It’s a lot of work being a Yukon Roller Girl.
There are two practices a week that keep you on your skates for a few hours at a time.
There are boot camps to organize and attend, funds to raise through skate-a-thons, bar nights and community sponsors. There are volunteers to wrangle and recruit, bouts to prepare for and compete in, travel to arrange.
Then there is junior derby (for girls 12-18) and Fresh Meat practices to coach (for women interested in trying out the sport).
And if you happen to be sidelined by injury, there is still work to be done as an official.
With all of this in mind, it is amazing to think that the Yukon Roller Girls have only existed for a little over a year. The ever-expanding group of rough and tough ladies has been giving its all to establish the sport of roller derby in the territory. And the hard work shows.
“When I called Roller Girl – the Vancouver-based supplier of our skating gear – to order gear for our junior league, they were in shock that we had funders for junior derby,” laughs junior league organizer Stephanie “Soup Mix” Hammond.
“Not even well-established leagues like Vancouver have that.”
Roller derby has undergone a serious resurgence over the last decade, with grassroots leagues sprouting up around the world.
The sport is actually rooted in the Great Depression and found itself with a huge following between the 1950s and 1970s when it was more akin to sports entertainment, like wrestling, than true sport.
This is certainly not the case in its current reincarnation.
The women who now speed around derby rinks need speed, stamina, the ability to take and give a hit, and nerves of steel.
They also need to have a sense of humour and the willingness to have a good time, traits that are openly expressed in their creative derby names and punk-inspired uniforms.
Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan, founder of the Texas Rollergirls and author of Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track, speaks about what is fuelling the resurgence, noting that Rollergirls seem to be startlingly similar everywhere.
“We’re women who grew up and found that working 40-plus hours a week … can be drudgery,” she writes.
“We’ve found that no one worth knowing is going to discriminate against us if we have tattoos or piercing or funny-colored hair. That we can have kids if we want to, but the get-married-have-children rule doesn’t necessarily need to apply.”
While many girls often dismiss sports as either a childhood battleground or the domain of “over-achieving, testosterone-drunk lunkheads,” Melicious notes, “We’ve learned that building muscle and working up a sweat feels really, really great.”
The Yukon Roller Girls seem to embody Melicious’ words and are excelling in the new reality they have created for themselves. The team recently returned from its first club-sanctioned bout in Edmonton, triumphing over the Oil City Derby Girls rookie team 187-127.
“We were feeling a bit nervous as we watched the Edmonton team step onto the track. They were a lot bigger than us,” says Ashley “Arctic Fox” Fisher.
“As the bout progressed though, we realized that our skill level was higher and that we had prepared really well for this first test.”
Not ones to sit on their laurels and bask for long in the light of their first success, the Yukon girls are already gearing up for their second bout – this time at home against a much more experienced team.
The Klondike Klash will be the first opportunity for Yukoners to see the girls in action. The event, which takes place September 10 at 7 pm at the Whitehorse Broomball Rink, will see the Yukon Roller Girls square off against the Fairbanks Rollergirls.
The league is sticking to its typical jam-packed schedule between now and this weekend’s bout.
Among other things, it recently held its first junior derby “boot camp” where young, up-and-coming derby stars had a chance to hone their skills and take part in their own bout.
The juniors will show off their newly-acquired skating chops during half-time at the Klondike Klash.
“We’ve come a long way in a little over 16 months,” says Arctic Fox.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the community for all the support they’ve given us and we’re really excited to share our sport with them in September.”
More information is available at www.yukonrollergirls.ca