PEI

Meet P.E.I.'s youngest roller derby players

Donning knee pads, helmets and colourful outfits, young athletes roller skate around a church gym in Charlottetown.

The popularity of junior roller derby is growing on the Island, with 17 players now involved

Junior roller derby is growing in popularity on P.E.I., with 17 young people now part of the Charlottetown team. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Donning knee pads, helmets and colourful outfits, young athletes roller skate around a church gym in Charlottetown.

These are P.E.I.'s youngest roller derby players. While their version of the sport is less aggressive than the adult game, there's no less enthusiasm.

"I would say it's one of the best sports ever," said nine-year-old Karalee Cassidy, who goes by the roller derby name Kray Kay.

Junior roller derby is growing in popularity on the Island, and those involved are trying to recruit more young people to the sport.

New skills, teamwork

Junior roller derby is similar to the adult version of the sport, which involves working as a team to race around a track on roller skates, while blocking other players.

Roller derby is a contact sport, but the junior version is divided into levels, starting off with no contact at all. 

Jenny Baglole started Charlottetown Junior Roller Derby four years ago. At the time there were just a handful of kids involved but it has since grown, with 17 players now lacing up their skates twice a week.

Jenny Baglole says she likes to see the kids taking on new challenges and working together. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

She's glad to see kids take on a new challenge — and develop teamwork skills along the way.

"There's a really great community in here. They build each other up whenever they fall down, they're always there to cheer each other on, and to pat each other on the back when they've done a really good job."

In search of a 'rough' sport

The practices focus on fitness, skating skills, and learning how to safely fall. While there's no contact for these players, there are some tumbles.

"It's sort of scary because when you go you don't really want to fall because it seems like it's going to hurt a lot, but it actually doesn't," said 10-year old Ava King.

Nine-year-old Karalee Cassidy says she was drawn to roller derby because it's a 'rough' sport. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

For some, those falls are part of the appeal. 

"I just felt jealous because a lot of people in my class they were doing a whole bunch of cool sports, and my mom suggested roller derby, and I asked if it was rough and she said yes, so I really wanted to," said Karalee.

Recruiting more players

With just one junior roller derby team on P.E.I., players have to travel off-Island to compete.

Some players will travel to Fredericton for a competition next month, but they would like to see more players get involved on P.E.I., which would allow the group to compete amongst themselves.

Organizers hope to see more young people lace up their skates, and try junior roller derby. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The team is hosting a meet-the-team night at the Charlottetown Curling Complex Thursday evening, where people can learn about the sport from the players themselves.

"I would tell them that it helps you out with fear, and it helps you not be scared of anything," said nine-year-old Annaliese Martin. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah MacMillan is a reporter with CBC Sudbury. She previously worked with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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