|Sometimes in Winter
[02/27/2007] [Ursus Bear]
As I begin this, snow seems to be a solid wall outside my eighth-story apartmentís windows. Where I can usually see a gorgeous view of Lake Ontario under a blue sky, I canít even see the water tower thatís less than a football field away through the bluster. Itís only Thursday, but last time I saw weather like this it was Sunday Ė and when I got to field, in -30C weather (thatís -22F for most of you), we still had double-digits ready to ditch, quest and battlegame. For a Shire who hit double-digits less than a year ago for the first time, I was quite impressed with the dedication. What have we been doing, I ask myself, to encourage people to keep playing through the winter?
Winter for outdoor activities tends to be a harsh time. Sports often move their practices indoors, sometimes even their full games; at the very least, equipment is adapted for winter, and thatís their season. Hobbies like winter camping have extremely specialized equipment, especially up here in the Great White. But when it comes to Amtgard, the only difference I see on our local fields is garb.
Our first major change that we make during winter months is to institute the winter garb rule. Coats, boots, hats and gloves donít make for great garb, so the only requirement we continue to hold is the visible sash. We want to know what class youíre playing, but you donít have to be out there in a tabard if you donít have one warm enough to last the day without your hands turning black.
When we realized that Daylight Savings Time would mean that starting fighter practice at 6 PM would put us past sundown, we switched to a weekly A&S night instead. It hasnít been a perfect experiment Ė there have been nights were only one or two people showed, nights that were outright cancelled, nights where nothing got done but a few dozen games of Bomberman on the Wii Ė but thereís definitely been experience and wisdom gained that can be passed along to other groups with faltering winter attendance:
Give them something to do. It doesnít have to be a weekly A&S night, but give them something to do inside, where itís warm, where there are chairs, so that friendships donít rust. Camaraderie can be improved tenfold over a winter if careful attention is paid to making sure that the group gets together, even in smaller groups, once a week outside of field.
Donít be a hardass. Especially when it comes to activities that are only happening because you wanted them to. Weekly A&S nights are great in theory, but thatís a lot of A&S. When people run out of things to do, let them play video games, chat, or go into the backyard to ditch. Itís not ruining your A&S night, itís meaning theyíll come back for another one.
Give them somewhere to go after field. Whether itís a playerís home or a local restaurant, somewhere warm that your players can go when theyíve gotten too cold but donít want to break up the meet just yet will mean that itís still worth it for those players who have to travel half an hour to get to field every week. If they donít have to worry about only being there for an hour and having nothing to do afterwards, itíll be much more worth it for them to make the effort.
Bring blankets, and, if you have the facility, warm drinks. If you can, move field to somewhere with open washrooms if your field doesnít already have some, because that bush off to the far side of the field isnít so appealing anymore. Warming packs are a must-have for first-aid kits.
Winter Amtgard doesnít have to mean a sharp decline in numbers, even in the most Northern of groups. With care and a bit of coddling, winter attendance can flourish just as well as any other.
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