Hitting the Rink With Flair

Esther with the Saint Louis Junior Derby team
Esther with the Saint Louis Junior Derby team

Esther with members of the St. Louis Junior Derby team

Imagine a group of tough skaters zooming past you in a gym. As they fly by, shouts echo everywhere. That’s what it’s like to watch the St. Louis Junior Derby team in action. The program offers kids a chance to participate in an exciting sport without intense pressure.

Roller derby was invented in the 1920s. But the sport faded from popularity until the early 2000s. Now it is on the rise again, with teams gaining fans in cities across the United States, including St. Louis, Missouri.

The sport is played with five skaters on each team: four “blockers” and one “jammer.” The jammer earns a point for each player he or she passes while skating a lap. Blockers try to stop the jammer from passing them. 

The St. Louis Junior Derby team, which was founded earlier this year, is an offshoot of the local women’s team. Players between the ages of 7 and 17 can participate in practices and competitions, which are called “bouts.” Skaters can also choose derby nicknames and dress up in costumes.

“We model the junior practice after the adult practice,” says Gabe Montsant, a junior derby coach whose roller derby name is Joan of Spark. “We warm up, break up into different groups, and work on skills.”



Roller derby offers many benefits, including a chance to get fit, build a sense of community, and gain confidence. “Roller derby isn’t just about the game,” says 13-year-old Maeve Wissinger, who is known as “Micromaeve” on the rink. “It’s also about the community,”

Chloe Smith, aka “Cyclone,” agrees. “It makes me feel amazing being around other people who love the same things as I do,” says Chloe, 8.

Another benefit to participating in the sport is cultivating new skills. “Roller derby helps me learn new things while having fun,” observes Kira Parsonsmentel (“Phoenix”), who is 9. 

Franky Haefner, 16, notices that she has become more self-confident since hitting the rink. “When you go onto the track with confidence,” she says, “you have a much better chance of succeeding. That’s something I’ll carry over into my daily life.”

Watch out for Franky. On the rink, she’s known as “Hermione Danger.”

Photo courtesy of the author