Over the last year, the Yukon Roller Girls roller derby crew has acquired practice areas, made contact with other leagues and teams, and has grown from a few to, at one point, about 70 registered members.
Still, they are looking for more.
To boost numbers, the Roller Girls are designating one of their three weekly practices to welcoming and training those new to the sport, or “fresh meat,” which is the name of the weekly practice.
“Fresh Meat is where new skaters or beginner skaters come to develop their skills and get better and more confident,” said Roller Girls spokesperson Shannon Pearson. “They get tested on basic skill requirements so they can step up to the next level in which they can do some bumping and whatnot.
“At each stage of development they can do some testing so they can gauge themselves, see where they’re at, and see where they have to be if they want to play the game.”
There are minimum standards to participate.
Knowing that women might not want to make a large investment in equipment – about $300 for a pad-and-skate package – without first trying the sport, the Roller Girls will even try to lend some to those who are interested. If a derby bug is planted, newbs can then work to advance their skills, pass endurance and skating tests and a bunch of others to get certified to compete when the time comes.
“Once you reach a certain level, and you’re safe enough and capable enough to keep up with the big girls, you can start scrimmaging and doing some bouting,” said Pearson.
“At some larger (city) centres, where they have a lot of people, they use these skill tests to actually weed out people who are too beginner. Up here, being an all-inclusive group – and we want to keep it that way – we don’t have the volume of people so we don’t have to cut people out, we do skill tests to help people develop.”
While Fresh Meat will build towards the future, the Roller Girls are furthering skills now thanks to some new blood.
Over the last few months the Roller Girls have picked up some experienced derbyists, with two coming up from Prince George, where they played on a team, and another from Victoria who has played on teams across Canada and in the US.
“Between the three of them, we just bumped up our skill level and our ability to look at bouting a lot sooner,” said Pearson. “We’re apparently a lot better than we thought we were. It’s really infused more enthusiasm into the group.”
The Fresh Meat sessions are taking place Thursday evenings at Ecole Emilie-Tremblay, a suitable location. Although not large enough gymnasium to outline a full-size track, the floor has a rubber surface, not great for advanced skaters because it creates drag, but perfect for beginners, both cushioning falls and slowing the skates a little.
“It’s tougher to skate on, but it’s also not as fast and scary for people who are still a little new on their feet – their feet don’t slide out from underneath them,” said Pearson. “It’s hard to skate on, but you can’t skate on it unless you have the proper form. It’s actually a good thing.”
The Roller Girls organization started getting off the ground about a year ago, first practicing at the Canada Games Centre before moving to the broomball rink in Takhini during the summer. They have the long-term goals of establishing a local roller derby league and a developing representative team to travel to Outside bouts.
For more information, check out the Yukon Roller Girls’ Facebook page.
“We’ve progressed quite a lot over the last few months,” said Pearson. “So now we will have two distinct levels.
“It’s inclusive to everybody,” she added. “Unlike other places, everyone who wants to skate, regardless of their skill level, can come out and skate. In a lot of places, you have to know these skills before they’ll even let you test.”
Contact Tom Patrick at