Rossland’s first ever “freshmeat” on May 29 at the Rossland Arena aims to pump up the brand new West Kootenay Junior Roller Derby League (WKJRDL) with girls aged 5 to 18 who want to get in on the action.
“Even if they don’t even have their equipment now, I’d love for them and their parents to come check it out and see what it’s all about,” said Krystal Stevenson, the Slocan farmer who started the league in January. “There’s a few misconceptions about derby, so this is so we can meet the parents and they can meet us.”
If the girls have them, skates, a helmet, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouthguard should be brought along, but they’re not essential for this afternoon of introduction and orientation. Incidentally, RossVegas now offers a full line of derby gear.
The WKJRDL was started with a single team of 12 girls from Nelson and Slocan, but now they’re looking for kids in the broader region, any girls “interested in becoming part of one of the fastest growing sports.”
It doesn’t matter what level of fitness or experience prospective derby girls may have, Stevenson says, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are, “we’ll teach you how to skate and how to have fun.”
So far, the junior derby team’s been “a really good sisterhood,” Stevenson said. “The girls adore each other and encourage each other. It’s changed a lot of their lives, empowered them.”
Stevenson’s daughter Hope (a.k.a. Pretty Young Terror) is just one example, a 15-year-old artist and a welder who’s never been involved in any sport before, individual or team.
“She’s into this 150 per cent, and one of my best skaters,” Stevenson said.
“I love it, it totally changed everything I do,” Hope said. “It changes the way you feel about yourself, it gives you a lot more confidence, makes you feel like you can do anything.” So much so that Hope went on to say she feels like she can “conquer the world!”
“I’d never roller skated in my life, never even been into sports, but it was really fun,” she said. “I picked up the skates and went for it — you have to be fearless I guess, you can’t be afraid of the fall.”
The social scene has been a welcome change of pace too.
“You make new friends with people you would never expect to hang out with,” Hope said. “We’re all really good friends, we all work really well, skating hard and playing games.”
But Hope and the other girls want to play more games, with more girls. At the moment, the “closest sisters” are the Lilac City Pixies in Spokane, Wash.
“We want to get so many more young women involved so we don’t have to travel all the way out there, or Edmonton,” Stevenson said. “We want enough girls for two or three teams so we can play right here in the Kootenays.”
Having the country’s largest derby league, including a newly minted team in Trail, should feed the junior derby too.
“We’ve been to all the bouts so far,” Hope said, “It makes me want to skate so much! There’s lots that you pick up and some of the moves you see in there, you’re like, Yeah! It definitely helps to see them play.”
“The women are so amazing with us, so supportive,” said Stevenson, who paused her plans to join the Slocan team to put her time instead towards coaching the junior derby.
Stevenson was especially pleased with the support she’s had from Hoar Frost, the Salmo jammer who started the women’s league and is now president, and is also one of the five directors on the new WKJRDL board. “She’s an amazing woman,” Stevenson said.
Slammeron Diaz of Rossland’s Gnarlie’s Angels is also on the board, along with Stevenson, her husband, and her brother.
Hope and her mother will be running a table at the May 28 bout in Nelson, and the next day’s freshmeat will be followed on June 5 with a freshmeat in Salmo, “but we’re not going to close it off,” Stevenson assured prospective skaters.
“People can call me anytime, and we’ll do a freshmeat again in three or four months, and then again after that as interest builds in the kids and the word gets out there.”
For more information on Rossland’s junior derby freshmeat, from noon to 2 p.m. on May 29 at the Rossland Arena, contact Stevenson at 250-355-2265.