Strategic Planning for Roller Derby Leagues – Part 1. How often should a league strategically plan?

The New Year often reflects a time of change, which is what prompted me to write the following series of posts containing a step-by-step guide on leading your league through a strategic planning session. Optimized for roller derby leagues, I tried to keep it as simple as possible and did my best to describe the activities. Feel free to alter the process to best meet the needs of your league! Additional ideas and suggestions (if you’ve gone through the process yourself and want to share your successes/challenges) are always welcome in the comments!

The decision to pursue a strategic planning session within your league may come during a time of change (several skaters leaving or retiring, a newly elected board, financial crisis). You may also consider strategic planning when league drama is at its height (it provides a forum for members to be heard and contribute to make things better). Or maybe you’re getting a sense that member’s attitudes seem a little ‘off’. But strategic planning is also great during times when there is no drama or change. Members will be less involved in derby drama and more focused on helping the league succeed if strategic planning happens during a time of neutrality.

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While the phrase ‘strategic plan’ seems constrictive, strategic plans are meant to be fluid, which works well for roller derby leagues. The nature of our sport tends to have a revolving door of members and a WFTDA rule change can shift league priorities overnight. However, successfully going through the process ultimately brings the decision making power to the skaters. As membership evolves or rules change, strategies can change to focus on new priorities, but members will still have direction to make those decisions.

Strategic planning helps create a league mission statement (What is the league meant to achieve?), reveals skater priorities, allows the members to set league goals that are focused around skater priorities and the league mission and also empowers the committees to make effective strategy decisions to achieve the league goals and mission.

A league mission statement is meant to be long term, so a league many want to review it every 5 or so years. League goals should be reviewed yearly for short term goals and every 3-5 years for long-term goals. But those timelines will shift depending on the age of your league. Younger leagues may want to set shorter time frames since there is so much to accomplish to become established.

BLOG graphic3The mission and goals are meant to be set in stone for a period of time. The fluidity of a strategic plan comes at the strategy-setting level, for committees will be able chose what they need to focus on in order to achieve the mission and goals. These strategies may include deciding to book more travel games or even new uniforms. Because strategies are implemented at the committee level, decision-making moves faster and is more manageable because strategies are broken into smaller pieces. And if the strategy contributes to achieving the league’s goals and mission, then it’s an acceptable strategy to focus resources like money, volunteers and time.

When strategy is set at the committee level, members are involved and truly choosing the direction as to where the league is headed. More examples on this will be provided in future posts! Before starting the strategic planning process, you first must engage your members and encourage participation, which is discussed in the next post.

More posts in the series
Strategic planning introduction
Part 1: How often should a league strategically plan?
Part 2: Encourage participation from your members, book a meeting, find a facilitator
Part 3: Give your members homework to bring bring to the meeting
Part 4: Release the meeting agenda and rules of engagement
Part 5: Determine your mission
Part 6 and 7: Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Part 8: Determine your goals
Part 9: Determine strategy to achieve short and long-term goals
Part 10: The follow through 

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