While junior roller derby is becoming well-established in the US, there are surprisingly few junior leagues in the UK. One of the first to launch is Tiger Bay Brawlers, open to girls and boys aged 11-16, and here we speak to one of the junior coaches, Edel.
Why did you start a Junior League?
Personally since I started to play roller derby I have always wanted to start a junior team. Roller derby I believe is one of the few sports which encourages people of all shapes and sizes to learn that their body and mind is valuable and powerful, they just need to understand how to use it. You don’t need to be a certain size you just need to work hard and give yourself a chance. If we can get young people to learn those lessons then just imagine what awesome people they will be in the future!
American junior leagues start at 5 years of age, they are training and nurturing their skaters because it will only benefit their teams in the future. Our coaches and captains are always encouraging us to look to American teams and footage to learn and develop our understanding of derby and if European teams want to compete on the same level as American teams then we need to not only look at their game play and strategies but how they run their leagues and train their players.
When did you decide to form a junior league?
Myself and Judge Redd discussed it one day at Rec League late last year. We then got researching and organising from there!
How long did it take to get off the ground?
It took about six/eight weeks to get from an idea to our first training session.
What difficulties did you face in starting up – safety requirements, venues etc?
All schools in Cardiff have lunchtime, after school and holiday sports clubs organised and supported by an organisation called 5×60. I am a secondary school teacher in St. Teilo’s High School. Loraine Rye is the 5×60 officer in my school and was very keen to start a junior roller derby club. Loraine and the 5×60 organisation gave us guidance and support from finding funding for a venue, CRB checks, coaching etc. They also provided us with support in gaining a suitable venue to train in which has proved a huge help to us. We also contacted the JRDA and UKRDA for advice on derby specific issues.
How many coaches do you have, and how did you decide who would coach?
We have four junior derby coaches. TBB head coach Judge Redd, TBB head ref Chaz Tizer, TBB freshmeat coach Hello Resshi and myself. When looking at who would coach we looked at people who were not only intetested but able to dedicate the time and energy to the team. We also have a large number of our adult skaters that come along to training and help support the juniors.
How did you spread the word?
5×60 and Loraine Rye were again a huge support when it came to promoting, they facilitated us with links to schools where we held assemblies (on skates!) and distributed posters. 5×60 are run by Cardiff Council and they sent photographers to our first session which were then published in the local paper.
Our PR team are a well oiled machine when it comes to such things and promoted junior training on twitter, tumblr and Facebook.
Do you treat the league as a seperate entity?
No, our juniors and their families are Brawlers. We actively encourage juniors and their families to volunteer at home bouts, they travel with us to away bouts, and even spend some Sundays cheering us on in closed door scrims/bouts! We are also looking towards training some parents and guardians to NSO and we have had some mums and dads attend our rec league. The juniors train before the vets and are welcome to stay behind to watch the adults train. This has helped them feel more a part of the league.
How did you prepare for your first training session?
Following advice given to us by the JRDA we planned and prepared for the session as we would an adult skater first session/intro to derby – falls, stance, stops etc. All of the coaches registered as Cardiff Council Volunteer coaches and Judge Redd has undertaken a coaching course. It is important to keep the sessions engaging and fun while keeping the content relevant.
Have you continued to recruit skaters since starting up?
We are always looking for more junior skaters and take up an opportunities that we can to encourage new skaters to join the team.
How many junior skaters do you have?
12/15 who attend weekly but we are always welcoming new skaters to join.
What do you cover in training?
Junior sessions are structured in a similar way to Vet or Freashmeat sessions. The only constrict that juniors have is we unfortunately can only train one hour a week at the moment so we have to pack a lot into that hour! Hopefully as the junior team grows we will be able to afford to train for longer.
What are your plans for the future?
As a team we are working towards holding our first junior bout in December 2012 and we are hoping to find some other junior team in the UK to scrimmage with before then. Even a group of three or four skaters from another team who could take part in a pick up scrim with our skaters is something we hope to achieve in the next three – four months. And as I already mentioned we would like to obtain more training time and encourage more skaters to join.
What have you learned from setting up and running a junior league?
Setting up the juniors has been a rewarding and challenging experience for me. On a weekly basis I am impressed by the dedication and focus of the skaters and how much they are willing to put in to training. These skaters are the Brawlers of the future and it is incredibly exciting to watch them grow and progress.
Thanks to Edel for the interview and the inspiration! For more information about Tiger Bay Brawlers and the juniors, check out their website.