The first time I heard about roller derby was when I was eleven years old. I was reading the Edmonton Journal over my mom’s shoulder when an article about the new Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby Association caught my eye.
“You will never, ever, ever play roller derby,” she told me.
I heard that derby was a full contact sport where girls skated around in circles and tried to knock each other over until there was only one girl left standing. This isn’t true. To play flat- track roller derby, five girls from each team line up on a circular track: four blockers and one jammer. All are wearing a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, and knee pads in addition to their quad skates. The jammer lines up behind the blockers. The referee’s whistle sounds and each jammer tries to get through the opposing team’s blockers. The blockers block- obviously! For simplicity, let’s just say that scoring points is basically a jammer getting through the opposing team’s pack. Obviously, the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Yes, like many other sports, there is hitting and contact involved in roller derby. However, before you learn to hit, you learn to skate. And before you learn to skate, you learn to fall. I have never felt unsafe on the track. I understand that every time the whistle blows I could get hurt, just like in soccer or football. That has never stopped me. I love roller derby too much. Of course I have been scared or nervous. But I’ve learned that in order to be fearless you must first be brave- that is, doing something even though you are scared, not having no fear.
Joining GEJRDA when I was thirteen was a great decision. I have done several sports: fencing, diving, track, basketball, badminton, etc. I’ve played soccer for twelve years and counting. However, in the past three years I’ve learned to love roller derby more than any other sport I have tried. Part of this is having amazing couches and volunteers in our non- profit league. Another part is having the most incredible and inspirational teammates at my side. Roller derby is a small sport in Alberta, but we have some big spirit on our team! We are all very close and support each other on and off the track. I’ve made some amazing friends.
Since my mom told me that I will “never, ever, ever play roller derby,” she has been wrong about a lot of other things (I’m always right!). It is annoying when she swears that it will be cold out and makes me bring a jacket to school and it is the one day when I’m boiling to death. Or when she tells me I shouldn’t go outside to longboard because it will rain, and then it is sunny all day. I wish she was right about the weather more often. But, man, am I glad that she was wrong about me not playing roller derby.
The main thing I want people to take from this blog post is that I̶ ̶a̶m̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶1̶0̶0̶%̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶m̶o̶m̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶a̶l̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶. derby is an amazing sport. You will meet amazing people at games and practices. You’ll be pushed really hard. If you are considering playing with our league, it is worth a try. It might be the best decision you’ve ever made! 🙂
Dave McQueen was kind enough to send us this sneak peak of yesterdays Team Canada try-outs. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I am curious to know if the pictures can begin to tell the amazing stories that unfolded at yesterday’s try-outs…
As women we have the difficult task of being responsible for our own empowerment. For centuries we have strived for power in our personal and professional lives and the one thing we have struggled with the most is power over ourselves. So often we allow others to tell us the best way to act, to think, to feel and we unfairly compare ourselves to others instead of embracing our own unique qualities. What I have always loved about Junior Roller Derby is how empowering it is to young women. It allows them to explore sides of themselves that are not often encouraged in other areas of their lives. Instead of being told what is “ladylike” they are able to explore what makes them unique and powerful. They don’t have to be like everyone else, they can just be the best version of themselves. The freedom to explore their own prowess, their mental and physical capabilities as well as their own dynamic skills is in itself a confidence builder. So often in competitive sports elements of our missions become lost in the desire to produce results. Our aims and objectives become blurred. When mentoring talented youth athletes it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with young ladies that are already facing a great deal of judgments and strife in their adolescent lives and that for most of them sports is an outlet, a place for them to be themselves. Instead of comparing them to their teammates and spotlighting their weaknesses we have a unique opportunity to build them up and encourage all of the things that make them special. I have always been a firm believer that critique works best when spun positively. Realistically, it sounds easier in print then it actually is. As adults we have experienced our own share of life’s hard knocks and putting a positive spin on things doesn’t always come naturally. Yesterday at Edmonton’s Team Canada try-outs a group of teenagers taught me incredible things about the power of positive encouragement. A group of young women competing against each other for a spot representing their country; playing a sport they love, were the number one cheerleaders for the opposition. Their bright lights shone not only on themselves but also on the accomplishments of their fellow skaters. Their joys and their triumphs were shared. I was astounded that a group of young women displayed a level of maturity beyond their years and an energy and character that I am envious of. To feel not only a sense of pride in their own accomplishments but delight in the achievements of their teammates was a very compelling thing to observe. They are the future, and the future of this great sport. I applaud their incredible talent but first and foremost their leadership. These young ladies empower me to be better, more supportive and encouraging to the people in my life. Canada would be lucky to have them as it’s Junior Roller Derby representatives. xo
Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby association has been blessed to have had the coaching, support and friendship of Leanne Johnson, A.K.A. Cherry-oto-Fire. Cherry has been such an amazing and positive influence on the young skaters that she has mentored, she has tremendous passion for youth and the sport of Roller Derby.
As a league we received the news that Cherry and her family were moving to Indiana with mixed feelings. On the one hand we are supportive and excited to hear about all of her future endeavors but it is impossible not to be a little bit sad that a part of us is leaving. We look forward to keeping up with all of Cherry’s adventures as a new mom and a yankee import. The hole that she leaves in the derby community will be filled with the warm and wonderful memories of the time she has spent with each and every one of us, offering advice, sharing her skill, her knowledge and most of all her kindness.
We invite all of you to come out Saturday night and cheer her on as she plays her last home game with STAHRs Arch Angels in the fantastic company of GEJRDAs Shelly Helly and Jennasaurus Wrex. She will roll out in style.