There is a new roller derby team in Crescent City.
On March 1, the North Coast Roller Derby began practice with a group of 7- to 13- year old kids with the intention of forming a junior team.
“We are really excited about it,” said head coach Jack ‘Coach Old Xchool’ Gollaher, who is also coaching the Tsunami Sirens. “They bring a lot of different energy to the building.”
The Sirens started in 2010. Gollaher immediately agreed to coach them and he also began trying to push for a junior team.
“I have been pushing the girls for three years to start one,” Gollaher said. “I think when you bring the kids into it, it really brings the community together.”
The team already has a good-sized roster of 17 kids, including eight boys and nine girls.
“We have a group of kids that keep coming back and new ones are trickling in all the time and they are loving it,” said Gollaher’s daughter, Danielle ‘Ragin Reg’ Arispe, who skated for the Sirens. “It is awesome to see.”
Several of the kids on the team are related to current Sirens, others found out about the team through word-of-mouth. One of the kids that has been with the junior team since the first practice in March is Leslie Shorty, 11, of Smith River.
“I am usually into big sports because I am tough,” Shorty said. “‘TeacHer Some Respect’ (Liz Calleja) teaches at my school and she told me and my mom that there was going to be a junior roller derby. I came to it and I have loved it ever since the first day.”
The training program teaches players the basics of skating and slowly incorporating the rules and strategy of the sport.
“Today we used the penalty box,” Shorty said after practice Thursday. “Little by little we are learning what we should do and what we shouldn’t be doing.”
Once training is complete, the junior team will most likely begin looking for bouts for the kids. Gollaher estimated that there are 12 junior teams within 200 miles of Crescent City, so the team will have plenty of competition available once it is ready for bouts.
The team is currently brainstorming ideas for a name.
“They mentioned maybe Tidal Wave or Sneaker Wave, they are going to come in with some names and we will vote for it this week,” Gollaher said.
Coaching the junior team has been especially rewarding for Gollaher, who got into the sport at a young age. He says he began staking at 8 and quickly took to roller derby.
“I started following Roller Derby on Sunday night TV. So my brother and I and all the neighbors would get together with our clamp-on skates and we played roller derby as much as we could. That was our sport.”
Although Gollaher stopped playing at about 17, he was again thrust into the middle of the skating world when his kids, including “Ragin’ Reg,” took up speed-skating.
“I love kids,” Gollaher said. “I have coached for a long time. When my kids were growing up I coached Little League, soccer, basketball, I was a typical dad who did all of that stuff.”
The junior derby is off to a strong start, but the exact direction of the program is still uncertain. Currently, the junior derby is part of North Coast Roller Derby, though it could eventually split off.
“That is probably the way we will leave it for a while,” Gollaher said. “We have talked to a lot of different organizations and they all tell us different stories. Some of them keep the junior team within the program and some of them let them go out on their own. There are tax advantages and disadvantages to both.”
Gollaher also mentioned the possibility of splitting the junior team into a boys and a girls team, or having multiple teams if the number continues to grow. The junior derby will also need a new coach eventually, with Gollaher already committed to traveling with the Sirens.
“What I hope to do is to get a head coach for the junior team eventually,” he said. “I will just oversee the coach, give them the program and help them get going until they can do it on their own. Obviously, I can’t be traveling with both groups all over the country.”
Anyone interested in joining the junior derby team is invited to show up to practice, from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday at the fairgrounds in the main building. There is a $20 per month fee to be on the team.