Around Town, Fitness, Special Needs

Rolling to Success: Inside the World of Junior Derby

With an emphasis on inclusivity, leadership, and team building, Junior Roller Derby provides  young skaters with an opportunity to come together–regardless of skill level–and compete in a game that builds confidence and strengthens empowerment.

Junior Roller Derby is a full-contact sport that is played on roller skates. While it may seem intense, there are plenty of safety rules to keep everyone safe. Played on an oval track, two teams–consisting of up to five skaters–skate counterclockwise in short games called “jams.” The goal is to score more points than the other team by lapping opposing players. Jams are divided into two, 30-minute halves, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Creating an inclusive, community-like atmosphere is important to the Coach and League President of Crescent City Crushers’ Junior Derby Team. To do this, they attend social events together and encourage each skater to work with someone new whenever they have group work.

Amanda Moulton, League President, shares, “With these kids, whenever they go into something Derby-related with their team, they don’t have to be taught how to treat each other. They automatically know that this is a place where we don’t stand for certain things, and we include everybody.”

This much-needed experience will continue to thrive, especially with these kiddos taking the reins in the future. Coach Laura Blu explains, “These kids are so awesome. They’re going to take it by the reins and make it more amazing than we could ever imagine it being.”

To learn even more about the game and what it means to them, we heard from a few of the skaters of the Junior Derby team.

Evangelina M.

Age: 16

Derby Name: Bomber

How did you first become interested in roller derby?

I tried just about every sport there was, and didn’t like any of them, until one of mom’s friends joined the adult team, and then she told my mom about the Junior League that was starting up. My mom put me in as a last attempt to try to get me to be active, and I ended up falling in love with the sport and skating.

What has been your favorite part?

I really love it right after a game. At the end, you’re just so emotional, because you just played a tough game with your team, and it’s really nice to be with everyone afterward.

How would you describe the team?

We accept so many different ages. Everyone can find a friend. You know, at the end of the day, we are one team, and we do work really well together. I love how everyone can really find their person and their people, even with how big the team is.

What does a practice look like?

Practices really depend on what coaches are there. We have an amazing group of coaches who all come and give their time to the team for free, but it really depends on what group of coaches you get, and everyone has something completely different and amazing to teach us.

How do you prepare for a game?

I really love when we’re gearing up and we’re all putting on makeup because games are an amazing time to do the weirdest makeup that you can do and not have anyone judge you.

How has being part of Junior Derby influenced other areas of your life?

Derby really taught me that I can talk to people and make friends. I grew up an only child, and I think I’ve missed out on a lot of the making friends skills, especially with COVID. Derby is an amazing place to really work on my people skills and learn how to make connections.

Luna B.

Age: 14

Derby Name: Lunatic

How did you first become interested in Junior Derby?

I’ve been skating since I was kid, and when I saw the sign-up sheets at the skating rink, I figured this would be really fun to do, so I convinced my mom to sign both of us (Lily) up.

What has been your favorite part?

I enjoy just hanging out with my peers and getting to play a sport with them.

What is practice like?

First, we do our warm-ups, and then we get into either learning about the sport itself or doing some mock jams, so we can remember how to play the game and learn new techniques for playing.

How do you prepare for a game?

Sometimes on the car ride there, you might listen to some music or just hang out before the game. We talk to each other, sing a little bit, you know, just get all the nerves out.

How has being part of Junior Derby influenced other areas of your life?

I finally found a place to expel my energy instead of on my poor parents, I wasn’t exactly the most well-behaved child, and to be in a place where you can hang out with a group of friends and exercise, workout, get away from life, it was all really nice, and it really helped me come out of my shell.

Lily B.

Age: 15

Derby Name: Pink-A-Vicious

How did you first become interested in Junior Derby?

I’ve been watching my mom play derby since I was about four or five years old. I was hesitant to join the team at first, but once I got the hang of it and had our first scrimmage. I was hooked.

What has been your favorite part?

My favorite part is definitely before and after games, being with my team, because everyone’s energy is just so high, and then, of course, playing the game with the same energy and like-minded people.

How would you describe the team?

Derby is a sport where kids who maybe don’t fit in with other groups or can’t find somewhere else that they can just be themselves, can come to, and that creates a strong bond. Everyone who doesn’t have another place, they have a place now.

What is practice like?

Practices can be tough, especially when it gets this hot out, and we’re working on endurance, but we really do give it our all, and it really does make us better. I don’t really see it as hard work. It’s just like I’m with my friends, we’re skating, and we’re putting in the work so we can be better.

How do you prepare for a game?

One of our pregame rituals is right before we get our gear checked and we do introductions, we all huddle in a circle, and at the top of our lungs, we scream “You are My Sunshine.” 

How has being part of Junior Derby influenced other areas of your life?

I was shy and sensitive, I didn’t talk to anyone. In the past two or three seasons, I feel like I’ve really come into myself and found who I am and realized that, yes, I’m physically strong, but I can also be just as strong as a person and find friends and find my own identity.

This article was originally published in July 2024.

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