In the second of our interviews on the current and future state of junior roller derby in the UK, we spoke to Debz "Dread Alert" McDowall of the Doonhame Derby Dolls, currently in the process of setting up a junior league.
What was behind your decision to set up a junior league?
As a Youth & Community worker I could see the massive benefit that derby could bring to the life of young women, in terms of self esteem, empowerment, health and wellbeing.
This is the actually the original reason I got involved in helping establish the Doonhame Derby Dolls.
Who is your league aimed at? Gender, age group etc?
League is still in its embryonic stages - we have been delivering in one of our local high schools (Maxwelltown High School) since August 2014 as part of their curriculum, targetted at the Senior Girls PE sessions which are 16-17yrs old. We aim to kick start our generic (out of school) juniors in the new year and we will be working with mainly young women / girls aged 11-17 (split into Under 13s, and then 13-17yrs). We will keep our minds open to co-ed but our focus will be on young women.
What obstacles have you faced in setting up your league?
Our biggest obstacle has been getting insurance, it is super expensive given that they see Derby as an extreme sport and add to that the fact we are working with under 18s, and it makes it an expensive insurance quote, even if you can actually get someone to consider insuring it. Given that we are all volunteers and need insurance as individuals it makes it costly for us as coaches / youth workers to cover this personally, as although we are working hand in hand with the Doonhame Derby Dolls the juniors side of things is being run separately so doesnt fall under their insurance.
Have you received much support from your local community and the derby community?
We have received tonnes of support from our local community (especially from the derby community ie local derby mums who are loving getting the chance to share some physical activity and an obsession with their daughters), we have sooo many people desperate to send their kids along once we get launched, we have had amazing support from the local Community Sport Hub Development Officer, and Active Schools Co-ordinators, and indeed from Maxwelltown High School who were eager and willing to pilot our project, and other schools are lining up locally for us to roll it out across their Senior Girls aswell now that they have seen the success of it for working with young women who dont normally participate in physical activities.
Did you do any research into interest in junior derby?
Yes, I researched the physical and mental health and the generic wellbeing outcomes for derby, and applied that to a youth work setting.
I also researched what other leagues were out there, and the way that other junior derby clubs run with regards to health and safety etc.
We posted out via our social media, and consulted with young women we knew to gauge interest.
Are you affiliated to any groups/organisations, either derby related or otherwise?
We are affiliated with our league (Doonhame Derby Dolls) who are in the process of being affiliated with UKRDA. And the local Sports Hub.
What is your overall aim for your league?
To increase the health and wellbeing, self esteem / confidence, empowerment and sense of community/belonging for local young women.
Provide a supportive and safe space for these young women as they develop into adulthood.
Where would you like to be in a year, and in 5 years?
In One Year: We would like to be running a weekly out of school session for 10-13year olds, another weekly session for 13-18 year olds, and running at least one session per week as part of one of our local schools' curriculum.
Be well established, well attended, have well informed adult volunteers who are skilled and confident in their youth work as well as their derby, and be having a great time with our juniors.
In 5 years time: all of the above plus I would like our juniors to be a strong team who are regularly bouting, travelling the country and having a blast! :D
What do you see as being important in the future of junior Derby in the UK?
To have a regulated body (something via UKRDA maybe?) which ensures all junior teams / leagues have robust policies and guidelines in place to ensure the safety of the juniors.
A strong network of junior leagues across the country, and some way of ensuring Insurance is easy and accessible and doesnt create the barrier that it currently is.
Do you think it's important to have a junior Derby infrastructure in the UK, i.e. For setting up tournaments etc.?
See my previous answer, yes I do!