Tomorrow’s Derby Girls: The GEJRDA

Derby Frontier hereby proclaims that the remainder of September shall be dedicated to the junior roller girls of the Canadian prairies! Other news will continue to pour in (and trust me when I say there is a LOT on the way) but the primary focus of the coming weeks will be to explore our junior roller derby community in order to fully understand its importance to this sport while simultaneously celebrating the often overlooked achievements of junior skaters.

So without further ado, our first stop on this journey is with the Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby Association (GEJRDA)!

“We Rock Therefore We Roll” The Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby Association circa 2012.

The GEJRDA has been in operation for 3 very successful seasons now and 2012 was no exception. Earlier this year the GEJRDA travelled to Calgary where they participated in two scrimmages at Flat Track Fever then picked up a big win in Saskatoon against the SJRDL in their June 9th Slam & Jam event which featured a Non-contact invitational scrimmage and a Full-contact invitational scrimmage followed by the GEJRDA vs SJRDL game. Additionally, just a few weeks ago they hosted a massive junior derby boot camp at which prolific skater and coach Betty Ford Galaxy, of Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls, instructed the young athletes. “It was a great experience,” said Galaxy of her time in Edmonton for the boot camp. “I am always humbled by the kids and their determination. It’s amazing to me to see how big junior derby has grown.”

“There are different skill levels in junior derby. They start non-contact and work their way up. Adult leagues would be smart to adopt this. Probably less injury.” – Betty Ford Galaxy.

The GEJRDA was also out and about in their community a lot this year. During the weeks leading up to their Queen for a Day bout on March 31st the GEJRDA skaters took pledges on behalf of the Healing Hearts Trust – an initiative set up to support the late Dorothy “Cheapshot Dot” Woods’ two children Liam and Katelyn. In the end they were able to raise a staggering $4000! They then took to the streets of Edmonton for the Capital EX Parade on July 19th where they were greeted by thousands of cheering locals and most recently, on August 23rd, they participated in the A&W Cruisin’ for a Cause event in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

GEJRDA skaters pose with The Great Root Bear during the 2012 A&W Cruisin’ for a Cause event in Edmonton, Alberta.

Needless to say, GEJRDA is doing very well but what exactly is junior derby and how does it fit into the greater derby community? On one hand, the answer to this is very simple: “Junior Roller Derby is the future,” says Michelle DeBay, aka Mama Mayhem, Media and Public Relations Director of the GEJRDA. “The people from the senior leagues that dedicate their time to help junior leagues love the sport and consider the juniors a very important part of its growth.” On the other hand, junior derby’s purpose reaches far beyond the sport itself as it helps young girls discover their identities during a very stressful, and often confusing, time in their lives.

DeBay got involved with junior derby nearly 3 years ago when her young daughter Morgan (who was 10 years old at the time) found herself mesmerized by Hollywood’s first big roller derby movie. “I watched the movie Whip It and the day after I told my mom I wanted to join,” said Morgan. Taking a cue from the movie she named herself Morgan Mayhem, a nod to Kristen Wiig’s character Maggie Mayhem. But unlike the screen character that inspired her name (who was a blocker in the film), once out on the track Morgan took more of a liking to jamming. “I am more a jammer so I love to jump the apex. I love grand slams and scrums and no pack situations at the first of the jam.” Overall, DeBay is simply thrilled that her daughter has found something that she can get so passionate about. “I am very proud of her involvement. She has found something that truly makes her happy and she dedicates herself to it fully.”  And of course, like any other derby girl, Morgan is rightfully proud of her involvement with the sport and is very vocal about her love for it all. “My friends and family think it’s cool that I am into such a cool and different sport then other kids my age,” Morgan explained. “I feel that I can do anything since I joined roller derby.”

“I would love to play for Team Canada when I am older and play for the best team in Canada. Or, when I am older, I would be up to learning how to do banked track.” – Morgan Mayhem.

It’s a sentiment that many of the other young skater’s share. “Roller derby changed me,” said Nicole Antosh, aka P.O’d Pippy, a member of GEJRDA’s Orange Crushers. “The coaches are so amazing; Trailer Trish was my first coach and she taught me everything I needed to know. Roller derby has made me who I am today.” Antosh has been playing derby for two and a half years now and strongly attests that her involvement with the sport was a catalyst to her boost in confidence as a young woman. “I don’t care what people think of me anymore because I know I’m tough [and] strong enough to handle things on my own. I know I’m beautiful; I don’t care if other people don’t think so.”

“I like that you can have rivalries with your best friends on the track but you can leave it on the track and continue on being friends.” – PO’d Pippy.

So where does junior roller derby go from here? For some, they would like to see it evolve into a slightly more professional entity, much like a few of the adult leagues are starting to do.  “I don’t want to say I would like it to be more mainstream per say because I do enjoy certain aspects of its colorful individuality but I would like people to realize that it is a real sport with phenomenal athletes and if that meant losing the derby names and fishnets I wouldn’t be opposed to that,” said DeBay. “I watch a lot of sports and I think Roller Derby is so engrossing and very competitive. Olympics in the future would certainly be a great reward for these young ladies that have poured their hearts and souls into it.” But not everyone feels losing the fishnets, fun derby names, and face paint is necessarily worth it. “[Junior Derby] is what I wish adult leagues [were] like. I started derby as a misfit. Not a sport athlete. I like to dress up and be showy. I also train hard and play fierce. I know the rules and strategy inside and out. I feel I see both sides and the kids do too,” said Betty Ford Galaxy. “Painting my face does not make me less of an athlete. Some adult leagues are leaning toward sporty outfits, real names, and no paint. That doesn’t sound as fun to me. I like both sides [and] I hope the juniors bring that back with them as they start to age out and go to adult leagues.”

The GEJRDA will next be holding a recruitment night for new skaters between tha ages of 7 and 17 from 11:00am to 1:00pm on Sunday, September 16th at The Grindhouse located at 11420 112 Street. If you have any questions bout joining please send them to lisademers@shaw.ca or ldemers@csinet.ca. To learn more about the GEJRDA visit www.gejrda.vpweb.ca or check out their Facebook page.

And don’t forget to check back here at Derby Frontier soon for TONS more junior derby coverage for leagues all over Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba!

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