Junior roller derby team forms in ToledoWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo is a city that loves its hometown sports. Joining the Glass City’s professional and numerous amateur teams is the Frogtown Fallgirls, Toledo’s first ever junior roller derby team.
The team is set to host its first home game, or “bout,” on Dec. 14.
With its roots the 1930s, roller derby is a relatively young sport that grew out of the pushing and shoving among competitors in roller skating endurance races in the 1920s. By the late ’40s, it was popular enough to be televised, with the 1950 National Roller Derby League playoffs selling out Madison Square Garden. Over the last several decades, roller derby has become more of an underground and intramural sport, most popular among women.
Toledo Junior Roller Derby (TJRD), for whom the Fallgirls play, is a newly-formed nonprofit roller derby organization open to girls ages 10-17. The group welcomes girls who are new to the sport of roller derby as well as those with years of experience.
Shelby Clauson, TJRD’s president and founder, was eager to get her teenage daughters involved in roller derby after playing the sport herself for several years.
“We are the first and only flat track junior derby organization in Toledo,” she said. “We’re independent, which means our skaters have more freedom to form teams. We only have one team [the Fallgirls] right now, but we’re built for growth and hope to have as many as we can hold.”
Clauson and TJRD vice president Franc Bialecki began organizing a team in the spring and had their first practice in April.
“I have two girls on the team as well,” Bialecki said. “They got into skating, and I heard about the team starting. I took them to the first meet and greet, and I’ve been amazed at how well they’ve taken to it.”
Both Clauson and Bialecki serve as assistant coaches for the Fallgirls alongside the team’s head coach, Terryann Matney, a veteran of the Floral City Roller Girls of Monroe. TJRD is part of the Great Lakes region of the Junior Roller Derby Association and will play one bout per month against teams across the area.
The group has partnered with two organizations to give them space for practices and bouts, the International Boxing Club (IBC) in Oregon and a secondary location at Common Space II in Toledo.
“We needed a place big enough to set up a track, and IBC was a good fit. They have the room and share our values of discipline, working hard and getting kids off the streets with activities,” Clauson said. TJRD is also currently looking for sponsors for the Frogtown Fallgirls, whose mascot is “Fear the Frog,” for this and future seasons.
Roller derby can at times be a rough and tumble contact sport with points awarded each time a team’s “jammer” can skate past the moving wall of the other team’s players as they skate around the track. As a result, TJRD’s roller girls wear full protection — helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and wrist guards — and are not permitted to join the team until they can bring themselves to a stop and fall properly.
“Roller derby is fast and it’s fun,” Clauson said. “Our girls love it. This sport gives them the opportunity to meet like-minded friends, gain acceptance and a way to let out aggression. I’ve had parents explain to me that their kids had nothing to do when they were done with school sports. Roller derby is something they want to do all the time, and they can work on their skating skills at their local roller rink even when we’re not practicing.”
“Roller derby isn’t a sport, it’s a way of life,” Bialecki added. “There’s something electric about this sport that draws kids and parents in. It builds teamwork, sisterhood and good sportsmanship. We promote anti-bullying, which is a big issue for this age group. We also do things outside of practice as a team like go to the Mud Hens games and we recently took part in the Maumee Holiday Lights Parade. There is a strong culture here.”
As part of that culture, roller derby has a longstanding tradition where roller girls adopt a “derby name” as a rite of passage when they first join a team. This practice is doubly important for TJRD, as it both gives the players a sense of identity and pride as well as protects their anonymity as minors for sporting events and media coverage. The children of the Fallgirls’ coaching team have all created their own derby names for the track: Clauson’s girls are “Owl Getchu” and “Check Meow,” Bialecki’s are “Starry Skyes” and “Raine Storm” and Matney’s goes by “Poundcake.”
The Fallgirls, who currently have a roster of 17 girls, have a revolving enrollment, and Clauson and Bialecki said it is not too late to join for the 2013-14 season. Practices are held twice a week. Even boys, who scrimmage with the rest of the team and participate in bouts as referees, are welcome to join.
The Frogtown Fallgirls’ season opener will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 at IBC, 525 Earlwood Ave. in Oregon. General admission is $5 and children under 10 are free.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/ToledoJuniorRollerDerby.
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