Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
Jack & Choke, Jersey Shore Roller Girls
When people think of mission statements, they usually think of the ones written by big businesses. You know the type: long-winded paragraphs full of flowery, poetic phrases that sound nice but don’t really explain much. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of what a mission statement should be. An ideal mission statement is a brief, precisely worded definition of why a business exists, and what makes that business unique. In the world of roller derby, your league is your business, and it’s up to you to define it. A mission statement is your chance to do that by plainly laying out your organization’s purpose, goals and core values.
Mission statements serve a number functions, both to league members and to the public. Mission statements clearly outline to everyone involved what the league wants to accomplish, and how it will go about doing this. Everyone knows what’s expected of them, and they have steps they can take to achieve the desired results. An effective mission statement also has the power to motivate those who subscribe to it. When skaters see terms like “dedication,” “sisterhood,” and “superior athleticism” associated with their league, they tend to personally adopt those values, increasing the entire group’s unity and morale.
Mission statements don’t just benefit skaters within the league. They also serve to inform the general public of your league’s varied and unique aspects. How many times have you explained to fans that while yes, you do spend a lot of your time kicking butt, there’s more to being a rollergirl? You’ve probably surprised a few people by telling them that when they’re not skating, girls do promotional work or volunteer in the community. And what skater hasn’t rambled on about how her league is so intelligent/honest/dedicated/supportive? A mission statement does all this public relations work for you. Posted on your league’s website, a carefully planned, precisely worded mission statement makes a great first impression, earning you new fans and more than a little respect.
Mission statements often consist of three key elements. First, the mission statement outlines the purpose of the organization. In derby mission statements, this part of the statement answers the question, “Why does your league exist? What need does it fill?” From there, a mission statement moves to its second component, the game plan. This part states how your league will go about filling its recently defined need. Any goals and action-based ideas should be mentioned in this section. The last piece of the mission statement consists of the organization’s principles and values. Here’s where you highlight the beliefs that drive all your hard work. Overall, jargon and overly dramatic language should be avoided in favor of honest, concise, and specific word choices. Answering the three questions – what’s your business, what’s your game plan and what are your core values – provides a good starting point for an effective mission statement.
There’s a gap between knowing what a mission statement is and feeling confident enough to craft one for your league. Fortunately, many rollergirls have taken the mission statement plunge before you, so you can learn from their examples. In addition to press kits and league constitutions, mission statements often reside in the “About Us” sections of league websites. Let’s take a look at some strong mission statements straight from the derby world.
Suburbia Roller Derby, of Yonkers, New York is a good place to start. Their mission statement is short, sweet and to the point: “To provide a healthy, safe environment (both emotionally and physically) for women, ages 20+, to learn and play the sport of flat track roller derby in Westchester County, NY.”
Right away, they define what their vision is and whom their efforts serve. The rest of the mission statement lays out their action plan and values: “the cultivation of respect, empowerment and athleticism in all their members, the adoption of a DIY-attitude geared toward fostering sisterhood among fellow leagues and the importance of becoming contributing members of the community through local service and volunteerism.” Mission, goals and values, wrapped up neatly in four concise sentences.
Texas Rollergirls, skating out of Austin, Texas, provide a good example of how a mission statement defines the specific nature of unique organizations. Texas has a recreational league, the Rec-n-Rollerderby, which they hold separate from their nationally competing league. To identify Rec-n-Rollerderby as separate from, yet equally as legitimate as the main league, Texas Rollergirls crafted a distinct mission statement for the offshoot:
“The Texas Rollergirls Recreational League, the Rec-n-Rollerderby™ is an athletic and social organization formed to give all women the opportunity to learn and play the sport of Flat Track Roller Derby. In the spirit of a recreational organization, it offers a fun, safe, and competitive athletic environment without the level of commitment or skill that are required of derby athletes at the national level.”
In two sentences, Rec-n-Rollerderby’s mission statement states that it fills the need of women who want to play derby recreationally, that it does this by offering a modified athletic environment and that it bases its decisions on the values of fun, safety and competition. It’s a safe bet that if this mission statement was placed next to that of the nationally-competing Texas Rollergirls, the two would differ in goals, actions and values, even though they are two parts of the same larger organization. These differences illustrate how a mission statement gives a clear identity to a group.
Here are few more samples of leagues stating who they are and what they do:
Windy City Rollers, Chicago, IL: “The Windy City Rollers is an organization that strives to promote athleticism and fraternity among its members and seeks to foster professional, personal, and athletic advancement for all its members.”
Rat City Rollergirls, Seattle, WA: “Our mission is to provide athletic entertainment that improves our member’s individual athletic ability, self-discipline, and character while promoting the roller derby sport.”
At this point, you know what a mission statement is. You know what its key ingredients are. You’ve seen a couple of them up close and they seem pretty swanky. Following are some tips to get you started writing your own mission statement.
Ask yourself the right questions. Writing a mission statement involves some serious league soul searching. Start by asking yourself questions like: What is your league? Who skates for you? What kind of environment do you offer them? What do you expect from your skaters, both on and off the track? Do you serve anyone else, like the community, the fans or sponsors? If so, how? What values are important to your league? How do you promote these values? Base your mission statement on the answers.
Make it a team effort. If you are tasked with writing your league’s mission statement, don’t go at it alone. Ask skaters why they skate for this league and what makes them proud to be affiliated with it. The answers to these questions will help you develop the purpose and values portion of your mission statement. Asking coaches and refs how to improve your training will get you started on the action plan section. Getting input from multiple viewpoints paints a fuller picture of your league.
Say what you mean. Clearly state your goals and objectives using language that is easy to understand. Take as much time as you need to get exactly the right words. Be ready to edit and rewrite until the statement is as specific as possible.
And mean what you say. In other words, be honest. A league’s mission statement should reflect its true goals and beliefs. While you may think your league is on the fast track to world domination, too much self- congratulatory language could keep people from taking you seriously. Smack talk is fine for the track, but stick to the facts for a mission statement.
Adopting a solid mission statement can help keep a league focused. A well-written mission statement clearly outlines your league’s goals, values and visions, making it a valuable tool for establishing your league’s identity both with the general public and in the derby community.