Craving College Credit: Roller Derby and its Humble Beginnings and Fortuitous Future in Academia

As mother to two junior skaters and coach to several more, I find it almost a duty to inspire my “kids” to continue with the sport beyond the junior programming.  For some, this will mean finding a fit with an adult league where they currently live, for others moving on to college and beyond, it’s about starting over.

For many athletes who begin their sports journey in their younger years, they can look forward to being rewarded for excelling in their sport with a college scholarship. Although not as big as the dream some have of roller derby becoming an Olympic sport (although it would thrill me) I am hoping for derby to become an NCAA recognized sport, complete with scholarship opportunities.

Just as roller derby has been a historically grass-roots endeavor, so it continues to be on a few college campuses across the country where roller derby clubs are slowly emerging. From the little information on college roller derby there is, it seems the first college roller derby club formed at Georgia College & State University in the fall of 2011 by a group of professors interested in the sport. President and Coach Sarah Cooper (Coop) says the team practices twice a week in the school gym and their purpose is to teach members about the sport in hopes they join a league after graduation.

Arizona seems to be the current epicenter of collegiate derby with two clubs having been formed in the last few years at both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. On their Facebook page, the U of A Derby Cats claim to be the “first official college flat track roller derby team” and their founder and assistant coach, Samantha Colaianni, aka Carnage Asada, has taken on the responsibility for setting the team up and recruiting.

Being affiliated with an academic institution does have its perks as Colaianni illustrates, “The U of A supports us as a registered club. They provide publicity assistance and opportunities to recruit. Other than that, we mostly do everything else on our own.”

Something else being affiliated with a college provides is school funding for teams to off-set costs for skaters. The Arizona State University Derby Devilz enjoy this funding. Faculty advisor, professor and skater herself, Devoney Looser, aka Stone Cold Jane Austen, says the next step for the club is to decide, “…whether it's best to stay a student organization--which would allow for access to certain kinds of funding and support services--or whether to seek recognition as a sports club. Being a sports club would allow better access to athletic facilities but would also require that students begin paying monthly dues.”

As it stands now, the sport is not recognized by the NCAA, but Looser is hopeful. After meeting a colleague through the Women’s Intersport Network who speculated to Looser that her calling was potentially to help roller derby become a NCAA sport, Looser envisions the next steps in legitimizing roller derby as a college sport. “We need a lot more people who know the ins and outs of the NCAA and campus athletics to have that kind of an "a-ha" moment. The arrival of junior derby leagues will help our momentum forward, too, as more young skaters arrive on campuses and ask, ‘Hey, where's our roller derby team?’"

Although we may be far away from the time when our junior skaters are offered roller derby scholarships, we can remain hopeful that people like Colaianni, who is currently in the process of getting the National College Roller Derby Association off the ground, and Looser are steering the ship towards a future that might someday allow for kids to dream big and include roller derby in their future academic plans.


About The Author

DOB: 2/8/2013
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