How to start your own league...
What you'll need to consider...
Maybe you want to give roller derby a go, but there's no league in your area, or you've skated with a team before but moved somewhere without an already established team.

In this section you'll find a list of what you need to consider when starting a league from scratch, written by Coach Phat from Border City Roller Derby, Carlisle. You might want to check and see if there's a league in your area first, though. Try this awesome map, put together by rollerderbyleagues.com:

https://rollerderbyleagues.co.uk/

Also try Derby Listing, for a list of leagues worldwide! It's good to make sure another league doesn't have the same name as yours...

http://derbylisting.com/dl/grid/
Contents on this page...
1. Skate as much as you can!
2. Finding a training venue
3. Writing a constitution
4. Forming a committee
5. Opening a bank account
6. Writing a code of conduct
7. Publicity / social media / website

8. Fundraising
9. Insurance
10. Kit (for the club)
11. Coaching
12. Bootcamps & guest coaches
13. Joining UKRDA

1 - Skate, skate, skate!
It goes without saying that if you want to start your roller derby journey, it would be quite helpful if you knew whether or not you actually enjoy skating! Most leagues start out as either someone who has already been part of a league and they have moved to somewhere without a team, or as a group of friends who just like to skate outdoors and fancy giving something new a try.

Phat says - "Border City Roller Derby started out as 6 friends who had never skated before, but knew what roller derby was and wanted to give it a try. It's hard in those early days but we bought cheap stuff from ebay to get us going, and slowly upgraded our kit, skating as often as we could indoors and outside."
Do...
Don't...
- Keep skating, as often as possible

- Encourage your friends to skate with you

- Look for local skating groups
- Get disheartened if you're not as good as you thought you were going to be... it takes time!

- Spend too much money on rubbish gear if you can help it. The general rule of thumb is, the more you spend, the better quality the skates!
2 - Finding a venue
Finding a venue can be one of the hardest things to do when starting a league. Search as far and as wide as you are willing to travel, and don't shrug something off without going to view it first. If you need to start in a hall that's not quite big enough for a full track, that's fine. Get used to skating first, there's so much you can learn before throwing yourself into gameplay.

If you can't find a venue straight away, skate outside as much as you can, while actively contacting venues. Some might not have any time free, but you never know what's going to happen, some other club might not need their slot anymore. At which point, you pounce!
Do...
Don't...
- Consider everything. Warehouses, sports halls, community centres, you name it!

 - Test the floor before you book a slot. It might look fine but skating on it might be awful.

 - Provide references to venues if you can. The UKRDA provide references to help leagues who struggle with venues that are worried about damage to the floors on their premesis.
- Spend too much before you have any income. Training venues are without a doubt the biggest cost when starting out, so don't book 4 training nights if you can only afford one a week.
3 - Constitution
Writing a constitution for your club is important because most banks in the UK require that you have one in order to open an account, so make sure you put some time into this.

I'll be honest, when I started our league, I had no idea what a constitution even was. I'd never had the need to know! I googled about it first, and ended up borrowing a template constitution that I had found from a Geography club online. I read through it to make sure it was similar to what I needed, and I changed any bits that needed it to make sure it made sense as a sports team rather than a geography club.

Don't stress too much about your constitution at first. Chances are you will edit it multiple times within the first year, and then on a quarterly or yearly basis after that depending on what you agree with your committee.

A link to an example constitution template is to the right (or below if you're visiting on mobile!), taken from the Sports England website.
Do...
Don't...
- Look through as many constitutions online as you have time to do. They are the same but different, and some might have more useful things in than others.
- Don't worry too much about getting it right first time, you will change it a lot, especially in the first year!
Constitution template...
4 - Committee, assemble!
Another thing your bank may require is that you have a basic committee to open the account. This usually consists of a Chair, Treasurer and Secretary.

This basic "board of directors" is quite common in any group, society, team or business, but don't let the formality put you off. This is another thing that you will perfect with time. In the early stages it's important (for the bank, at least) for you to have someone in each of these roles, just to set your account up.

To the right is a little bit about what each role traditionally does, but really, these titles are just a formality until you get a feel for what you actually want to do for your team.

Of course, there are many more roles in groups that you can sink your teeth into, but those three are the roles the bank cares about when you're first setting up your league.


Do...
Don't...
- Make sure you write out some key responsibilities in those early stages, so you share the workload with your friends. One person doing all the hard work makes it hard to deal with and can lead to bad joo joo.
- Don't panic too much about the various roles for now, just get the basics to get you set up.
A brief introduction to the roles...
Chair: This person is usually responsible for chairing the meetings, keeping the rest of the committee organised and steering the team in a direction in a general way.

Secretary: Writes up a meeting agenda and meeting minutes for the committee meetings (which are quite fun when you start a league!). Usually contacts anyone in a formal way, such as emailing a venue to request a booking form, etc.

Treasurer: Looks after all the finances for the team. Makes spreadsheets or some kind of system to track the income and any outgoings of the team.

Do...
Don't...
- Speak to different banks before you settle on an account.

- Check to see what features each bank account offers.

- Consider opening an e-saver account if your bank offers it. Our league find it useful when saving for things like bootcamps, uniforms or other large expenses.



- Don't panic! It might feel a bit scary, but it's totally fine. 
5 - Bank Account
Opening a bank account was one of the scariest parts of starting a league for me, because that's what made it feel real. I'd spoken to the big, scary bank, and they'd actually let me open an account and be responsible for something that had the potential to grow into something bigger. It doesn't have to be that scary, though. I'm just a bit of a wuss.

I automatically went with Natwest because I already banked with them, and my friends and I agreed that we'd never had a bad experience with them before. Our league is 3 years old now and we are still Natwest customers. We haven't had any issues so far. I've heard a lot of good comments about Barclays too, though, and I'm sure all the other banks have their benefits. If you are happy with a particular bank then stick with them, but there's no harm in looking around to see if anyone has any good deals on at the minute. Some banks don't offer easy to access online banking, which might be a must for you.
6 - Code of Conduct
The code of conduct is a very important document because it outlines the way your league members are expected to act. A lot of leagues write their own in the early days, and this is absolutely fine. If you decide to join the UKRDA (more at the bottom of this page) you will be expected to adopt their code of conduct, which is great.

I had a look at different codes of conduct before writing one for my league, and really, the bottom line of it is "don't be an a##hole to your fellow league mates, committee, or spectators, inside or outside of club time". It's that simple. Roller derby is renowned for it's accepting nature no matter who you are, and your code of conduct should reflect this.

Our code of conduct covers things like: bullying, harrassment, alcohol and drug abuse during club time, swearing, respect, encouragement, friendship and all kinds of things. We expect our members to follow it and if they don't, we have a set of disiplinary procedures outlined in our constitution. Most of the time you won't have to worry because of course, the world of roller derby is mostly lovely, but it's good to have this in place to make sure you are covered. Attitude does happen and you'll need something to fall back on when it does.
Do...
Don't...
- Have a look online to see what other clubs have written

- Make sure you cover important things, particularly surrounding equality
- Don't just pick one online without reading it. You need to make sure your code of conduct falls in line with your constitution.
7. Publicity / social media / website
This is a big one. Once you've started all this up, you're going to want to show it off to the world and try to generate some interest. This is a very brief overview of what you should consider!

- Set up a Facebook page. Most of your traffic will come through Facebook, and it's a great way to communicate with other leagues and potential new members.
- Also set up a Facebook group. It's a good way to keep your members up to date with what's happening.
- Set up an Instagram and Twitter account, keep them active
- Set up a website. If you don't have good web design skills, you can use sites with "drag and drop" capability. This gives you a bit of help and makes it easier in the long run.

Other ways to get your name out there:
- Print posters and ask to hang them up in local shops, take aways, the library, colleges etc
- Contact your local paper or radio station and let them know!
- Go to local events and set up a stall. There are lots of FREE events that you can get involved in.

Do...
Don't...
- Think outside the box! What haven't you tried?

- Get the whole team involved. Go poster up the town!
- Don't spend too much on advertising. There are loads of free / cheap ways to advertise your league.
8. Fundraising
For BCRD, our first fundraiser was a car boot sale. Three of us got up at 5am, drove for an hour to get there, set up on a kitchen table we hauled there because we didn't have a lightweight folding table, and we spent hours there trying to sell whatever we could. It was hard work, it was cold and wet, and there weren't many people. We still managed to make £91, and that went towards paying for some essentials, like our first month of insurance or something (I can't even remember). We haven't done a car boot sale since as we've found other ways to raise funds, but it was a good way to start out and gave us an idea of how much committment starting a league would actually need!

These days, unless you're prepared to put time and effort in applying for grants from your local council or the national lottery, you've got to find ways of making some money yourself. Most of your money will come from a membership fee for your members. Make sure this reflects your outgoing and isn't too expensive for members or too cheap for you to run the club. We charge £35 a month, which gets our members 3 training sessions a week. Be reasonable but also make sure you have enough money coming in to keep the club going. Your member fees may well cover your costs, but at some point you're going to need more money (for various reasons!).
Do...
Don't...
- Think outside the box. What haven't you tried yet?

- Ask on the facebook groups about events that other leagues have held to raise funds

- Be prepared to do almost anything!
- Don't worry if you don't bring in a lot at your first fundraising event. It is an art and can take a few falls before you get enough for what you need.
Fundraising ideas...
- Bake sales. Everyone loves cake!
- Pub quiz. In my league we have them 4 times a year and make about £250 a time
- Sponsored skates. In 2016 we skated a marathon!
- Raffles
- Promise auction (we did this one year, and auctioned off skills that we could do. E.g. I work with computers, so I offered a free PC repair. Other members offered a weekend's worth of gardening or a free graphic design package.
9. Insurance
We learnt the hard way that insurance can be a pain in the butt. Well, trying to find the right insurance, anyway! Our first insurance company was extortionate, overpriced, and not what we really needed. We ended up spending over £1500 a year on it, which is vauable money that could go somewhere else.

Our current insurers is only £250 a year, a fraction of the cost, and covers everything we need. The lesson from this? Do your research and don't just go with whoever sounds good!

Insurance is important because it covers things like safety, coaches, and any events you do in public. For example, we have a stall at a festival in the city centre once a year. We must have public liability insurance up to the value of £5 million to be able to do this. Make sure you also look at professional indemnity and employer liability insurance too. Even though most clubs don't pay their coaches or committee members, you still need these as you are volunteers. Do your research!
Do...
Don't...
- Shop around! Find a good deal to suit your league.

- Make sure you have all the insurance you need, e.g. public liability, professional indemnity, etc.

- Ask the UKRDA for help with this if you need to.
​If you join the UKRDA you can be covered by their insurance anyway, but remember you must have been set up for at least 6 months before you can join them.

- Don't settle for the first company you find. Insurance can all seem big and scary if it's not something you've dealt with before, but if you need to ask the company any questions you absolutely should.

- Try to avoid insurance brokers. That's how we got stung with such a high cost in the first 2 years. Deal direct with the company.
10. Kit (for the club)
Skates and protective kit aside, there will be other things you need. Cones, whistles, a track! When we started out, we hit up good old eBay. You can get some cheap cones just to see you through the early days. Whistles, too.

Finding something to put a track down can be a bit harder, though. At the moment, none of the halls we train in are happy with us taping a track down as it will mess with the floor. As a result, we use cut up beer mats (classy!). They aren't that bad really, they have a grippy side to stick to the floor and they are extremely flat, so fine to skate over.

If you can't put a track down in your venue either, think outside the box. What else can you use? Don't be afraid to have a chat with the venue to see if they have any suggestions too.

Other things you might want to consider are stopwatches, whiteboards, sharpies, clipboards etc. Go and watch a game, you'll see just how much kit is used. But don't worry if you can't afford it all at once, that's what fundraising is for!
Do...
Don't...
- Shop around, and contact sellers to see who can give you the best deal!

- Or better yet, if you're not desperate, go onto the "Roller derby recycleables" group to get second hand kit. It's usually well looked after and cheaper.

- If you need to borrow stuff from your nearest league, just ask! Most leagues are happy to lend the odd pair of skates for a night if you need them.
​Do ask politely, mind.

- Don't be too splashy with your cashy. Only get what you absolutely need, especially early on. More kit will come later.
11. Coaching
When BCRD started, none of us had every skated before. Our knowledge of roller derby was somewhat limited, but we knew we loved it and we wanted to give it a damn good try. A few of the braver ones had a go at coaching, and we managed to work something out. We didn't really know what we were doing though.

If you're in a similar boat, don't panic! There are things you can do. A good coach will be someone who is patient, willing to learn a bit and work hard. Before roller derby, I was very shy and didn't feel comfortable talking to groups of people at all. Now my favourite thing to do is coach fresh meat, I love meeting all the new faces. It took me a while to fall into that though, so don't panic if no one wants to volunteer at first, it will all fall into place.

Try to watch as many youtube videos as you can, ask other leagues for ideas of training plans, write out some training plans of your own, and go to some bootcamps! Which brings us onto the next section...
Do...
Don't...
- Ask everyone if they fancy giving it a go. You never know, you might surprise yourself!

- Watch as many Youtube tutorials as possible. The most ways you know to explain a skill, the better chance someone will understand it. Sometimes it takes a while for things to click.
- Don't worry if no one wants to be a "coach" figure in the beginning. Someone will fall into it naturally sooner or later.
12. Bootcamps & guest coaches
In the early days, especially if you don't really have anyone who is happy to stand at the front and coach the team, it's a good idea to invite a coach from another league to do some sessions with you. Some may charge, others might not if they are only a few towns away. Invite them over, tell them a bit about your skill levels, think of things that you think would be most beneficial to you to learn. Pick up some coaching tips from them and also make notes if you can. All experience is good experience!

Bootcamps are a great way to learn too. We went to a few pre-mins bootcamps with Rainy City and they are fantastic. The coaches are really helpful and patient, and will give you some useful tips to keep you right. Go to bootcamps, absord the knowledge, and then take it back to your league. Even better, if you can make it, take your whole league! You will learn a lot and your confidence will grow.

On this site there is a growing directory of regular bootcamps and guest coaches, keep checking it for more information. Don't forget to ask coaches if they are happy to travel to your town, most of them are and love meeting new leagues!
Do...
Don't...
- Get to know any coaches you've invited. Tell them about your members and their skill levels, make sure you get a session that's going to benefit you and not just make you all feel sad. A good guest coach won't do that anyway!
- Don't freak out if you think your guest coach is doing stuff that's way too advanced for you. Remember "training is a journey, not a race".
13. Joining UKRDA
Once you've set everything up and you've been going for a few months, you might want to consider joining the UK Roller Derby Association. I won't go into too much detail as you can Google them to find out more, but it's a good way to get your league solidified into the roller derby world and get your name out there.

The UKRDA have undergone some changes over the last couple of years and they are only growing stronger. Use them, ask them for help and advice, that's what they are there for!

Do...
Don't...
- Contact them! Ask them for advice, use their services. That's what they are there for.
- Don't feel like you're not ready as a team yet.
​It can be quite scary if you're new to all this, but I promise, the roller derby community just wants to see itself grow and thrive. We're all in this together.