Video by Kaliegh Benck
Photos by Connor Brown
Coaches Virginia Gregory, “Cooter,” and Felicity Harris, “Butters,” instruct the junior skaters on how to line up according to their specific roles. A jammer is the only player on a team that can score points by lapping members of the opposite team. Blockers play both defense and offense simultaneously by attempting to block the other team’s jammer while assisting their own.
Coaches Virginia Gregory, “Cooter,” and Felicity Harris “Butters,” join in on the fun as the junior skaters try to break through the coaches in a derby form of red rover.
Coach Virginia Gregory, AKA “Cooter” skates with junior skater Cate Prikryl, AKA “Kit Kat,” during warm-ups. Prikryl, 9, has been skating since the age of 6, but wasn’t introduced to the sport until last year when she read the graphic novel, “Roller Girl” by Victoria Jamieson. “I was like, ‘well, I really like roller skating, so maybe I should just do it,’” Prikryl said.
The coaches brief the junior skaters on safety before a drill. Although players are required to have helmets, pads and wrist guards, mouth guards are also a necessity given the rough nature of the sport. But to some players, the rowdiness is the best part. “I like that you can knock people over and not get in trouble,” said Esme Kazzoun, 9, also known as “Miss Behaven.”
Junior skaters collide during a drill in which blockers (the defense) try to inhibit the jammer (offensive player) from scoring. During real games, or bouts, only ten players will be on the track at a time with five players from each team. Bouts are two periods of 30-minute games broken up into “jams” that last two minutes each.
Coach Felicity Harris, “Butters,” lines up skaters Ivy Shillington (right) and Emma Dixon (center) to demonstrate how close blockers should be to one another. Jammers will attempt to break the line of blockers in order to lap the opposing team for points.
The junior skaters and their coaches break after a three-hour practice.
Emma Dixon, 10, prepares to break the line of blockers as coach Jessica Foster shows her the best approach. Dixon is still working on her derby name, but for now, “Green Panther” will suffice. “I’m still working on my name. I’m thinking ‘Green Panther,’ but I don’t know yet.”
The junior skaters take a break as the coaches explain the next drill. While the junior league is currently on hiatus due to lack of practice space, Texas Rollergirls hosts free boot camps quarterly at Bartholomew Park in East Austin.
Jessica Foster, 27, AKA “Jurassica,” has been on skates since she was a child. “I was always on skates, always on wheels, always on a skateboard or rollerblades,” Foster said. “I think had the opportunity been provided for me, I would have started playing roller derby a lot younger. So I think it’s really important to provide that opportunity to kids here in Austin.”