At the beginning of every summer, I dust my cleats off, slide into my spandex and shorts, and roll up my sleeves into an acceptably ‘sporty’ look.
🥏 It’s ultimate frisbee time.
(Ultimate frisbee is where you run as much as soccer, score like football, and pass like basketball.)
I’m not a particularly sporty person.
I have been lovingly described as a ‘limping turtle who loves every minute of it’ when I run.
I could care less about watching sports unless it’s the US Women’s Soccer Team.
I’m not competitive.
Winning is nice but really I just want to have fun.
But I’ve been playing ultimate frisbee for 15+ years now.
It’s the best thing in the world to run around in some grass with great people, sometimes diving to make a wicked catch, and cheer each other on from the sidelines.
Why do I love frisbee?
The rules in our club league prioritize cooperation over competition.
- There are no referees, so if a foul or violation happens we call it, talk it through, and decide the outcome.
- There can’t be superstars in frisbee because the only way to score is through passing the disc. A lot.
- We all coach each other in club league, helping each other improve on our skills or talking through what went wrong on a particular point.
- At the end of every game, each team creates a silly unique cheer for the other team that usually involves some type of really really really bad pun.
- Points can be deducted from your next match if your team is a bad sport.<We take this rule seriously.
- We have spirits points and at the end of the league, a team wins the spirit prize.
Why am I waxing poetic about a random sport?
Because this is community building out in the wild.
Without all of the rules I shared above, the sport couldn’t exist as it does.
CUDA (the local league) sets up incredible expectations of how we all show up on the field and for each other before, during, and after a match.
There are expectations of good-natured sportsmanship and collaboration.
There are rules in place if someone (or a whole team) gets nasty.
CUDA and the players within it have created an uber supportive space for people who have never played, people who want to get better, and pros to all play on the same team.
And when a new player scores their first goal both sides cheer.
That’s pretty unheard of in the world of sports.
This seems like a special, unique space. Can you really replicate this sweet vibe elsewhere?
What CUDA is doing isn’t magic at all.
Quick tip: any time you’re in a community and you think “wow this is magic how it feels so good!” it’s 100% not magic.
Communities take work.
The ones that feel like magic make that work look effortless, obsessively pre-plan everything, and properly set up expectations.
Communities take work.
Nothing amazing just ‘happens.’
CUDA works hard to keep its community supportive.
- They meet with the team captains to tell them about the rules/expectations
- Give a league-wide ‘stump speech’ (literally standing on a stump in the park) to explain the rules to all the players
- Enforce it all by relying on veteran players who understand how the league works.
In short, they rely on their community.
They trust their community.
Too often in online paid communities (and work teams tbh), leaders attempt to micromanage every interaction.
It usually comes from a space of love: they just want everyone to have the absolute best experience possible.
But what happens with micromanaging is it stops their community from naturally relying on itself.
Look at my frisbee league: CUDA relies on its captains and veterans to show up and enforce the culture and rules of the league.
They step back and trust, and they can do that because they’ve set out the rules very clearly and plainly.
Being a community leader is a constant act of trust.
If you’re a team leader or have an online community, how can you empower your members to rely on themselves to nurture the culture you’ve developed?
The “Go Try It Out” Section
Find your captains
Look at your team or online community: who can you empower to be your captains?
Who can you tap to help build the community further?
Note: I’m not saying to ask people to moderate your community for free.
I’m saying give them permission to give support to others.
Often in online communities, especially when they are new, members feel like they can’t (or shouldn’t) offer advice to other members.
That’s the community leader’s job!
Members sometimes simply need permission to help others, and you can start setting that expectation early on by encouraging it or very plainly stating it.
Step back and trust in your people.
Empower them to be captains*
(just a reminder, I’m talking about helping people connect with each other, not moderating the space. Pay your moderators, plz)
If you want to dive deep into community building so your program is supportive, transformational, and less stressful for you as the leader, join me in Community Camp.
In just 3 days, you’ll design a community offer that’s sustainable, transformative, and profitable for your members and your business.
🥏 See you on the field.