally (horizontally) above and below the area causing you discomfort, but will lace vertically in order to avoid putting pressure on the sensitive area.

How to lace boots using the Uncrossed Laces technique:

End Uncrossed Lacing

Suspected Problem Area
Begin Uncrossed Lacing

Return to Normal Lacing
Uncrossed Lacing Completed

Lacing Through Tongue Loop

As you can see, once you reach the sensitive area, instead of crossing the lace to the opposite side, you thread it through the next rivet on the same side. You lace vertically through one or two rivets, but I wouldn't recommend more than two because the tongue could end up popping out or sliding to the side. After you are done lacing vertically, resume normal lacing through the rest of the rivets and the tongue slot.

If the tongue in your boot bunches or slides to one side, make sure you have laced through the slot in the tongue if you have one, not all tongues do (I could make a dirty joke here, but that would be out of character).

Something else that may help is warming up without tightening your laces.  As in, after you put your skates on your feet, you don't touch your laces at all before you start to skate.  You may want to tuck in your laces so you don't end up rolling over them and if you have an ankle strap, it's helpful to velcro it back on itself to get it out of the way.  

I started warming up this way about a year ago and noticed a huge difference in how my feet feel during/after practice. If your skates fit properly, you should be able to skate fairly normally after slipping your feet into your boots. After warming up for 5 to 10 minutes, lace up as usual; not too loose or super tight. You should notice that your skates suddenly feel like extensions of your body, as if long lost orphans have finally returned to their place of birth. It's an awesome feeling which is difficult to describe.  When I lace my boots after warming up, I suddenly feel like I can jump, turn, and juke like Suzie Hotrod.  My feet become more responsive and my shins/calves don't cramp like they used to. 

If you end up trying this out, give yourself time to get used to the feeling and mechanics of skating like this. It may take a few practices, but once you get to the point you feel comfortable skating "unlaced," you'll be able to get the most out of this technique.

If you find that your heels tend to slip out of your skates, even after you tighten your laces, you're in luck!  The next G Spot post will go over some tips for keeping your heels nice and snug in your boots.

Until we skate again!