First off, I hate the terms "legit" and "mainstream" in terms of the current modern DIY derby, whether it's flat or banked track. To me, those terms signify complete and utter boredom, which is what I think of when sports in general are brought up to me. Derby isn't a mainstream sport; why there are people pushing to make it "mainstream" is really beyond me. I won't watch derby if it's included in the Olympics. I just don't care. I like where derby is at right now. A little whimsy in sports shouldn't be frowned upon. Don't be swayed by what's already out there. If you were, you wouldn't be involved in derby to begin with.
I would like to see modern derby try to grow its fanbase in a close manifestation of what we're experiencing right now. Fun names and team themes with serious athletic abilities, at least with what's seen in the top leagues in the country.
Anyway, here's some thoughts:
- Get rid of minor penalties. If a skater sits in the penalty box, it needs to be obvious to everyone watching the game why she's there. Accumulations are BORRRRRRINGGGGG.
- Another rule change, especially for WFTDA: GET RID OF NOT-STARTING DERBY. The pack whistle blows, the pack MUST MOVE. The rule needs to change about waiting for the last pack person to cross the pivot line. In WORD rules, the jammer whistle is blown 3 seconds after the pack whistle. In MADE rules, there's only one whistle for both pack and jammers. Either way, it's encouraging movement, which is what fans want to see. Not the standing-around-like-idiots play that bores the pants off of everyone except the skaters in that particular jam. Strategy doesn't mean diddly if people won't sit and watch non-movement when skating is supposed to be involved.
- Have a handbook or some other source/guide for game/bout production. This includes how to run the door, lighting, announcers, timetables, etc. Sure, not all leagues can be all fancy in every aspect of game production, but if they had a guide to work off of, they can do what they can with current resources as well as set goals for future games to keep the fans interested AND informed while using what's available and affordable to leagues.
- Continue to encourage any and all skaters in any and all leagues to go to bootcamps that are hosted by top skaters/leagues/whatnot. The idea is to bring more competitive gameplay to more leagues. If you look at rankings, whether they're WFTDA, DNN, WORD, etc, you see that there's a dropoff in...talent? ability? I don't know what the word is, but there's a small group of teams at the very top, and the dropoff to what the next group of teams' abilities is severe. So, say in a tournament situation, if you have #1 seed vs. #7 seed, it's going to be a blowout. Which for new fans is boring to watch. But if we're able to spread the training around far and wide so that more leagues get to a level where they're more competitive in a shorter space of time, that's just good for everyone.
- Interleague. This goes back to building up the talent that's already out there. Interleague is a great way to do that. But not just the all-star teams. I love TXRG's example of using their home teams as "B" teams for interleague play. It not only encourages city-to-city competition that modern sports thrive on, but it introduces a higher level of gameplay to more skaters in a particular league. And then they'll strive more to achieve higher excellence. This also helps address the problem that many leagues have of their intraleague drawing more fans than interleague. If the home teams are used in more interleague play, then that gets the fans used to more interleague matchups, which generally makes the skaters and the fans happy.
- Skater names. This is a touchy subject. I myself love my skate name. But there are some names out there that aren't...family friendly. Now, as non-mainstream as this sport is, it's also a sport that's gaining popularity in Jr. leagues across the country. It behooves leagues to not have skate names such as Slitty McCuntergash if they have a Jr. league going on. Or if they have all-ages games. Or both. To build a following that will last beyond any hipster fad, you gotta suck the kids in. A little discretion can go a long way to having a skater feel like she's expressing herself the way she wants to while having the league build a following that's going to think of the future of the sport by having kids around to get them hooked.
- Recreational leagues. Not everyone coming into a league is going to be all-star material. Some won't even be home team material. But dammit, they love to skate. Maybe they volunteer for your league, and having them around is a good idea for whatever reason. Give them a place to go skate. Same for retired skaters who maybe can't make the training schedule of a team for either physical or scheduling reasons...give them a place to come to so that they can give advice to the up-and-coming skaters. Or give them a reason to justify the cost of their brand-new Antik skates. Whatever. Rec leagues are another avenue of spreading the derby love while being low-cost and casual.
That's just off the top of my pointy little head. I'm sure people have brilliant ideas on how to grow the sport. The question is, will that growth be "legit" and "mainstream", or just...growth?