You may already be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s basically a tiered system that tries to represent how people develop, the idea being that people will tend to focus on their most basic needs first, and not move into a higher level in the hierarchy until their lower level needs are met.
When Belegarth realms fail to meet their members’ needs, we generally end up with dissatisfied players and our player retention suffers. While veterans will often take care of their own needs, it’s important to make sure that you have your bases covered for new players in order to ensure that they have a good experience and will want to return. I realize that not all of these suggestions will be feasible due to financial reasons or limitations with physical space, but they are a good starting point in terms of things to consider for improving practices and events.
TIER 1 – PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS
- WATER – Make sure drinking water is available. If your venue is indoors, make sure there is a water fountain or you have cups available for tap water. For outdoor venues, consider bringing a cooler full of water and some cups.
- HEAT – If you run outdoor practices in cold temperatures, consider an indoor location, or running practices near a building so that players have somewhere to warm up.
- SHADE/REST – If you run outdoor practices in warm temperatures, ensure that there are shaded areas where players can rest. If seating isn’t available at your location, bring some camping chairs.
FOOD – For longer events and practices, consider snacks, feasts, etc.
TIER 2 – SAFETY NEEDS
- WEAPONS CHECK – Check everyone’s weapons, check them every practice. New fighters may not know what a failing weapon feels like. Show them what a good passing weapon feels like, and include them in weapons check where possible so that they can identify when something is not correct with the gear on the field.
- HERALDING – Nothing drives away new players faster than cheaters and unsafe fighting. If new players are complaining about cheaters or unsafe behavior, do not ignore them. Bring one or two heralds onto your field to watch for problems, and ensure that all players are communicating about why they’re not taking hits (Make sure people call “Light”, “Graze” etc on shots).
- HOLDS AND FIRST AID – Ensure that all players on the field are familiar with what “Hold!” calls mean. Ensure that a first aid kit is available should an emergency arise. Having someone trained in basic first aid and CPR is also an asset.
TIER 3 – BELONGING
- WATCH THE NEGATIVITY – It’s easy to bash newbies and complain about their behavior. Don’t. If someone is breaking the rules, don’t talk behind their back to everyone in the realm. Bring it up with a herald, or approach them yourself and explain the problem in a way that doesn’t make you seem like a jackass. New players often don’t realize that they’re breaking the rules, and need reminders.
- MAKE NEWBIES A PART OF YOUR GROUP – Belegarth is more than just fighting. We socialize on the sidelines, we socialize outside of Belegarth. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your realm, but engaging with new players on and off the field at practice, and having the occasional realm social event (BBQ? Garb night?) really helps people to feel included and connected with others.
- TEACH – Is a new person struggling on the field? Pull them aside and help them with their stance, or team up with them on the field and teach them about awareness and positioning.
TIER 4 – ESTEEM
- RECOGNIZE CONTRIBUTIONS – Is someone contributing to your realm by doing weapons check? Prepping feast? Thank them! Recognize good shots, good tactics, good honor, good garb, good whatever! It’s important to stay positive, and make combatants and non-coms alike feel valued. Recognize contributions to the realm and recognize the growth of your players in the sport.
TIER 5- SELF-ACTUALIZATION
- JOIN THE COMMUNITY – Help players in your realm achieve greater fulfillment and great experiences by travelling regularly to events as a realm. Make your travel plans known to the realm ahead of time, so that other realm members can coordinate with you on event travel.
- KEEP GROWING – Provide opportunities for your more experienced fighters to teach newer fighters and/or take on more responsibility in the realm (If they want to). Find out how others in your group want to progress in the sport, where their interests lie, and help them to achieve their goals in the sport, or point them to others who might be able to help them.