Get your skates on for the roller derby revolution with Stamford and Peterborough club at Borderville Sports Centre
For those tired of mainstream sport, a high-octane alternative is available in Stamford, perfect for those looking for a new sporting kick.
Jonathan Emery launched Stamford and Peterborough Junior Roller Derby in January 2018 and is on the lookout for new converts.
He believes the club, which is open to anyone aged seven to 17, is perfect for skaters after something different to the roller disco.
And even novices who’d like to learn the art of skating.
“Once you’ve been to the roller disco a few times you’re a bit stuck,” Jonathan said.
“That’s how it started for me.”
Roller derby is a fast-paced full-contact and highly physical sport, yet it is also remarkably inclusive.
It is one of the few mixed team sports where girls and boys can compete together and against each other.
“Boys and girls can play in the same team, and in my experience girls hit harder than the boys,” added Jonathan who coaches alongside Adam Brett, Sharon Holmes, Maria Taylor, Tania De La Porte and Ellie Bland.
“We also have a non-binary child within the team.
“Adult roller derby is a forerunner of gender and trans rights in sport and that has filtered down to the junior game.
“It doesn’t matter what gender you are or what body size you are, there’s a place for everyone.
“I have tried to make it as inclusive as I can.”
In junior roller derby, games are made up of two teams of five players, containing four blockers and a jammer.
The jammer’s job is to get past the blockers and if they can manage to dodge their unwanted attentions, they earn a point, ‘a bit like British Bulldogs’ explained Jonathan.
To the uninitiated, the sport has a reputation for no-holds-barred rough and tumble.
It is sometimes confused with film Rollerball, about a futuristic and fictional ultra-violent sport which gives the sci-fi movie its title.
The reality is much, much different.
While the action can take place at speeds of 15mph to 20mph, the sport is a stickler for safety and player welfare.
Players must also pass a rules test and work through a series of of skill sheets before they are allowed to play competitively.
“There are lots of rules,” said Jonathan, also a qualified referee.
“You can’t use your hands or feet to stop people, you must use your hips and shoulders.
“And you can’t punch like in the films.
“It’s a bit like rugby where it’s a physical game, but safety is paramount and it’s managed in a safe way.
“A lot of people see full-contact sport and worry, but it’s more about the skating.”
Jonathan, from Stamford, competes at a high level himself with Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder, having taken up the sport five years ago.
The Lincoln-based senior team were ranked third in the country and ninth in the world before the pandemic slowed their momentum.
“We played a tournament in Birmingham in March, just before the shutdown, and were planning a trip to America as part of a championship there, but unfortunately it had to be canned.”
Covid also put Jonathan’s junior club on hold, but after returning to action in May, numbers are back on the up, with five new recruits joining the ranks.
The next in the club’s development is to set up a Stamford team and get them regular competition.
“There were plans for a league last year across the country which fell through because of the pandemic.
“But hopefully it will happen next year and we’ll be able to enter a team.”
Yet aside from results and league tables, Jonathan believes the club is as much about developing character and human values as it is about skills.
“We create a supportive environment of strategy and teamwork,” he added.
“We provide young people with an opportunity to build trust, a healthy sense of competitiveness and athletic strength.
“It’s also about building friendships and respect for themselves and others, on and off the track.”
Weekly training takes place at the Borderville Sports Centre, in Ryhall Road, on Wednesdays during school term time from 6pm to 7pm.
All skates and equipment are provided.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.spjrd.co.uk or the Stamford and Peterborough Junior Roller Derby Facebook page for more information.