Roller derby camp shows how it's done
Jim Scolman photo
Participants in a roller derby camp at the Everett Skate Deck learn how to set up a “blocking wall” as part of the camp lessons. In pink tights is 10-year-old Evie Newton, aka “Roller Queen,” from Woodinville.
EVERETT — Skurrchh.
A gravelly sound similar to a squeegee on glass echoed throughout the rink. It mixed with the clacking noise of skates touching down in rapid succession to provide a soundtrack during the recent summer roller derby camp held at the Everett Skate Deck.
This summer was the first year the Skate Deck put on a roller derby camp. A total of 25 skaters between the ages of 5 to 18 were grouped by skill level to learn and refine some of the foundations of the sport.
Roller skating is in Cory Acklus’ blood. Acklus and two of his siblings are now the third generation of his family to operate the roller rink in Silver Lake, which was built in 1976. “Grandpa made kind of a bold move to build out here. There was nothing around here at that point and we have been going strong for 43 years now,” he said.
He began skating at age 2, and as a grade schooler he began “tagging along to help out in the skate room and pretending I was floor guard,” he said.
He got into roller derby in 2008, under the moniker Cory Pain, saying that the contact nature of the sport along with the challenge of playing both offense and defense at the same time hooked him.
Acklus said he didn’t plan on starting a junior program, but six years ago there was a girl that was really “stoked” about starting a team so he helped set it up. The kids picked the name the Mob City Misfits and began to practice and play at the Skate Deck.
He said she moved away the next year but, “we had probably about 20 kids, I just couldn’t stop.” Last year there were 88 skaters in the youth co-ed program, consisting of three different levels based on skills — not age.
Niki Desautels, whose derby name is Eva Derci, used to spend Fridays afterschool at the Skate Deck growing up.
She now plays for the Everett women’s Jet City Roller Derby team, helps coach the Mob City Misfits and helped instruct at the camp.
She said that with the intermediate skaters it was about pushing them a little more with advanced footwork, skating and transitions.
“Actually learning how (to) move my feet so that I don’t step on other people, trip or get caught on other people’s wheels, so I can kind of move around in this chaos of eight people, is a really big thing for them,” Desautels said.
At the camp, classes for beginning skaters focused on getting comfortable with balance and stopping.
The derbier “Ice Break-her” (who is 11-years-old and asked to only be identified by her derby name) attended the intermediate sessions with her sister. The camp helped to polish her existing skills while adding on to them.
What’s tough? “Definitely turn around toe stops and then transitions (turning from forward to backward while skating). I have really been focusing on that since the beginning of camp,” she said.
She said the transitions are helpful to blocking so that she can turn around to locate the jammer (the skater attempting to score points by lapping members of the opposing team) and then turn back around and get ready to move in the way of where the jammer is going to go through the pack.
Desautels said intermediate skaters also started to focus on more of the aspects and strategies for the teamwork and proximity necessary to form a wall of blockers. “To be like, ‘OK if I get separated from my teammates where’s the best place to plug back in and get back into the thick of it’,” she said.
Calvin Newman, 8, goes by the derby name C Monster and played on the program’s Level I team, called the Goons, last year. He said that his favorite position is being the jammer trying to get past the blockers and score
“because I prefer going as fast as I can.”
Calvin said he really liked a drill that helped with jammer skills, called the “Worm,” that involved skating in a line with the person in back weaving up through the line of other skaters.
The camp which had three-hour sessions from Aug. 25-27 drew attendees from all over the area.
Zach Bytnar, 15, whose derby name is Zach Attack, traveled with his sister and several other members of a derby team from Lynden, Washington. He said that even though he’s a Level III skater in his league, the camp was good for working on a lot of his footwork and technique in addition to serving as a good warm-up for the upcoming season.
The camp had a family-friendly atmosphere and several participants have parents who also used to skate in roller derby. A lot of the coaches and helpers were current skaters for the Level III Misfits team or had aged out of the program after turning 18.
The team has loaner gear; some was donated from players who outgrew their gear.
Acklus said, “We couldn’t do it without the help of kids that have aged out and parents, and a lot of these coaches from Jet City who come here that have really stepped it up,” Acklus said. “It’s a very good community.”
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