Derby girls bring in high rollers

The Yukon Roller Girls are putting on a three-day boot camp this weekend with some of the sport's best. "The vision for the boot camp is really to give our whole league the ability to take the next step."

The Yukon Roller Girls are putting on a three-day boot camp this weekend with some of the sport’s best.

“The vision for the boot camp is really to give our whole league the ability to take the next step,” said Jennifer Duncomb, a coach and physiotherapist for the territory’s derby duchesses.

From Sept. 14 to 16, there will be clinics for all aspects of the sport, including training for referees and coaches, advanced skill training for skaters 19 and older and a focus on junior girls, aged 12 to 18, who are growing into the sport.

Some parents may be wary of sending their daughters to a sport that involves scruffy, skimpy costumes and rough play. But Duncomb, who’s been skating for more than six years, said the derby offers a “family feeling” that is a wonderful place for growing, young women.

“It gives them an opportunity to really express themselves and to be involved in a community that is accepting,” she said. “That’s really fantastic. I believe that sport for all kids can really benefit their whole life, for their social development and for their emotional development and communication skills, and all things that you wouldn’t necessarily think as something sport could provide. Roller derby is the same. Plus it’s fun.”

The tolerance extends to the older players as well.

The Yukon Roller Girls are not limited by age or sexual preference, said Duncomb. The league has young women in their early 20s, to women in their late 40s.

“We’ve got moms of three and four kids that come out and are competitive,” she said.

Heading into its second, full season, the local league is really trying to establish the derby as a credible, safe sport, said Duncomb.

For the first time, all participants will receive a preseason assessment to ensure they have safe equipment and to help them develop a better awareness of strength training.

“I understand there’s a concern from some people about getting hurt while playing derby and that may be a barrier for some,” said Duncomb. “I’m a physiotherapist and I’m really addressing the injury-prevention piece and the strength and stability training, alongside learning how to play the sport.”

Plus, derby is much more than just fun costumes and naughty nicknames.

With its first World Cup held last year, roller derby has spread internationally with countries like Germany, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Scotland, New Zealand, England, Sweden, France, Finland, the U.S. and Canada rolling in the rink.

“The fun names and costumes are a part of it, a big part of it, but it’s been taken to a whole new level of athleticism,” said Duncomb. “I encourage people who are interested in the social aspects – having fun, being able to be a free spirit, be whoever you want, call yourself whatever you want. But at the same time, there definitely is a group of people in Whitehorse and all over the world that have taken it to the point of wanting to make it an Olympic sport.”

The boot camp will help develop that culture, she added.

Spins and jukes, which are techniques to psych out your opposing players so they’ll move and you can pass them, are advanced moves that will be taught over the weekend, said Duncomb.

The visiting coaches include Lime, a roller strategist from Edmonton, Viv the Shiv, a referee from Edmonton, and Carmen Getsome, who has been a star of Seattle’s Rat City Rollergirls for years.

The Rat City league was one of the first in the sport and Getsome has now become an international star with her own roller company. She is coming to the Yukon fresh off a tour to Belgium and Australia, said Duncomb.

The boot camp is $60 and 48 skaters have already signed up, including eight from Alaska.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at