It was a weekend of firsts as the Okanagan Roller Derby Association (OKRDA) kicked off its house season with an entertaining bout at Memorial Arena on Saturday night.
It was the first time the three-team OKRDA had ever played one of its bouts in Memorial Arena as well as the first time several players had skated within the OKRDA, which has grown from an idea and a handful of skaters in 2009 to close to 60 skaters this season.
“We started out with four or five girls that wanted to play and we started at the Peachland Community Centre,” said OKRDA president Christina Ferreira, who skates under the name Moxie Crue. “We’re very happy with the way the league has grown. It’s grown much faster than we expected and so because of that we’ve had to have a look at the league and make a few changes.”
One of those changes was hitting the floor at Memorial Arena as the OKRDA house league will play its bouts at Memorial as opposed to the Sunplex where most of the roller derby bouts had been held prior to this season.
Close to 350 people took in Saturday’s season opener, won by the Bad Apple Betties, who skated past the K-City Rollers in convincing fashion. The number of fans in attendance was one of the reasons for the move to Memorial, which can seat more fans. The Sunplex will still be used for the league, which along with its scheduled house league games, will also host bouts against other B.C. roller derby teams on occasion.
After growing rapidly since starting in 2009, this season the OKRDA has taken a step back to grow the skills of the players who are coming out. The league has shelved its competitive travel squad known as the Peach Tarts and instead is focussing on skill development through the summer.
“We decided we needed to take a step back and work on developing our skills because we want to be a team that competes instead of being the team that gets beat all the time,” said Ferreira. “We want to grow our skills within our house teams first. That’s really important to us and for our fans who can come out and watch competitive bouts.”
The OKRDA will also hold its annual recruiting drive for new players called Fresh Meat where people interested in the sport can come out. That will take place May 25 at Stuart Park, a regular practice venue for the league. There will be three more bouts this year at Memorial including the OKRDA championship bout to be played July 20.
Ferreira says they are looking forward to another fun season with more growth expected in the sport which features women from all walks of life. She says that’s part of the draw to the sport.
“There is no judgements, we have all body shapes and sizes and it’s really welcoming, it’s almost like a sisterhood,” she said. “You really feel welcome and embraced by all the girls in the league. We have such a variety: We have stay at home moms, lawyers, graphic designers…we have such a mix and tons of people who probably would have never met in their life, if not for this sport.”
There is more information at www.okrd.ca.