This year has seen another uptick in the number of new leagues in Scotland, with both Helgin Roller Derby and Wee County Roller Derby joining the ranks of Inverness City, Fair City, Ayrshire and Doonhame Derby Dolls as leagues making the journey towards their first public bout. As traditional, we're covering all of these leagues together in a Review of the Year, as usually bouts are a big part of what the bouting leagues cover about in their own articles. Since we have so many non-bouting leagues this year, however, we're splitting this article over several pages for readability - click the links at the bottom of each page to move between them.
Every league forms its own relationships with the wider derby community when starting out, but some of our non-bouting leagues have developed particularly close ties. Inverness City Roller Derby were very happy that Helgin Roller Derby started up nearby in Elgin, and the two have been combining resources: "Helgin are fantastic and are growing so fast. We try to go through as often as possible to coach them and help them with anything they may need help with and they often come through to us for a session and with such a big turn out at these sessions it boosts team morale."
Power of Scotland's PudZ, selfie with combined Inverness and Helgin skaters.
Helgin are equally happy with the relationship, as they benefit from ICRD's experience and numbers. "All of our skaters rave about Nat from ICRD’s sessions for days afterwards – she really works us hard and we learn a lot! […] We’re looking to link up with ICRD at least once a month in 2016, so that we can all get a bit more contact and pack skills practice – something that can prove difficult if you’ve got a session with low numbers." Of course, Helgin have also been keeping up their connections with the team to the East of them, and Granite City have been as supportive as they were at Helgin's founding, even donating kit and support for their fresh meat sessions. The Brawlermen also donated Power of Scotland's PudZ for a training session, "Our session with PudZ from Power of Scotland was brilliant – it was our first proper session where we got to practice game tactics and we learned so much!", which also included ICRD, "we had PudZ from POS run a session on walls and pack work which was also tremendously good fun."
Meanwhile, at the south end of the country, Dumfries' Doonhame Derby Dolls made the fortuitious discovery of nearby Carlisle's Border City Rollers, who are newly founded this year. The two leagues have quickly become quite attached, as Doonhame noted: "We only recently discovered that Carlisle had a team on the go through Facebook, one of our girls is from the area and she never even knew haha! This is now the closest team to us! We got in touch and done our own first ever guest coaching with 3 of our girls travelling down to their training night and they couldn't have been more welcoming, they're a great bunch of guys as we expected and they were so pleased to learn and understand where to go from where they'd got to. Georgie and Chloe Holmes helped start is up and have done well starting from scratch. We have kept in touch and they have been along to support us at games in Newcastle and Glasgow, making wee banners and being total fangirls which is amazing (it's usually us fangirling others!). "
RECRUITMENT AND TRAININGAll of the non-bouting leagues have been focussing on the three most important things for any newer league: recruiting skaters, training them to pass mins, and raising money to support all of this.
As mentioned above, Helgin held several successful fresh meats this year, recruiting 19 since we interviewed them last, and have also gained some transfers from other leagues "We’ve gained another few regular skaters, including some skaters formerly of Granite City Roller Derby, New Town Roller Girls and Belfast City Rockets, and we’ve now got enough people training on a regular basis to be looking to put a team together". They also have a tremendously organised public training plan, as anyone can see from the regular updates on their Facebook page, "This started back when we were chopping and changing venues a lot, as we were still trying to find permanent training locations, and we needed to keep people informed of where the sessions were. Many people commented that they liked knowing what was coming up, so we just kept it going.
We like to be organised, and have a progressive training plan so that we can see the development of our Fresh Meat – sometimes sessions go to plan, sometimes you’ve got an odd number of people there and the ‘paired work’ session plan goes out the window! Slowly but surely we’re working it all out, and we hope to get our next batch of Fresh Meat minimum skills passed much quicker."
They've also been doing quite well at fundraising, having entered multiple grant shortlists, and also "doing rather well with community fundraising, and held another successful pub quiz at the end of August, keeping us afloat for a bit, and we’re looking to put on another at the end of January or beginning of February, to boost funds for 2016."
Inverness, being one of the more established leagues in this article, has been growing a little more slowly, "We've had a few intakes but the struggle to find new members in Inverness is ongoing, we've lowered the age limit to 16 to try grow the team a little, we've got a few new(ish) faces and everyone is coming on leaps and bounds, and we should fingers crossed have them all mins passed just after the new year."
Perth's Fair City Rollers have had an interesting year, given that we reported last year that they were aiming to bout in 2015. Instead, this year has been one of introspection and consolidation. "Over the past year we've redefined ourselves as a team; who we are, what we do and where we're headed. Our direction has become more bout focused and we've started to work towards becoming an actual bouting team again. Over the past year we've worked on aligning focus and skills, and recruitment. We're currently about halfway through our training programme of the new skaters we recruited in September, and are aiming to bout in 2016"
The Wee-County Golden Gauntlet logo!
Clackmannanshire's Wee Country Roller Derby have been attempting to retain the momentum from their initial launch (which we interviewed them about here), partly by launching their distinctive gauntlet logo, We really wanted our logo to describe the fight we have for derby, and our community spirit rolled into one. Its our take on the clackmannshire logo of the gauntlet, with 'Look Aboot Ye' as a tag line. It works as a double meaning, having to be aware at all times who and what is around you on track. There was a real buzz around the team in the beginning, it was great: lots of attention and press coverage. We had a strong initial recruitment and kept a steady flow of interest, with word of mouth travelling fast. It has been a challenge to form a solid basis for the team, but we have a great foundation of members now. Its been a tough year, of trial and error and lots of personal growth. We were overwhelmed by the support and commitment of the members we do have, as they get stuck in and really help to make our team a family. Looking at how far we've come and comparing it to how far we have to go to allow us to have our debut bout is quite a step, but were confident that we have the determination and the strong mind set to make it happen."
Coach Graeme Gow keeping a watchful eye on the paceline at Ayrshire Roller Derby (Credit: Sally Wilkes)
Ayrshire Roller Derby, meanwhile, have enough mins-passed skaters that they're starting to attend scrims and the like. "ARD have had an excellent year. We were joined by coach Graham Gow of Power of Scotland and Mean City fame. Our team may be small at the moment but it is growing all the time! Our mins passed players are regularly participating in open scrims and learning all they can. We would really like to thank all the local teams that have helped and supported us this last few months." In addition, ARD have been at a whole host of fundraising and publicity-related engagements, including a stall at their local Christmas Fair. They've also had enthusiastic spectating presence at many bouts this year!
And, to the south, Doonhame have been growing strong, "Recruitment was a challenge to start, with maybe 6-10 people showing up at the start of the year, we then took a break from 'Fresh Meat' open nights and 're-evaluated our training / introduction methods. We then went on to having 2 of our most successful openers in Sept and October with a full house (of 30odd) both nights, and around half of that number dedicating and joining the team! Its the keeping them excited and committed that's the harder bit. We try to encourage everyone to the best of their ability and push those wishing to be pushed, but at a pace that's comfortable with them. We have been very lucky to be able to have a lot of amazing players come along and guest coach for us. To be able to have such a high profile skater like Stefanie Mainey come and guest at our bootcamp in May 2015 was amazing! She was brilliant and really put us through our paces on the track and giving us some great insights! We love learning new stuff and stretching our mindsets."
Doonhame's 7 cherry popping skaters at Bristol Roller Derby's event. (Credit: Andy Jardine)
Like Ayrshire, Doonhame have a strong core of mins-passed skaters now, but they've been seeking out public cherry-popper bouts as well as scrims. Most notably, they even managed to appear on film in their first ever appearance (at Bristol Roller Derby's Summer Double Header): "There was 7 of us that popped our cherries in Bristol. It wasn't just any normal cherry popper though, we were filmed by the BBC 'See, hear' programme to promote the abilitly to skate with deaf / hoh players. What a rush! It was so nerve racking, exciting and hundreds of miles away from home, but we did it! After we got the taste, we actively started to look for cherry poppers, charity games, closed scrimms, anything to let us get out there to play. Its really difficult, frustrating, when you have a handful of players passed skills, gagging to play, but not enough players yet for a full team! Which leads to all of these brilliant events opening up their doors to us, where you learn just how special roller derby is. This has meant us travelling to Edinburgh, Dundee and Newcastle for scrimms and bouts to join other teams. The friendships and camaraderie throughout playing with other teams would be the highlight of travelling, and of course gaining the experience and playing along side some awesome derby gals. "
PLANS FOR NEXT YEARWe asked each of the leagues about their plans for next year, and it looks like most of them have the same aim in mind: getting on track for their first public bout!
Doonhame: "All in all I think 2016 is going to be amazing for DDD as we are pushing our girls hard to try and bag a full team line up to finally play as a proper DDD full team. Until then though the girls that have passed will be playing in mixed scrim and bouts when they can and it's great we're always thought of to take part. 2016 will just be Onwards and upwards for DDD. Watch this space!"
Ayrshire: "We reckon we will be putting a team together at the beginning of next year and we REALLY cant wait to get stuck into playing! I feel like it will be next year's [update] that has all the exciting stuff in it!"
Fair City: "[We] are hoping to pop our collective team cherry at the start of March 2016.
Hopefully, within the year of the restructure, we'll be back on track and competing against other teams. Exciting times for the FCR!"
Wee County: "For next year we're hitting training and promotion head on, really pushing ourselves to the limits i know we can achieve. New and improved training programmes will be put in place to fully structurise the fresh meat members, also one for the more advanced skaters. Were looking to get into the community in a big way, and doing our bit for local charities. Our goal for 2016 is to integrate roller derby into the Wee County in a big way, so as always, look aboot ye."
Helgin: "Well, fingers crossed, we get all of our current skaters mins passed in early 2016, and then we’re going on the road to join some boot camps and open scrims to get a bit more experience in game play. This, along with regular training with ICRD will hopefully have us bout-ready by the end of the year!
We’re planning to hold three more Fresh Meat intakes – probably around February, May and September to keep our skater numbers up, and probably a similar number of fundraisers to keep us going financially. We’re also hoping to get our Business Plan finished over the Festive period (since our training venues are closed and we can’t skate :() and will be able to widen the net of the funds we can apply to, so that we can get scrim vests, more hire kit, more people first aid trained, and even cover our hall hire.
We’ve also been in discussions with Moray Sports Centre (a new state-of-the-art sports centre planned to be built on the southern boundary of Elgin) and things are looking hopeful that we may well have a new home in the future – one large enough to host bouts!"
Inverness: "We are looking forward to 2016 and having a team ready to start playing after all these years, we will be frequenting Dundee's open scrims with everyone learning to nso's for a couple of turns and then scrimming when mins passed, also we will have a regular session every month with Helgin to keep building on pack skills and game play. Fingers crossed that later in 2016 Icrd will hit the track as a team!"
If all goes to the plans above, it's quite possible that next year, there will be no non-bouting leagues roundup, as there'd only be one or two leagues left to cover in it! As always, it's an exciting time with the growth of Scottish derby, and 2016 might see the next big wave of leagues entering the bouting world.