Roller Derby, a sport anyBODY can play

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In a world where many professional sports teams are driving the various codes toward becoming less inclusive, one sport has embraced the different genetic makeups we are born with.

Roller derby skaters, Primevil (Layla Robinson) and Cankle Biter (Zara Matthews), from Rotorua, New Zealand’s Sulphur City Steam Rollers (SCSR) have very different physiques, but each have attributes that make them assets to their league.

Matching her natural skating ability with strength and agility, Primevil is a great example of a roller derby blocker. In other sports, her physique and lifestyle wouldn’t ‘cut it’

“When we started SCSR in 2011, I hadn’t done any form of exercise since high school. I simply wasn’t interested in the sports that are popular here like netball, hockey, touch or basketball and felt that I wouldn’t fit in well even if I tried. But when I learned about roller derby and how inclusive it is, I knew it would be something I’d be passionate about and decent at due to having skated as a kid.

10636534_10153216363793496_2015220423576443663_o“I’ve overcome a lot of challenges both physically and mentally in the time I’ve skated. My fitness level still isn’t where it should be, and with limited skating facilities in our city I often struggle to get out on my skates to do extra training. I’ve also had a couple of injuries in the past year which has certainly slowed me down. But I make up for my comparatively poor fitness and dicky ankle with determination to skate hard and play hard and so far that’s working for me.

“On the track, I’m currently focusing on being a strong anchor for my teammates, as well as a good communicator and quick thinker. Thinking like an athlete in a team sport doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve found the strategy aspect of roller derby pretty hard to get my head around but with perseverance (and lots of derby video watching), it finally makes sense to me. It was worth the struggle because roller derby has saved me, it’s brought me back to life.”

When a new member joins SCSR as a Groupie, they take part in a 14-week training programme coached by Primevil and experienced skater, Nat Demon (Nat Calder). The programme starts  with covering the basics of skating including technique, stopping and falling safely. They then progress to more derby focused skills including transitions (turning on skates), hitting (targeting legal zones on opponents’ bodies) and endurance (skating 27 laps in five minutes).

IMG_3354cutout1Once they have completed the course, Groupies sit the Basic Skills Test set out by the international governing body of roller derby, Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). It is upon passing this test that they are then permitted to partake in scrimmage training which leads to trialing for a team and eventually their first game.

Cankle Biter’s background as a dancer specialising in ballet is a far cry from the sport of roller derby. She admits that it was a big change. As one of SCSR’s recently skills-tested skaters, Cankle Biter has faced challenges of her own but says that the support she received from other members of the league kept her going.

“Being part of this team is amazing! The derby girls are the most inspiring women you will ever meet and the team has become like a second family. Everyone is so supportive and empowering it makes it fun to train/exercise twice a week.

“In the beginning I was scared to join as it all looked so intense and I’d never roller skated before. But the coaches teach you the skills right from the basics and really encourage you along the way.

IMG_3334“Initially I found it tough to adapt to the technique that roller derby requires. Being able to get down low in ‘derby stance’ is the foundation for roller derby, but in ballet it was the opposite. It was all about lengthening up. But I am a head-strong person, so stuck with it and now being low comes naturally when I’m on skates.

“The hardest battle has come from within though, because I’m a perfectionist and it takes me a while to get confident enough to step outside my comfort zone. But being part of such a great team has enabled me to become so much stronger mentally and physically.

“A few times when confronted with the various challenges of training I doubted that I would be able to stick with derby, but I really fell in love with the sport and now want to keep improving my skills to be the best ‘derby me’ I can be. I also work on fitness outside of derby training by dancing once a week to keep my body toned, and with Zumba to help with cardio.

“One of my favourite things about derby is that everyone has something different they can bring to the sport. Not to mention, derby is the best fun you will ever have!”

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The Sulphur City Steam Rollers are always seeking new members for their Rotorua league. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Sheer determination puts skater back on track

Shan Grenade - Rotorua Roller Derby SkaterSHAN-GRENADE # 800M

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers​ are amped to announce that their resident unicorn skater SHAN-GRENADE will be playing her first game in 15 months on April 25th! Shan sustained a bad knee injury during SCSR’s first bout back in December 2013 and spent much of 2014 recuperating.

Shan is a food scientist by trade and is currently employed as a technical manager for a meat company. Along with working full-time and training hard, Shan is also mum to a three year old ‘mini-me’. With interests that include reading, music, making things, trail running and taxidermy (!), Shan’s spare time is limited but she spends every extra moment working for the Steam Rollers. As the current Chairperson and one of the league’s Coaches, Shan-Grenade is a huge asset to Rotorua’s roller derby league.

In 2012 SCSR performed a demonstration under the headlights of one of the skater’s vehicles during the Rotorua Fire & Ice Festival. Shan attended this demonstration and was hooked as she watched the skaters scrimmage on the uneven road surface.

“I was told I wasn’t big enough, tough enough or weird enough (whaaaat?) to play so of Roller Derby Wivescourse I had to show the doubters.”

Shan’s superhero-like determination kicked in and she proceeded to prove them wrong. Shan had a natural skating ability, incredible agility and speed and a never-quit attitude and was skills tested with flying colours in February 2013.

While SCSR were on somewhat of a hiatus during that year, Shan and her derby wife Princess Die played a full season with the Whakatane Roller Derby League with which SCSR has close ties. Shan loved her time with WRDL as a skater and felt privileged to have been a part of the league’s first season. Now that SCSR are back on track, all focus is on growing Rotorua’s league.

Shan and Die met through the Steam Rollers, and Die ‘proposed’ to Shan at the Roller Derby Nationals in 2013 when they were pool playing for WRDL. Die gifted Shan a handmade ring (thanks to McFeerce)… which Shan proceeded to lose a year later at a Nine Inch Nails / Queens of the Stone Age concert. But her lobster Die forgave her, as only a loyal wife would.

The Steam Rollers were devastated when Shan was injured in 2013, twisting her knee and tearing her ACL when getting hit out while jamming. Shan then sustained a second injury on the same knee in March 2014 with hyper-extension and an impact fracture.

New Zealand Roller DerbyMany skaters would have called it quits. The prognosis was a long and drawn out healing process with some doubt that Shan would be able to play again. But the doubt didn’t come from Shan-Grenade. She may have lost her ability to skate for a time, but she didn’t lose her die hard attitude. While injured, Shan continued to coach SCSR’s endurance sessions, attend boot camps off skates to take notes, help in fundraisers and remained active on the committee, Shan even benched SCSR’s 2014 games.

Having trained and competed in Tae Kwon Do in her past, Shan is a very disciplined person and set goals for healing and rehabilitation realising that it was either rest the injury or never skate again. Shan recommends cycling on a wind trainer while listening to music or pod casts and running.

“Once you’re back on skates you can deal with the derby fitness.”Skater Shan Grenade - Rotorua Roller Derby

Shan also purchased an amazing pair of custom Bonts as a goal, so she HAD to get better to be able to use them.

Shan believes that if you really want to stay involved in derby as a skater and rehabilitate you can.

“Keep a routine of being involved with your league and don’t let yourself get too isolated. And watch games on YouTube!”

Shan-Grenade participated in her first non-positional game play in March this year during the SCSR team
trials and is part of the SCSR Development Team due to play BCR Twisted Sisters on April 25
th 4pm at the Rodney Green Centennial Events Centre in Napier.

On the track, Shan-Grenade is a lethal weapon. Expect to see a strong blocker and nimble jammer who prefers to use her toe stops for running and juking. Shan is a reliable team player who other skaters look to for guidance and reassurance and SCSR can’t wait to get back on the track with their modern day super hero, SHAN-GRENADE #800M!

The Sulphur City Steam Rollers are always seeking new members for their Rotorua league. More information can be found on their Facebook page.