Hoping for lemons

by barbaragarn

I’ve canceled the level 5 at Richfield for December 4.
A shorthand of the collapse (for anyone wondering about behind the scenes stuff…):

While the Friday before (Thanksgiving weekend), I anticipated low numbers and didn’t have a level 5 skate, signups the previous two Fridays had been 19 and 17. The Monday level 5s are very popular too. So I don’t think it was nutty to put a level 5 out there for this Friday… and I did it at Richfield, one of if not THE most successful rink for high skater turnouts.

When I posted the session on Saturday, November 28, two goalies and a captain signed up right away. And then nobody else. People always tell me they like to wait to see the roster fill up… not realizing that THEY can take action to HELP it fill up.

And I will sometimes remind folks midweek, if a session is low. So on Wednesday night, I sent out a note to the level 5 skaters. Shortly after that, we lost a goalie–I’m guessing he thought the session wouldn’t go, so he bailed.

And then the skaters started e-mailing me: “I WOULD sign up, if we had another goalie.” Not realizing that the lack of skaters is what probably took the goalie off the list.

Fortunately, we got another one goalie Thursday evening, but it’s too late. Trying to change the momentum on a skate is very, very difficult. A successful session draws people BECAUSE it is successful. A struggling session does NOT draw skaters–BECAUSE it’s not successful.

No matter how many e-mail nudges I send (and –though I really do try to keep the noise low– sometimes BECAUSE I send a nudge note), a session with three skaters 48 hours before icetime is almost certainly not going to turn around. Sessions with ten skaters two days out? They have a good base and the fence-sitters will get comfortable enough to sign up, and it will end up working.

In addition to the “I might consider it if you got a goalie” notes, I had e-mails from people saying they’d love to play but this week doesn’t work, so please keep the sessions going anyway until they CAN play (er, sure… I take checks…). Or, the location isn’t convenient (someone once asked for a level 5 in Chaska). Or the time is too late, or too early.

It’s kind of like a slot machine. I have the icetimes and then I allocate them, hoping to hit the jackpot with the day of the week (LEMON!) and the rink location (LEMON!) and the time of the skate (LEMON!). And then (assuming three lemons is worth something in the land of slot machines), the session gets enough people and it’s successful and everybody wins.

What keeps JMS running is having a large enough availability/interest pool to make one or more 22-player sessions work. We can’t have JUST 22 skaters–because someone will get sick, or have to work late, or be out of town, or have car trouble.

Trying to aim for 22 skaters means that sometimes we won’t have enough and sometimes we’ll have people clamoring to play–it’s hard to gauge and come out with exactly the right number of sessions (at the right rinks, on the right days, at the right icetimes).

I can have a whopping SEVEN people on the waitlist, seven people who REALLY want to skate… but that is still not enough to open a new session. You can’t play 90 minutes of hockey with seven people–technically, I need 16 people on the waitlist, and THEN we can have a new session. One, or two, or seven people who REALLY REALLY want to skate aren’t–for all their enthusiasm and wanting–enough to make it work. (Yes, I’ve tried low-number sessions at mini-rinks. People don’t like them.)

So with a large availability/interest pool, there’s more elasticity to cover the spots (and sometimes have folks left over, alas, who didn’t jump on the roster soon enough). I guess the pool for level 5 on Fridays is just going to take more time and study. Pity the only way to really capture data is to book a $300 icetime.

Fortunately the good people at the rink let me swap out the ice for another 90 minutes on New Year’s Day. It’s not ideal (I already have two other sessions that Friday) but I’ll make it a family skate or something–a little more work, but I won’t have to fork out the entire $300. Whew.

Look–I want to be absolutely clear. This isn’t me whining or grumping. I’m just trying to wrap my head around what makes people sign up for sessions–or not. It would be easier and more efficient for everyone if there was a method to it.

But we all know INTEREST doesn’t translate into SIGN UPS, so I’ll keep making the best guesses I can and hope to hit the lemon trifecta (can I mix gambling metaphors? maybe I should just call it a hat trick?) and get the PERFECT day with the PERFECT location at the PERFECT time… or enough people are willing to bend on one or more of those.

So while most people know the end result (that the session was canceled), this is an explanation for those who are curious about the backstory. While I do appreciate support, I’d like comments to be constructive. This really isn’t meant to be me soliciting positive feedback–nice words are nice, but I want it to WORK! There has GOT to be some more data out there that will help me plan better.