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[personal profile] femkes_follies
...or at least an extremely elderly one.

And I know I should really just "let it go" - but y'all keep trying to drag me back in so my head still goes 'round and 'round from time to time.

One of these times was this past weekend. Upon learning that Duke Sir Dag had once again won Crown in the MK. I don't think I've ever made much of a secret of the fact that I don't care overmuch for His Grace nor his Consort. And, in a way, he embodies everything that's wrong with the SCA - even if you overlook the fact that he's said after his last THREE Crown victories that he'd never stand again. *eye roll* The man's ego knows no bounds.

But stop and consider for just a minute. I suspect he stood this time so that he could (at least for now) make hay out of being the OLDEST man to have ever won Crown at 50. The problem? He ought not to have been able to.

Now - there is the rare older athlete who can hang with the young bucks. But there aren't as many as there would appear to be if you examine Crown Tournaments across the Known World. WHY are their so many Super Dukes these days? Because it takes that long to learn to fight really well? Nope.

Because age and cunning really does beat youth and vigor most often? Again, no.

Look at the recent Battle of the Nations. The Poles and some of the other countries absolutely wiped the floor with us. And if you had looked at the fighter profiles, you'd have noticed something.... The youngest of the US participants was born in (IIRC) 1976. Read through the Polish team: Birthdates of 1984, 1988, 1992. I have library books that have been overdue longer than some of these guys have been alive.

And - if you start paying attention - you'll note that the ranks of the SCA are decidedly thin in this same demographic.

Hmmm, why would that be?

Perhaps the iPad generation isn't interested in the fantasy of medieval life? Unlikely, if one peruses the offering of Hollywood, which return to the era over and over.

Maybe they lack the income to participate? Heh. That hasn't stopped a lot of the old-timers that STILL "play" by being a burden to everyone they know.

The real issue is a failure of the SCA as an organization to recruit and retain these folks. There are a lot of reasons for that.

First, recruitment. Most of the rank and file of the SCA can't be bothered with the 20-something crowd. And, let's be frank, sometimes they're a PITA. But I do remember that any effort to recruit students and provide them with rides to meetings/etc. when I was in college was half-hearted at best. After all, they're only students, and in a couple years they'll be gone. The larger issue of seeing these people as the next generation gets lost on the college-based groups. Even though the SCA as a whole really started life as a college-based group.

However, as we've aged, we've modified the SCA to suit ourselves - with never a thought to the generation behind. We don't even know HOW to recruit these kids.

Even less do we know how to retain them. They need a few things:

Mentors: And they don't get them. And by mentor, I mean someone who is TRULY willing to build this youngster into someone who might be greater than himself.

An it please your Lordship, "Squire, go fetch my armor," is not a mentoring relationship. In fact, many of the Peer/Dependent relationships I've seen are less mentoring than outright hazing or petty empire building. And don't give me the, "Well, that's how always been. I had to do it and now it's their turn. It's the way the system works." It does NOT work very well in this instance. Not because the younger set isn't willing to humble themselves. It's possible to tolerate hazing - Look at those who make it through the plebe year at West Point or Annapolis, or even through pledge week. But all of those things have an end-point that is clearly marked. Dependency does not. And wiggling out of a bad relationship is exceedingly difficult. I could give you a string of examples of peers who abuse, undermine, or outright stonewall their dependents. This is the wrong kind of mentoring.

And the arts are not immune from it. For every willing soul who truly is willing to teach the new member to sew, and sew well, there are at least 4 others who are barely competent themselves and merely want to show the newbie how much MORE they know than she does. I can't count the number of times I got the, "period sewing isn't anything like modern sewing," lecture. Well, there's a gross generalization. While I get that modern methods won't produce a period garment, loading the gun barrels with "This is why I'll always be better than you" rhetoric is also unhelpful.

Groups: Do you remember what it was like to be 18? Young people rove in packs. They date in packs. Their social life revolves around their peers. They really aren't that interested in hanging with the old folks, to a large degree. They need a group of their own. What they decidedly do NOT need is a Household. The last thing anybody who's in the trying stages of forming their own personal views needs is a lifetime relationship with people who may very well NOT be the people he or she is going to want to spend time with later. I've also made no bones about being unfond of households. However, young folks and households are a particularly bad mix as the need for the young to belong and the tendency of households to place undue social stress on their members combine into a bad mix. But, within the SCA, there is no "group" to belong to once you graduate from "youth" activities but aren't yet accepted into the "more mature" (and I use that term very loosely) circle of social ties.

Instruction: Yes, there are "youth" classes. Generally dumped on some local member who has kids. And the youth functions at any given event are typically aimed at the age group of the organizer's own children. And there are adult classes. But there's no formal setting for teaching the younger crowd what they need to know. And, make no mistake, when you're dealing with the 20-something crowd, again, you're better off with some structure and group dynamic. John, at one point, was trying to propose a fighting collegium that operated in a dojo-like manner. With a cyclical structure of lessons that would repeat ever 6 months or so. And with a distinct structure to each session: Warm up, lesson, sparring, pick-ups, cool down, beer. Why? Because he's spent enough time in BOTH martial arts training (Eastern, Western, and mixed) to understand that a formal program is infinitely more effective than four or five guys showing up to practice, looking at each other and going, "So, what do you want to work on today?" A good solid half of the time spent at any given practice is absolutely wasted due to the lack of structure. The same is true of a lot of other disciplines. "Free form" sewing nights are sort of a waste. If you get 3 twentysomethings who want to make something to wear and don't care what - and one 50-something who wants to make a gown from Showtime's The Tudors, what do you get? Three twentysomethings who stop coming because they can't get anybody to help them and one 50-something in a panne velvet gown that makes everybody stare at the clouds because they don't know where to look. You'd have been better off to say, we're going to make a cotehardie in 4 sessions, the first session will be a shopping trip for supplies.

Involvement: At least in the US adolescence has been lengthened to include a lot of the 20's. These kids are still awkward, shy, and unlikely to put themselves forward. Don't make it their responsibility. And don't blow them off with a "there's plenty to do for whatever interests you, you just have to go looking for it." Make them their own "place."

Want to keep these kids? Give them the Romance of the Middle Ages that's currently lacking the the old fogeys sitting around swilling mead and telling "No shit, there I was" Pennsic stories. Have the Queen/Princess/Baroness select a cadre of Ladies in Waiting. No, I don't mean a collection of cronies. Give it more of a medieval feel - invite the younger ladies to sit with HRM/HRH/HE and work on their embroidery/what have you. In point of fact, have a project that they're responsible for. With a Matron in charge of them, as they're usually a silly bunch. Then, give them a gallery of their own at Tourneys.

Put on a Pas for the young men. Not a "Novice Tourney" - but one for the younger men, especially those without consorts. Let the Queen's Ladies direct the tourney and give prizes.

Leave a table aside for the young set at Feast - The Queens Ladies are seated there and can select a group of gentlemen to join them.

Etc, etc.

But I state with confidence that the fact that a bunch of middle-aged weekend warriors can continually win Crown in Kingdom after Kingdom is a symptom of a fatal aging of the Society in general. It's one of the reasons that the Middle Kingdom in particular is hidebound and neolithic. These kids won't stay if they're a fringe element. They want something to DO. They want to be part of the pageantry. Let them, or lose them. And with them, lose the organization. Or at least be ready to watch Crown conducted with walkers and canes.
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