Rolling to Success: Inside the World of Junior Derby

With an emphasis on inclusivity, leadership, and team building, Junior Roller Derby provides  young skaters with an opportunity to come together–regardless of skill level–and compete in a game that builds confidence and strengthens empowerment.

Junior Roller Derby is a full-contact sport that is played on roller skates. While it may seem intense, there are plenty of safety rules to keep everyone safe. Played on an oval track, two teams–consisting of up to five skaters–skate counterclockwise in short games called “jams.” The goal is to score more points than the other team by lapping opposing players. Jams are divided into two, 30-minute halves, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Red Stick Roller Derby Juniors in Baton Rouge is at the forefront of the game, bringing together competitors and personalities from all over the city to jam it out. To learn more about the game and how it’s growing in Baton Rouge, we talked with the coach and a few of the players.

Anna Lacey, Coach
Derby Name: Trash Panda
For someone completely new to Junior Derby, how would you describe the game in your own words? It’s very fast paced. If you’ve any experience with adult Derby, the kids are moving a lot more than that. They do things on the track that you’re not expecting. We had a kid the other day jump the apex* that’s never jumped at practice, and it’s really difficult to do, and they just did it. You can’t go into it thinking you know exactly what’s going to happen because they’re always going to turn around and do something you’re not expecting.
*Jumping the apex is a move where the skater cuts the inside of the track by jumping over it.

How did you start coaching Junior Derby? Whenever I graduated college, I moved back to Louisiana to teach, and one of my really good friends played roller derby. They got me involved in it, and then about a year into practicing and training, it was proposed to start a kids league, and so I was all over that. It was me and one other person who founded the league and really pushed for it to happen, because we both have this philosophy, if we had this when we were kids growing up, it would have been a lot different. We would have had a place where we could be weird and just be ourselves without having to mask that and try to fit in with what everybody else was doing.

What are your primary goals when coaching junior skaters? To empower them to be leaders and also be able to work with other people who have those leadership abilities, because you can lead all day, but when you get in a situation where you need to follow, you can’t always do that. Our goal is to have them know when to lead and when they need to follow the other leaders.

How do you see the future of Junior Roller Derby evolving? It’s definitely changing because we’re starting to see these junior skaters who’ve been playing for five, six years, aging up into the adult leagues, and it’s changing the gameplay. It’s making it go back to being a lot faster. I think Junior Derby in Louisiana is going to start to be something to be taken seriously. It’s getting to the point that Junior Derby kids that are aging out are choosing colleges based on which teams are near that college.

Jacquelyn E., Blocker and Pivot
Age: 16
Derby Name: Oscar the Ouch

How did you get involved with Junior Derby? When I was younger, I did figure skating, and whenever my family moved to Louisiana, there weren’t really any figure skating places open. So I started rollerblading. During COVID, I was like, what if I tried roller skating? That led to me finding the Derby team and joining.

What has been your favorite part? The team. We’re truly like a sisterhood; we’re like a family. Even the parents, I love the parents. Everyone’s so nice. Also, of course, just rollerskating is super fun.

What skills have you developed through playing? A lot of teamwork, because you really have to learn how to work with others and how to work around other people’s preferences in order to work together. Also a lot of cardio, a lot of leg strength. Being able to be resilient and getting hit down, but being able to get up and keep playing.

How would you describe your team as a whole? We spend so much time together outside of the game. We’re like a family. So many of us will give each other rides to games. A lot of our games are out of state, so parents are always taking other kids. It’s a really big, loving family, and you can tell them anything. It’s great.

What would you tell somebody who wants to try Junior Derby for the first time? It’s going to be hard. You’re going to be really sweaty and hot. Either you’re going to really love the sport or you’re going to really love the people, and one of those will be your reason to just keep going.

Anne E., Pivot
Age: 12
Derby Name: Eagle Eye

How did you get involved with Junior Derby? For my seventh birthday, we went to a skate rink, and that was the first time I skated. One of my mom’s best friends was a part of the league whenever the league first started, so I went and tried it out. I have been doing it ever since.

What has been your favorite part? Competing with the other teams and their personalities, too, and the hitting.

What skills have you developed through playing? Teamwork and leadership.

How would you describe your team as a whole? It’s like a family. We do so much for each other and just get along really well.

What would you tell somebody who wants to try Junior Derby for the first time? The people are like a family, and you’re going to fit in. It’s a very welcoming environment.

Jane W., Jammer and Blocker
Age: 12
Derby Name: JellyC

How did you choose your Derby Name? It’s a song I was really into, “jealousy, jealousy” by Olivia Rodrigo, and I just don’t like jellyfish.

What inspired you to start Junior Derby? A few friends at my school were playing, and I heard about it from them. I decided to try it out during the summer camp, and I really liked it, so I decided to join the league.

What have you learned about yourself? I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was.

How do you prepare for a bout? We usually scrimmage as teams, but nobody keeps score really because it’s just for practice.

What do you love the most about playing Junior Derby? Making friends because it’s like any other sport and you get to meet new people.

If your kiddos are looking to get involved with Junior Derby or simply try something new, Red Stick Roller Derby Juniors offers rolling admission, allowing kiddos to roll into the fun whenever they’re ready.

This article was originally published in July 2024.

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