Tri-city Roller Derby opened their practice space for a meet and greet on Sunday, Nov. 25 to people who are curious about what goes on within their roller derby league in hope of recruiting new skaters, volunteers and fans.
In order for skaters interested in playing to join the league, they must pass the foundation program. Once they demonstrate a minimum skill-set and graduate, they can then play for the developmental team The Total Knockouts.
Violet Felon, co-chair of the foundation program, is new to skating for the league herself. She is also a rep for The Total Knockouts.
“I started with Tri-city in 2017,” Felon said. “I only graduated our foundations program a year ago. This was my first full year playing roller derby.”
The Total Knockouts focus derby game play and enriching the skating skills learned in the foundations program. After a year on the developmental team, skaters have the option to draft upwards to one of the two home teams, The Venus Fly Tramps and the Vicious Dishes.
Tri-city has five teams in total. Above their home teams they have their A team, Thunder, who travel all over Canada and the United States playing competitively. They also have a B team made up of players that will likely represent them on the A team eventually.
The next foundations training session starts on Wednesday, January 30 at K-W Badminton Club in Kitchener. It is a 12-week program which costs $120. Classes are open to all genders and gender expansive skaters 18 and older.
Participants will be taught minimum skills needed to safely play roller derby. They’ll also learn about gear and proper gear maintenance, and the rules of the sport so they can transition to play after they complete the program.
“For me personally,” Felon said, “I was a roller skater back in the 80s, so it was one way for me to get back on skates. We don’t have a lot of roller rinks around any more … I actually wasn’t that interested in the derby portion of it, now a year or two later I can’t imagine not being part of the roller derby community.”
Felon mentioned how broad the age range of the skaters is.
“I played my first game at 45, which is a little unheard of,” Felon said. “People usually get out of sports at that time … We have skaters that are college or university students.”
Patricia Willis saw roller derby on a TV show and became intrigued.
“They didn’t just glorify it,” she said. “It showed you do get hurt, but it’s a fun thing though. I was really interested … so it’s always been in the back of my mind and then I went to an event in downtown Kitchener … and a couple of the girls were there handing out flyers for the foundations class in August.”
Willis had some experience on inline skates but had never been on quads.
“They let me go at my own pace,” she said. “They encourage you to push yourself, so they helped me get a little bit out of my comfort zone but not too far out. Just the right amount. If you stay in your comfort zone you don’t learn.”
She did not pass her minimums and is repeating the foundations program. This is common. Several skaters said they repeated the foundations program.
“You will fall down but you learn to get right back up,” Willis said. “I remember the first time I fell I stayed down for about two minutes … but the last time I fell …I got right back up and I was laughing about it.”
Matt Watson, better known in the derby world as Big Red, started to come out because his wife was skating in the league.
Watson started out helping in a non-skating official capacity. He wrote penalty codes on a white board for the fans to be able to see, he ran the score board and he worked in the penalty box.
“From there I decided I wanted to try skating and see how I liked it,” Watson said. “I did the foundations program … and loved the skating aspect so I started training with the refs.”
Unlike some other referees who get excited when they have a chance to play, Watson is content being an official.
“I have no interest in contact,” he said. “I’ve never been a sports guy. My most athletic pursuit in high school was the band. So, for me being a part of the community but not actually having to do the contact part is perfect … It’s a fantastic welcoming environment and it’s a lot of fun,” Watson said. “The officials are known as ‘team no-fun,’ but we have our own kind of fun.”
Paige Gorrie came out to the information session because she has always had an interest in roller derby.
“I’ve never had a work schedule that allowed me to join after work,” Gorrie said. “Now I do so I just decided to come out and see what was happening.”
As she tried on roller skates Gorrie mentioned she played ice hockey for years and roller bladed but was a little nervous about quads.
“I think I’ll be somewhat ok,” she said. “But they do seem a little different …I feel a little nervous standing up, but I’ll get there eventually.”
Zivy Hardy came out to the information session because she loves skating.
“I went skating for my birthday party in the spring and I forgot how much I loved it,” Hardy said. “I’ve been skating as much as I can over the summer and I’m looking for more chances to skate … You get to a point in life and you need to feel alive.”
Hardy, who is 44 years old said she is a little bit worried about the contact aspect of the sport.
“I have played contact sports in the past,” she said. “I liked them. I know I did it in my teens. When I was in my 20s it was harder. This I’m thinking will be a lot harder, but I’ll give it a go. I like the people who do this. They seem really positive and open, so it seems like a cool thing to do.”
Tara Conboy, owner of Rumbling Rage Roller Skates and Equipment was on hand with starter packages which allow skaters to get the skates, helmet, elbow, wrist and knee pads they will need to get started at a discount price. Packages range from $329 to $599. The only thing the packages does not include that is mandatory is a mouth guard.
There are only two brick and mortar stores in Ontario to buy equipment, Rumbling Rage in Barrie and Neon Skates in Ottawa, so that leaves Conboy with a lot of territory to cover when she travels for sales.
For more information about Tri-city Roller Derby and their foundations program, visit tricityrd.com.