CRDA accepted into Women's Flat Track Derby Association
The Calgary Roller Derby Association was accepted into the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's apprentice program at the end of January, making them the only WFTDA league in Alberta.
"The teams at the WFTDA tournaments are the super high-level teams that we aspire to be," said Tania Martinez-Hepburn, who has skated with the CRDA for six years. "Those are the top-level players. They're amazing."
The WFTDA is the international governing body for women's flat track roller derby. It serves to bring member leagues together for tournaments and standardizes the rules and guidelines for the sport.
Joining the association is a big step for the Calgary association because it legitimizes their league and gives them the opportunity to increase their skill and raise their profile on an international level.
Becoming full members
The apprentice program is a stepping-stone to full membership. The WFTDA mentors apprentice leagues through the requirements to become full members.
According to the WFTDA's official website, the requirements include rules such as:
• being 51 per cent owned by league skaters
• governing with democratic principles
• having at least 14 skaters who are skating twice or more per week
Martinez-Hepburn, who skates under the derby name of Mamasita Muerte, said that because the CRDA has been an established league for six years, they have already met almost all of the requirements.
The only thing currently standing between them and full WFTDA membership is that they must host two games with member leagues.
She said that their goal is to do it within six months but it might take a year, depending on other member leagues and who they can get to come out to play.
She added that the nearest Canadian full-member league is the Terminal City Rollergirls in Vancouver, but co-ordinating matches can be difficult due to the distance.
This challenge is nothing new for the CRDA. As one of the first roller derby leagues in western Canada, they didn't have many other competitors when they began. Now that they've moved into the WFTDA's apprentice program, there are even fewer leagues at this level to play against. This puts them back in the situation of having trouble finding competition.
Raising the bar
Christianne Aussant, who is known as Sin-E-Star on the track, joined the CRDA in September when she moved to Calgary from Ontario. She used to skate for the Tri-City Roller Girls, who have been full WFTDA members for three years now.
"The new roller derby is absolutely 100 per cent a sport. It's not scripted, everything's real, we train three to four times per week, and we pay to play."
- Tania Martinez-Hepburn
"In terms of just skill level per skater, I would say that the CRDA is on par with other WFTDA leagues," Aussant said, adding that one area where the league was lacking was their cohesion and teamwork, but they have greatly improved over the last several months.
"When you start to play against much more competitive teams, you very quickly realize that you need all of your players on the track doing the same thing and you can no longer rely on the 'rock stars,'" Aussant said.
A real sport
The slogan on the WFTDA's website reads, "Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary." It directly addresses some of the many misconceptions people still have about roller derby, primarily that it is not a real sport.
Martinez-Hepburn said that back in the '70s and '80s, a lot of roller derby was scripted and staged. It was more entertainment than anything else. But, since the current revival began, things have changed.
"The new roller derby is absolutely 100 per cent a sport," Martinez-Hepburn said. "It's not scripted, everything's real, we train three to four times per week, and we pay to play.
"The girls who do this are 150 per cent committed to getting stronger, faster, hitting harder, and learning the game, because it's not an easy game to learn," she said. "There's a lot of strategy and skill involved in playing roller derby."
Aussant noted that roller derby is also an extremely physically demanding sport. It's important to the CRDA to make sure everyone gets proper training in the fundamentals so they don't get injured.
"People join and they just want to play games and hit girls and have fun, but very quickly they realize the level of fitness you need to do that, and to do it safely," Aussant said.
Despite the tremendous effort required to stay safe and build skill, roller derby is still a lot of fun.
"I love it," Martinez-Hepburn said. "It has consumed my life, but in a good way."
- By Rachael Frey