Annapolis Valley roller derby league looking for ‘fresh meat’ to take to the track

Kirk Starratt kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca
Published on January 9, 2016

NEW MINAS - If you’re an adult in the Valley looking for a fun and physically challenging team sport, get ready to rumble – roller derby style.

The Riptide Rollers Association hosted a flat track roller derby open house at the Louis Millett Community Complex in New Minas Jan. 9. It was a chance to try roller-skating and derby gear, see a roller derby demonstration and register for the 12-week Learn to Skate program, which costs $75 and starts this month.

Head coach Kim Knight of Berwick, a.k.a. ‘Knockout Knight’, said they’re trying to recruit new members. As part of the league, they hope to have a travel team - the Valley Avengers - two recreational teams at opposite ends of the Valley to play regularly, a men’s or co-ed team and eventually a junior team.

“This is our big picture, so we’re just looking for people to help make that happen,” Knight said.

The inclusive league has one aspiring male competitor in the ‘fresh meat’ or Learn to Skate program and a male referee. All other current members are female. Including referees, the league has about 20 members ranging in age from 16 to 58.

“We’ll take anybody and we will train them, they don’t need to know how to skate,” Knight said. “People who don’t want to hit can always be a referee.”

She said they’ve taken people who haven’t skated before and had them competing within a year. Knight points out that competitors need insurance to be on the safe side, which costs $50 a year.

She said the Riptide Rollers started with six people skating in a school parking lot in Annapolis Royal and grew from there. There are three other leagues in the province, in the Halifax, New Glasgow and Cape Breton areas.

Knight said roller derby features two teams, each with a skater called a ‘jammer’. The skaters goes around an oval track, trying to get through the opposing team’s ‘pack’, a group of four blockers that can’t be further than 10 feet apart at any given time.

The physically intense sport includes body checking, similar to hockey. The pack tries to knock the opposing jammer down or out of bounds while helping their own jammer succeed.

“When they get through the pack, they score points for every person they pass,” Knight said.

She said she wasn’t really into other team sports but roller derby just “clicked” with her. She’s been involved with the association since its inception in 2011 and became head coach about six months later. She said she enjoys the physicality and there’s a great roller derby community in the Maritimes.

Knight said flat track roller derby can be held on any flat surface with room to set up a track – even outdoors - making this form of the sport much more accessible. They often use hockey rinks when the ice is out.

kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca

Training the ‘fresh meat’

Taylor Bissnette of Wolfville, 29, was among the newcomers at the New Minas open house. She said that, from what she’s seen, roller derby is one of the few sports for adults where new people who’ve never tried it before are encouraged to get involved.

“Derby is always talking about ‘fresh meat’ and bringing in new people,” Bissnette said. “It seemed like a place that you could start at completely nothing, like me.”

She said she appreciates the physicality and that’s part of the reason she’s joining. She thought it would be great to tone up while participating in a team sport.

“I haven’t really done sports since I was a kid,” Bissnette said.

She said it’s “a little tough” and she was surprised she hadn’t “wiped out yet” but was enjoying the instruction, including learning controlled falls to help prevent injury. Bissnette said she was surprised how soft the gear was and it felt like “falling on a mattress.”

“I’m sure at some point I’ll get thrown on my side or something and that’ll hurt but that’s part of it,” she said.

Click here to see a photo slideshow from the roller derby open house.

Did you know?

-       Another free Riptide Rollers open house for people 16 years old and up was scheduled for the Nova Scotia Community College Middleton Campus Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. Bring a mouth guard or purchase one there for $3.

-       Weekly practices will be held Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the NSCC Middleton Campus and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Louis Millett Community Complex in New Minas

-       For more information, visit www.riptiderollers.ca; visit the Riptide Rollers on Facebook or email riptide.rollers@gmail.com.

Riptide Rollers Association members Alisha “Ali-Krash” Matheson, referees Julie “Jewel of Denial” Lannon and Mark “Ringo Death Starr” Reid, Kirby “Kirb-Stomp” Schrader, roller derby open house participants Taylor Bissnette and Rebecca Mahaney, head coach Kim “Knockout” Knight, Megan “Meglormaniac” Ebert, Brianna “Brianna-Conda” Berlemont and Mary Jane “Go Time” Forrest.

©Kirk Starratt