Last year, Michelle Wright saw first-hand the joy a kid can get from knocking someone else over.
Better known as "Shelvira Mistress of the Track," the coach of Tournament City Diversified's (TCDD) first junior roller derby team helped a handful of girls and boys learn the ins and outs of the sport last year, and it offers different lessons than most youth activities.
"It's quite empowering for them, they come in like 'I don't know if I can do this,'" she says. "Then the first time they do a little hit or get that full contact and see someone waver and go down, the biggest smile comes across their face.
"It's different for us to teach kids that, but at least we're teaching them in a positive manner, you can only hit this way and things like that. But it's different from other sports nowadays: you do win and you do lose in derby. It is full contact, you are going to fall down and you are going to cry and you are going to get back up again and you're going to go. The people who do tend to get through it become resilient and confident in themselves."
A year after launching their first junior derby team, TCDD is hoping to grow their squad, starting with a new intake next Friday (Jan. 11).
Last year's coed team had 10 skaters aged 12 to 17, a small roster by roller derby standards. It ended up being a learning season for most of the team, as they lost their only two games: a close one to Vancouver and a not-so-close one to Prince George.
But everyone involved returned this year and five more skaters tried out during their fall Fresh Meat. Now, Wright is hoping more youth will get involved during their winter session.
"It's one sport that I've noticed where girls and boys are going to work together equally and use our strengths together on the track," she says. "It's really cool to see that. When it comes down to leg strength, there's not a whole lot of difference, so it kind of equalizes the playing field and it's really interesting to see. We're teaching girls and boys to communicate at a young age, to work together, utilize each other and not segregate each other."Last year, when they first started the team, attracting new members was a bit of a challenge. But thanks to one member of the adult team that was a teacher, TCDD was able to run introductory lessons at a few local schools. They also received support from the City of Kamloops in growing their coed team.
Local roller derby has had some challenges in recent years, and with some of their members getting too old or too busy with outside life, it's good to have a young influx of talent coming up.
"It's better for the whole sport," Ken Baitz (who goes by Scoreman Baitz) assistant coach with the junior team. "Someone that's 18 years old, that's been playing the sport for four or five years and already knows everything is going to be more athletic and more capable. I'm pushing 40 and I just started the sport two years ago."
The roller derby intro course runs every Friday from Jan. 11 to March 15 at the Westsyde Neighbourhood Centre. The cost is $100 and all equipment (besides a helmet) is provided. If, at the end, skaters can pass a skills test (everyone who partook last year cleared it), they can join the competitive team in the summer.
Learn more about it in the City of Kamloops Winter Activity Guide, (course #295782).