Monday, June 23, 2014

Garb Enforcement at Practice

Every year, there's a debate over how to handle garb enforcement.  Subsequently, the community usually ends in the same place: everyone agreeing that garb should be worn at events, some people insisting garb should be worn at practices, while others argue that requiring garb at practice is a death-kiss to recruitment.

I'm personally in the pro-garb at practice camp, with leeway given for newbies, because I've seen it done much more good than bad. At the very least, it helps prevent the rash of fighters who won't go to events because they need garb, or those who turn up at events without garb. In my experience, here's how it becomes a successful culture.

Some passing garb at practice.

Use role models

This is by far the most important step. If the top dogs in the realm wear garb, especially the top fighters, the rest of the realm will usually follow suit. It helps remove a bit of the goofiness factor when the toughest guys are dressed to the nines and are willing to defend their choice to wear garb every week. It doesn't need to be incredibly fancy, after all it is only practice, but enough to show they take pride in their appearance.

Don't bully, but be clear about expectations

If you come at someone aggressively about their lack of garb, they're going to get defensive and dig their heels in. If people understand why they should wear garb at practice, instead of being told "because I want us to", they're often more receptive. Following the rules, preparing for events, and PR are usually the reasons I give depending on my audience. Playing to their sense of pride may also work well in some cases.

If someone I know who has garb is not wearing garb at practice, the most I will say is a casual "No garb today?" and leave it at that. You can often make it clear that you've noticed someone isn't wearing garb and you'd prefer them to, without calling them out and loudly embarrassing them in front of everyone. Even I sometimes don't show up in garb because life got in the way, and I prefer the courtesy of a gentle reminder instead of a public flogging.

Make it a rite of passage

In the realms where garb is common at practice, wearing it is often seen as a literal or metaphorical rite of passage. In some places it gives you access to more weapons, since you've proven your dedication.  In others, it's the first step that marks you as a "real" Belegrim in the eyes of the realm.

Making or buying your first garb is usually met with praise and stories about how awful our own first garb was. If a new fighter really wants to become "one of the guys", they will force themselves to wear garb when everyone else is.

Treat it as a uniform

This is for the people who feel uncomfortable in garb because they're very self-conscious. Those of us who embrace our geekiness may have no problem hitting up a public restaurant after practice in full garb, but others find it mortifying. Make sure the non-garbers know that you'll give them time to change before and after practice; garb is only your uniform on the field. Having that level of separation between the game and real life is really helpful for many people.

Help them get their first set

Almost everyone struggled with their first set of garb, myself included. If someone seems to be dragging their feet, offer to make it for them or have sewing days if you need to. You can even hand them the names of a few good places to order a set.

Garb does not need to be expensive or time-consuming to pass, and many newbies may not realize that if your realm is particularly well-dressed. The more that veterans do to lower the bar to entry, the sooner realm-mates can become comfortable wearing garb and pass that mentality on to the next generation.


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