Behind the scenes of junior roller derby

Mini-Tac playing for Jr. Foxtails Roller Derby, she is a jammer and just skated out of the pack.

Photo Credit: Micheal Wise

Mini-Tac playing for Jr. Foxtails Roller Derby, she is a jammer and just skated out of the pack.

The referee blows the fourth whistle and the action stops. The screeching of wheels halts as the final score flashes on the screen. The cheering of both teams and supporters erupts after the game ends. Most people have never even heard of the unique sport of roller derby that is played nationwide for kids and adults of any age. 

The first roller derby game took place on Aug. 13, 1935. The game was played at the Chicago Coliseum with around 20,000 people coming out to watch the game. 

Roller derby consists of two teams, each team typically has a roster of 15 players. It’s a contact sport where 12 people are on the track at the same time, six players from each team. Each team gets its own jammer which has to skate through the other team, meaning they have to hit the other players on the opposing team to get through. The opposing team is going to try to block the jammer to stop them from getting points. It is played on quad roller skates. 

 Once the jammer gets through the opposing team, the jammer has to skate around the rink until they reach the opposing team again and they have to skate past the opposing team’s hips to get the points. For example, the most points the jammer can get is four points but they can get more points if they skate around the track again. The blockers simultaneously defend by hindering the opposing jammer, while also playing offense by maneuvering to aid their own jammer. 

Each Jam is two-minutes long, and once the jam ends the next six people from each team skate onto the track. It’s a very fast-paced game. Games usually last an hour with the first half being 30 minutes, the halftime being 15 minutes, and the second half being 30 minutes; these include a series of two-minute timed jams.  

“People who are thinking of joining the derby should consider it and try it out. You meet so many people who are supportive and motivating, you create long-lasting friendships,” said Stephanie Bojorquez, the coach for the Jr. Foxtails roller derby team. “You learn to face your fears and overcome them. It’s a great outlet for people that just need to get out there and be around other people who can help empower their self-confidence.”

Bojorquez expressed how she loves being a coach and watching her skaters gain their confidence while also putting a smile on people’s faces.

The best part about being a coach for this sport is watching skaters progress on their skill and gain their confidence. Watching our skaters motivate their fellow teammates and the smile on their faces make it all worth it,” said Bojorquez.

The junior roller derby association (JRDA) started on Oct. 1, 2009. They organize the official derby games and decide the official regulations of the derby. They follow the rules of flat track derby. The JRDA website has sets of rules and regulations that derby games have to follow in order for them to be official. The JRDA has different games to decide what team will go to championships. They are sponsored by Triple eight, Apex City armbands, and 187 Killer Pads.

Teams that are located in Northern California in the JRDA include Jr. Foxtails Roller Derby, Rampage, Oceanside Outlaws, Los Anarchists, West Coast Junior Knockouts, SLOCO Roller Derby, and Santa Cruz Derby Groms. 

The female division playoffs are hosted by Santa Cruz Derby Groms on June 17-18, 2023. There are seven other playoffs around the country. The competing teams are Santa Cruz Derby Groms, Jr. Foxtails Roller Derby, Los Anarchists, Rose City Rollers, and the Pixies, also known as Spokane Roller Derby.

Other places that are hosting playoffs include Atlanta, Columbia, Denver, Des Moines, Philadelphia, Rochester, and Salt Lake City.

“I’ve been playing roller derby for six years,” said Alyssa Pecina, captain for the advanced team for Jr. Foxtails Roller Derby, also known as the Bandits. Pecina is a freshman at Henry J. Kaiser High School.

Pecina is also known as Hellcat by her teammates. In roller derby each new skater gets to choose a unique name and number to represent them.

“The best part of being part of a team is I can help others to be better, the commitment, and the teamwork,” said Pecina. “I think people should give roller derby a chance because it’s a mental workout to do, also if you love skating and hitting people down you will love this sport.”

Pecina encourages people to join the sport because it’s good mentally and if you love hitting and skating this is your sport. 

There were two main reasons why I joined, the first reason being, once I had read a graphic novel, entitled Roller Girl, about a young girl, who learned the importance of true friendship through roller derby,” said Riley Behney, also known as Jinkx, a skater for the Aces on Foxtails Jr. Derby. Behney goes to Mountain View Middle School. “The second reason is because growing up I had watched the movie Friday night frights practically obsessively, that movie is about the main cast of monster high school learning that women are equal in sports alongside men through roller derby.”

There are many different types of plays for offense, defense and jamming. Another role in derby that is very important is called the pivot. The pivot is one of the 4 blockers in a jam. They have a helmet cover with a stripe down the middle. The pivot is very important to the jammer because if the jammer gets tired or cannot get through the other team’s blockers, they will take off the jammer helmet cover and hand it to the pivot. They cannot throw it to the pivot and the pivot cannot take it off their helmet. 

The pass has to be very specific and has to follow all of the official rules, otherwise they will get a penalty. Once the jammer takes off the cover and passes it to the pivot the pivot will try and get through the blockers and if they do, while they are skating around the track they will put on the jammer helmet cover and take their place. 

Roller derby is very different from other sports, so it’s very confusing at first to learn. It has lots of penalties to make sure nobody gets extremely hurt playing the game. For example, if you use your forearm to push people, trip someone, use your head to hit people and more, you will go to the penalty box. The box holds you there for 30 seconds, after 30 seconds the skater is let go and they skate back onto the track. The skater will have to skate around the track and can only enter behind the rest of the skaters. If you get seven penalties you will be escorted out of the track and won’t be able to play for the rest of the game.

Another player on the advanced team is Katie Gonzalez. Known as Kat-Chmee as her roller derby name, she has been playing for six years. Gonzalez is a junior at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley. Gonzalez joined because she started roller skating at a young age and found a sport that involved it.

“My favorite part is being able to meet different types of people who share the same love for derby as I do,” said Gonzalez.