Monday, March 24, 2008

Creating Community

Recently a friend told me that she thought I was an expert in creating community around like-minded people. H-m-m-m-m, I had never thought about this concept, but when I did, it really rung a bell with me.

I started to think about all the times I have rallied the troops.

When I lived in Detroit, I was a member of a ski club. Our club had a racing team, a small racing team. It was part of a larger council of many ski clubs who also formed teams. Each year a trophy was given to the team with the most points gained over the season. Now, because our team was small, we never had a chance at the bragging rights.

I decided that we could turn our situation around.

The council was for adult, recreational racers. In other words, there were levels for the really good racers, but there were also levels for those who could barely get down the hill in the snowplow position. Having raced for only one year, I realized how much racing had helped to hone my skiing skills in general. I had become a much bolder skier.

When I started we had about 25 racers under our banner. Most were the elite, tear down the hill really fast, variety. I began recruiting at the opposite end, convincing new skiers that this was the best way to go if they wanted to really have fun skiing. Before I was done, we had 75 people on our team.

When any of these new racers were out on the race course, we were there to cheer them on, to carry their coat down the hill and to dust them off if they fell. Each week we told them how much better we saw them and when one of our new racers placed in the race, we were there to cheer when they received their trophy.

I wrote a Q and A column for the club newsletter, to highlight racing. I answered (or got answers) to all the questions I had when I started. If someone asked me a new question, you can bet it was in the next issue. This was back in the early '80s, so including pictures was not easily achieved, but we tried to paint visual pictures as much as we could.

In those days, many of us traveled out west each year to participate in national races. So many times our racers won their class. I am sure it was because of the support they received from the group as a whole.

And guess what. For many years, our team won the annual council trophy. We brought a community of like-minded individuals together and achieved something that we had never thought possible.

I have some other thoughts on community, but I'll leave you with this today.

What do you think makes people band together?

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