Charlottetown Junior Roller Derby on a roll and looking to expand
More coaches are needed for the alternative sport to get more kids out skating
The ice has been removed for the summer at Cody Banks Arena in Charlottetown, but on a Tuesday night, skaters still take to the pad.
About 17 members of the Charlottetown Junior Roller Derby head out onto the smooth surface for a practice.
"I like roller derby because it uses a lot of teamwork and perseverance and it's just a lot of fun," said Kasey Squires, who goes by the roller derby name of Squirrels.
The league is open to youth in the area between the ages of nine and 17. They show up on Tuesdays to practise their skills.
"Stopping. Making sure sure you're safe on the track," said Julia Hartley, known to the players as Coach Vixen as well as being the president of Charlottetown Junior Roller Derby.
"Making sure you know how to avoid somebody so that when they are in a game situation, they'll be playing safely."
'Roller derby mean friendship'
The players have been broken up into groups so that they can be taught the appropriate level of training. There will even be a written test at some point before they can advance.
Isabella MacLeod, who goes by Bella Nutella, said it's a welcoming group when players first join.
"Roller derby means friendship," MacLeod said. "There is a lot of people that are new here and they are nervous when they first start but it is OK."
They now have 15 of the 17 players who have completed their minimum skills training and the group is getting into basic scrimmages and house league games.
The players all wear the required safety equipment, some of it on loan from the league itself thanks to a free gear library.
"We found that over the last year this has made a huge impact on our league," Hartley said, adding the gear library makes the sport more accessible.
Inclusion is a big part of the sport with the players supporting gender diverse youth, and the space is a safe place to show their individuality.
"I like how everyone is so supportive and loving," Ava Coupland said, whose roller derby name is Rabies.
"There are a lot of LGBTQ+ members and everyone is so supporting about it — it's really awesome."
Hartley said the ability and freedom to choose a name and wear what they want helps the youth explore their individuality in a safe space outside of their regular life.
"It's a little bit of an alternative sport in a lot of ways but at the end of the day, they're athletic and they're really getting out there and skating hard," Hartley said.
Hartley said they would love to expand the sport and get more kids out on the track but have run into a wall when it comes to coaching.
She said if they can find more coaches in the area they will be able to run more learn-to-skate programming in the fall.