How to transfer into a new league gracefully

I know a few things about how to transfer into a league …

#slut … also I have to change that number soon …

… yeah. What can I say? I don’t like sitting still for long.

It’s still scary every time.

How you transfer in might differ based on what kind of league you’re moving to, and I’ll get to that after, but here are some tips I’d give anyone:

1. Give plenty of notice and don’t be a pain

Each league has its own transfer policies. A lot of leagues let transfers roll in any time. Others have openings a few times a year, others make you try out with the fresh meat and some leagues have transfer slots only once a year. Once you know you’re going to make a move, contact the new league and ask for their policy and let them know you plan to transfer. Be polite and concise. This isn’t the time for an essay.

Once you’ve made initial contact and know their rules, contact them again either before their designated transfer-in time or about two weeks before the first practice you plan to attend. Be polite. Don’t nag. You know how many emails skater-volunteers can get.

When you get there, be early, be prepared, bring everything you need (extra wheels, water bottle, WFTDA insurance number, etc.) and gear up somewhere near other people … none of that who-is-the-new-girl-in-the-corner stuff. There’s usually a Hermione Granger who will see a newbie, fill her in and be a good drill buddy later.

2. Be quiet

Not forever; just those first few practices. Think of yourself as an anthropologist: observe, learn how they talk to one another, figure out who the leaders are, memorize names, see how the team works together on the track.

It’s nice to lay low at first while you get your bearings (get it?). Not everyone and not everywhere, but sometimes league members can see transfer skaters as a threat. “What is this foreign body in our space? Is it good or evil?” If you show them you respect their space  and style, they’ll know you’re good.

If you think, “I know of a much better/cooler way to do this drill” hold onto that thought for 6 weeks from now when you’ve earned a bit of clout. At least at first people don’t love hearing, “but in my old league we did it this way.” You’re not in your old league and you get to learn to do things a new way — be open-minded, give it a try. Your ideas will be received better after a couple of months, once they know you’re one of them and that they can trust you. (I know, this is some tribal shit, right?)

3. Decide what matters most to you and do that

Your goals will be different depending on what kind of league you’re transferring into. If you’re going to a top-ranked league and your goal is to be placed on their travel team, you might need to show up, skate your ass off, hit people to the ground and show no mercy. That could get you your roster spot.

But let’s say you’re transferring to a new league that’s learning to plow stop and you’re in your 5th year skating … you might want to work on making some great friends and not slam them to the ground with quite as much glee. Maybe just a tap to let them know you know what you’re doing. You’re not fighting for a roster spot in this situation, and helping your team grow into a bunch of strong athletes is going to help you all a lot more in the long-run … and then you can hit them to the ground mercilessly and smile. That’s what friends do.

4. Socialize

Duh. Going to the bar (even for a soda water) after practice is going to give you more time to make friends, meet teammates and get more information about your league and future team(s). Go to the fundraisers, volunteer to NSO if you’re not skating a bout, etc.

Transferring to a big league from a small league

How exciting!

  • Set reasonable expectations of yourself. Their version of endurance or cross training expectations might be more than you’re used to, so try to train up ahead of time.
  • Your derby heroes are about to become your teammates! Be cool about it. Everyone has the same struggles and you’re on a team. Be respectful, grateful and kind, but no need to gush or be weird — k?
  • Know that their season might be different from your old league’s. That might mean that you can’t immediately get on a team. Be prepared to deal with that in your first year.
  • Watch a lot of footage of your new league beforehand. Think about why they do what they do and where their weaknesses are. It will make you a better teammate.
  • You might be perceived as a threat. Their home-raised skaters might be vying for roster spots that you now also are vying for. Fight off any animosity with kindness.
  • Your derby schedule might become a lot more full. You need to think about how much time you’re willing to dedicate to roller derby. 10 hours a week? 15? Is 20 too much? What does your SO have to say about that?
  • Remember to celebrate small successes along the way. Seriously. You might face tougher opponents in practice than you ever have before. Every practice. It might be exhausting and you’ll have to practice good mental game.

Transferring to a small league from a big league

This can require a lot more from you mentally if you’re an experienced skater.

  • Have real talk with yourself ahead of time: Why are you skating for League Underdog? Sure it’s because you moved there, but is it because you love to skate? Do you want to help make League Underdog better? Do you just need to keep your legs in derby shape before your next transfer back to a big league? Your expectations of your league and practices might have to shift dramatically from what you’re used to and it will be difficult. In addition to losing your home, friends and teammates you’re also losing a lot of the challenge you’ve had in derby. So it’s time to set new goals. That might take a while. Maybe a few months of practicing with League Underdog to decide what you want from it and what you can give to it. Helping League Underdog succeed can be extraordinarily gratifying, but you have to put your heart, time and energy into it.
  • Be patient and kind. Remember what it was like to be fresh meat. Drills were often confusing, frustrating and hard. Trust that your teammates are trying their best. If you are a playful skater, find someone of like spirit and try to play with them “but can you do that drill this way? (bust a fancy move).
  • Accept them for who they are [while helping them rise up]. League Underdog may never be a D1 league. The people in League Underdog may all be working moms who just don’t have 15+ hours a week to dedicate to derby, skating and cross-training. That’s OK. Or, it can be OK, if that’s what League Underdog wants/is willing to work for. But knowing League Underdog won’t be at playoffs doesn’t mean you can’t help them (in time) work toward goals: keeping their walls together better, working on jammer skills, beating League Local Rival. Just make sure to help them as they ask for it and are ready for it. You don’t want to bust into their home and tell them how to run it. That’s just rude, you know?

One last thing: Transferring is an emotional process. At least at first. You’ve left what you’ve known and loved and you hope what comes next will be as good. Only you and other former transfers will understand that. Be kind to yourself, be excited for yourself.

Good luck; have fun!

Hey transfer skaters, leave your own tips in the comments, please. And all skaters: If you like this blog, please press the “subscribe” button up top. You’ll get an email every time I post something new. —Dash

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