Junior roller derby

Photo by Charlotte Lake

What is roller derby?

Roller derby is a fast-paced, full contact team sport played on roller skates. Over two 30-minute periods, two teams of five players compete in a series of two minute jams, in which the jammer from each team attempts to score points while the blockers assist their jammer and try to thwart the opposition. The jammer scores points by skating through the pack and gaining one point for each opposing team member she passes per lap.  Junior derby is a modified version of the adult game special developed for adolescents.   (Please Levels of Game Play & Skater Levels for more information

Who can play junior roller derby?

It’s very much a sport for everyone! You don’t have to have been a ‘sporty’ type before joining, you just need the desire to learn derby  (and have the confidence to stand up and move forward on skates, or be willing to put some of your own time in between sessions to learn).

At Sheffield Steel Junior Rollers (SSJR)  we’ve made it our mission to change the widely held idea of what an athlete is and who can take part in sport. We know no one is born with skates on their feet (but you’re welcome to prove us wrong). So like walking, running or jumping, skatIng, like roller derby itself is a skill anyone can learn.

Whether you’re 8 or 17 or any age in between, you shouldn’t ever worry that you aren’t fit enough/athletic enough/strong enough, because the beauty of roller derby is that there is a role for every body shape, including yours! We have skaters from a variety of fitness backgrounds – rugby players, ballerinas, the sport-averse – and they can all kick some serious butt. Skating for 60 minutes once a week is  great way to have fun,  get your heart pumping and meet awesome young people like yourself. So even if you haven’t done anything physical in ages, you’ll be surprised how quickly your body will adapt.

Is it for boys as well as girls?

There are some leagues within the junior derby world which only take girls, but at Sheffield Steel Junior Rollers (SSJR) it’s an activity for pre-teens and teenagers of any gender who are seriously into having a great time on skates.  We don’t exclude anyone based on their gender identity.

Why play junior roller derby?

Youngster come to roller derby for different reasons, confidence, a way of making friends, a chance of doing fun stuff with friends, because it looks awesome, because it’s alternative, because your big sister, big brother,  mum or friend’s dad does it, but ultimately you stay for the same reasons, and that’s because it’s so much fun!  Come on, who doesn’t like throwing on a pair of skates and getting your derby on.

How popular is junior roller derby in the UK?

Although roller derby, like its adult version, is still a non-traditional sport (it’s generally not a choice in school PE sessions in the same  way  hockey, rounders,  football, netball, rugby is), roller derby has grown both in popularity and profile, especially in Europe over the last few years. Similarly, unlike other sports where there’s say Football and Women’s Football, or Basketball and Women’s basketball, in roller derby, there’s Roller Derby and Men’s roller derby, meaning it’s actually the women’s league that has all the attention as the mainstream event. That’s not to say we don’t think boys or men are important, because we don’t, it’s just nice to have strong positive female role models leading the way in a sport.

Junior Roller Derby, like its adult counterpart, is growing in popularity as a result of its inclusiveness and acceptance of the difference that youngsters coming to the sport exhibit.  Our members are as varied as the skates that they wear.

At Sheffield Steel Junior Rollers, like our big sister Sheffield Steel Rollergirls are very much body champions and we don’t discriminate on inclusion. Roller derby is so much more than a sport, it’s a community!  So come on jump aboard the roller derby band wagon.  It’s a revolution train bound for change and it’s definition calling at your station.

Do the Sheffield Steel Juniors play other UK teams? Is there a UK junior league?

At the time of publishing this article  we are just over one month old  and on the eve of our third session of six on our first six week course (following our successful  3 free tasters sessions in celebration of our launch on Sunday January 17th 2016) .   We very much wish to develop a bouting team, when we are ready as a league, and will support any junior roller to play in bouts (a roller derby game, made up of lots of 2-minutes (or less) jams) with another league until we develop our own in house capabilities. There is a growing UK pool of junior leagues and we can’t wait to join them in bouts.

Are the rules the same as for adult roller derby?

Junior derby has slightly different rules and regulations for games:  at junior level, unlike its adult equivalent, there is no intentional contact. So a junior player can push or touch another skater, but may not initiate the contact or deliberately hit or make contact with another player. Any intentional contact will incur a penalty. Other changes may be made according to the league in non-regulation games on an individual basis as required to allow for skater safety, ability, and endurance. For example, beginning skaters may play two 15-minute periods instead of the regulation 30-minute periods, allow extra players on a team roster, or allow 60 seconds between jams instead of 30.

Our intention is to find the best approach which allows the best opportunity for our juniors to compete at an appropriate level and that balances  safety and the needs and abilities of our team.

 

Do the players have special junior roller derby names?

Now this a tradition that our juniors are eager to adopt and we love it. It feeds into our juniors sense of self, personal identity and creative expression and we’re definitely all for that.

How can children get into junior roller derby?

Involvement with a league varies according to the location and league. For SSJR we have an open admission policy for our six week courses.   Parent’s can find out more information the training programme,  how to book and pay for their preteens and teenagers via our our Join us page

Each six weeks focuses on a set of skills important to junior roller derby.  Junior’s progress at their own speed.  Similarly  because of high participant to  instructor ratio we’re able to operate a varied level teaching approach to a mixed ability sessions, meaning that we are able to always tailor the level of difficulty to be level appropriate both aiding and  challenging their current level.

At  the  time of writing we just found out we’ve been successful in securing Sportivate funding to provide additional support to inactive youngsters aged 11- 17. So if you’re  within commutable distance to South Yorkshire get your parents or carers to keep an eye on our website, Facebook and Twitter  for announcements to find out whether you are eligible receive a little extra support to get you involved in sport.

Eventually as numbers grow we will have several levels specific sessions for Juniors to book into with progression from level 1 to 3.  Once our juniors pass our minimum skills (this is like a driver’s licence for junior derby to say you have reached the minimum standard of skills required for participation), you will be eligible to take place in a bouts with other teams.

What will a junior learn on the Junior Derby Training Programme? 

Running for six consecutive weeks from, 9:30 – 10.30pm at Springs Leisure Centre, the weekly session will take attendees through a level  appropriate Junior Roller Derby Training programme according to your pre-teen’s and or teenager’s ability. Junior rollers who are new to roller derby will  learn the fundamentals minimum skills needed to participate in roller derby.  More experienced juniors  will learn skills to hone your craft as a roller derby player  order to advance (when ready) to the next level in Junior Roller Derby Training Programme.

Why play roller derby?

“I really like it because of the sense of community you get from it. Also it’s different to other team sports – my experience with other team sports is they don’t seem as inclusive if you haven’t got a natural talent or previous experience of it. With derby everyone is so inclusive, you can start without any experience and everyone is so welcoming and supportive. Other people should try it because it’s something different and it’s so much fun, and you get so much out of it as well as a new skill.” – Minnie Me, aged 17

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