Anchor City Rollers (ACR), Halifax’s flat track roller derby league, held an open house session on Sunday to recruit people of all skill levels into their ‘fresh meat’ learn-to-skate program.
Stephanie Coffin, known as Coach Coffin, led the session in Spryfield. The 26-year-old has been skating for four years and is in charge of new skaters.
She says the league will accept anyone who has a desire to skate or anyone who wants to be a part of a sports community.
“When I started four years ago I could really tell that it was the community and the sport atmosphere that was for me,” she said. “It (the ACR) is a diverse group of people who are all very strong women that I didn’t have in my life before.”
Flat track roller derby is a contact sport played with two teams of five members each. The game consists of a series of short match ups or jams, where team members skate in the same direction around a track. Both teams designate a “jammer” who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. Both teams play offence and defence simultaneously as they attempt to block the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer.
ACR’s Fresh Meat team is a 12-week learn-to-skate program that is designed to teach the basic skills of roller derby: skating, stopping and falling, transitions and skating in a pack. Up to 40 new skaters will be accepted for the program, which begins in January.
“It takes a lot of resources to train new skaters because roller derby isn’t something you grow up learning or do everyday,” Coffin said.
‘An inclusive space’
Heather Chamberlin, president of ACR plays on the Harbour Grudges team and has been skating for six years. She attended her first Fresh Meat practice in 2010 with an old pair of skates she bought on Amazon, a bike helmet and elbow and knee pads from the Salvation Army.
Chamberlin says the term ‘fresh meat’ was intimidating for her when she began skating, but that isn’t the case anymore.
“We use the term ‘fresh meat’ but we want to try and take away some of the intimidating nature of roller derby,” she said. “We want to make this as inclusive and welcoming of a space as possible.”
Chamberlin says for this reason the league isn’t specifically a women’s roller derby league; it’s a female identified or female oriented league.
“We have folks who are a part of our league who are trans, non-binary, or who don’t fall neatly into the gender spectrum,” she says. “The goal is to make a space where everybody can feel welcome. Basically if you feel like you belong here then you belong here.”
Chamberlin says because there’s are different skill levels in the league, there’s a place for everyone.
“We’re here for people who want to become more active in their lives or for people who want a physical challenge and want to pursue a full-contact sport,” she said. “We’re also here for people who just want to be apart of a cool community.”
There are four levels of skaters in the ACR: the Fresh Meat team, loco skaters (low contact skaters), intermediate skaters and seasoned skaters.
Loco skaters focus on personal skills like balance and control while intermediate skaters begin to learn roller derby game strategy. Seasoned skaters are broken into two teams: Harbour Grudges and Dockyard Brawlers. These teams compete in roller derby games across the Maritimes.
Suzie Baker wants to join the Fresh Meat Team. The 39-year-old showed up for the open house after recently discovering there was a roller derby league in Halifax.
“I want to feel a part of a group,” said Baker. “A lot of times as you get older the friends that you grew up with are all doing different things so I’m looking for some unity and camaraderie.”
The guests who attended the open house were able to try on skates, watch a practice and meet coaches.
There are four roller derby leagues in Nova Scotia: Cape Breton, New Glasgow, Halifax and Annapolis Valley. There are also leagues in P.E.I. and New Brunswick.