Tips for Transfers: Leaving Your Team Behind (Part 1)

Starting over is never easy, no matter what the surrounding circumstances may be.  However roller derby has a tendency to complicate this already stressful situation.  I transferred to the Outfit in 2013 after moving back to Chicago from downstate, and in many ways finding a new derby team was a more daunting task than finding a new place to live. Skaters frequently joke about our “derby families” but make no mistake, there’s a measure of truth to that term.  Given all the time teams spent together, it only makes sense that we start to regard our teammates as a second family, which can make leaving them behind all the more difficult.  While there’s nothing to stop you from missing your derby family when you leave, here are a few ways to help make the transfer process a little bit easier on your old team, your new team, and yourself:  

  • Timing Is Everything

Skaters transfer for a variety of reasons – job changes, life changes, or just looking for a more challenging program – and depending on these reasons, the amount of lead time they have can vary wildly.  For example, someone transferring to a more conveniently located local team might have more flexibility and control over their departure than someone whose job just relocated them to another state.  Regardless of the circumstances, a transferring skater should try and give their team as much notice as possible.  

Why?  Well in many ways derby is like a job - you have responsibilities and obligations to your team, and those responsibilities and obligations will still exist long after you’re gone.  Providing as much notice as you can will better enable your team to fill your place in a roster and delegate your committee duties.  If possible, sit down with your committee head or replacement and talk them through the status of any current projects before your departure.  The fewer dropped balls you leave behind, the more positive the experience will be for everyone involved.

  • Honesty Is the Best Policy.  

Look, derby girls have FEELINGS and those feelings can be as easily bruised as any other part of your body.  Regardless of the circumstances behind your transfer, you owe your team candor and tact regarding your decision.  Inform your board directly about your departure, tender a letter of resignation (if required), and return any team property in your possession.  Settle any outstanding dues payments you might have pending, and turn over control of any team accounts or memberships.  Make every effort not to stir up trouble or start any drama while you’ve got one foot out the door.   

In short: don’t burn bridges.  The derby world may be growing every day but we’re still a fairly niche community, and behavior that is less than classy will almost certainly come back to haunt you.  Since many teams require transfer skaters to present a letter of recommendation from their former league, it behooves you to exit as gracefully as possible (plus it’s just the right thing to do).  

  • Do Your Homework

Once you’ve gone through the steps of leaving your old team, the next issue becomes finding a new one.  It’s just as important that your new team is a good fit for you, as it is that you’re a good fit for them.  If you’re fortunate enough to have several teams to choose from then you really need to start by asking yourself what you want/need from your derby experience. A few examples include:

  • Are you interested in playing for a travel team or for a league with several local home teams?
  • Are you looking for a more challenging level of play or a more relaxed organization?
  • Are you interested in staying within your same rule set or would you be open to playing under WFTDA or USARS?

Answering these questions can help point you in the right direction, but just because a team meets all your baseline requirements doesn’t mean that it’s going to be right for you.  The good news is that most teams will allow transfer skaters to attend a practice or two as a visiting skater (usually provided they have insurance and passed basic skills, but this varies from team to team).  It’s a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity with any teams that you’re considering.  Interacting with the skaters directly will help you get a good understanding of what the league is actually like, and whether it’s the right league for you.

Once you’ve made a decision, contact the skater responsible for new or transferring skaters and see what steps you need to take to become a full team member.  These requirements vary from league to league but can include completing formal applications, repeating basic skills testing, updating or changing insurance coverage, and providing letters of reference or recommendation.  

  • Dive Right In

It’s never easy being the new girl.  But at least when it comes to transferring you can guarantee that you have at least one thing in common with these strangers: derby!  So once you’re cleared for practice, jump right in.  Go to as many on and off-skates workouts as you can.  Partner up with different skaters at different experience levels.  If you’re assigned a mentor, take full advantage of their expertise and ask them questions.  Find out what committees need help, or where your skills can be of the most use, and get to work on a project.  Not only does this go a long way towards showing that you’re a committed team player but it’s also a great way to get to know your teammates socially.  The sooner you get started, the sooner your “new girl” label fades and you become just another member of an amazing team.  


Part 2 Starting Fresh will Continue Friday!