I’ve always been fond of catching two birds with one stone (not literally, thank you).
Part of running a junior roller derby organization is certainly to teach the youths the skills they need to play the sport, but also to learn the rules and LOVE the sport. This is why we encourage them to watch derby. Catch local games, for sure, but maybe instead of watching an episode of a show they’ve seen before, check out a bout on YouTube or on the WFTDA archives.
It can be a struggle, particularly with the younger ones, many of whom are just happy to be on wheels.
Another thing that can be a struggle and is something I try to avoid is letting the skaters pick their own group to work out. Working with people having a variety of skills can sometimes be a great learning experience, particularly in juniors where some leagues allow skilled players to “play down” a level. When they pick their own group, there tends to be someone who gets left out or disappointed. Practice should be a happy time in their week.
So when we have a drill or activity that requires two or more groups, I ask the skaters to “name two (or more, depending on what I need) great roller derby athletes.” This requires the youths to actually watch – or at least research – derby. Then I go around and tap each helmet and say, “Team Librawlian, Team Konky (that’s a local fan-favourite), Team Librawlian, Team Konky.”
Of course, our skaters have caught on to some loopholes and I’ve had to add to the direction with “…two great roller derby athletes that aren’t in this room and aren’t related to you.”
It’s been four years since I started our junior roller derby team in southwestern Ontario, Canada. What most people don’t know is that it took me a whole year of research prior to the first time I put that whistle around my neck. No, I’m not slow. I’m just thorough.
I’ve always felt that successful junior leagues are run not like adult derby leagues but more similarly to other children’s sport organizations. It took me a year because coaching junior derby meant I was going to be responsible for someone else’s baby…while she is on wheels!
I had played and trained adult derby for years before but my daughter really wanted to play herself. I felt that if she and a couple of her friends were interested, surely there were more kids like her. So I began – yes, for a year – looking online as well as emailing and phoning junior coaches near and far for advice, for administrative tips, and kid-friendly drills and games.
Most of what I found online was a ton of stuff specifically geared toward adult derby. Sure, sanitizing the name of some drills is an easy fix, but sometimes searching for novel ways to teach level 1 skills in an entertaining way has been tough. And what to do about those sticky situations you can find yourself in when you’re looking after a big group of kids?
Today, I’m part of a training committee that helps approximately 50 registered girls in our league, aged 9 to 17, learn about the amazing and empowering sport of roller derby. We’ve been through a bit, so if you’re new to junior derby training or hit a plateau or just want to see what our experience is like, come on in. Do I have a story to tell you!