Croydon Roller Derby - O Captain My Captain; The Role of the Captain in a Competitive Squad

Keating, Kirk, Cook, America and Sparrow - it’s not just spiffy outfits and fabulous hair they have in common. They are all great captains; Fearless, full of heart and utterly dedicated to their cause.


When I was voted in as the captain of Riot Squad  (Croydon Roller Derby's A-team) in 2012, I was filled with a strange mix of emotions.  I felt honoured - I would be following in the footsteps of derby greats such as President Garfield and Ghouldielocks! …But there was also another feeling lurking under the joy …and that was fear.  Great big throbbing fear – the kind that makes you want to casually sneak off for a quick little vomit.

The responsibility and trust that my team mates presented me with was wonderful, but genuinely daunting. Could I really do this? Did they pick the right person? Either way it was going to be a challenge.

Two years later, that underlying fear is still a great motivator. The badge of a captain is not an empty decoration, and at every training session, every game, I feel that I constantly need to earn it and to deserve the trust that my team mates placed in me.


In terms of the role, games actually tend to be the easiest part.  Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means a cake walk. The captain plays a pivotal role - first and foremost being there for any concerns their team mates have or support they require, and then working closely with their bench, the referees, and the Captain of the opposition to ensure that everyone enjoys an entertaining and safe game.

Personally though, the bit I love, and the toughest part is the journey.  Everything that leads up to the game.  That is where the hard work lies and that is when you need your captain to come through for the squad.


Riot Squad have been on an exciting journey since first forming in 2009, and in the last three years we have really hit our stride.  Playing all available challenging teams, and slowly progressing up the rankings. To achieve this, we have worked hard to create a collective mind-set amongst the team members, and as a captain, I feel it is my challenge to constantly cultivate that mindset.

It can be hard for everyone to keep up morale and motivation for 2 sessions a week, 50 weeks a year – so that’s where I come in.

To be part of a competitive bouting squad, when it comes to training it's not just about attendance or attitude, it's about pushing.  Pushing yourself as hard as you can, and never settling for your current level. Working with our ever patient head coach, Herbielicious, I try to help maintain a supportive environment in which people feel they can push to the limits-and beyond occasionally ( hey come on we’re feisty women playing a competitive sport, an occasional meltdown is normal right?!).  Most importantly, I don’t want people to be afraid to fail. I want them to be brave and try, no matter what the outcome. To do that requires creating and maintaining an environment that encourages that attitude.  It is a continuous job - a bit like being a janitor for the sporty mind, but it is entirely worth it.  Seeing the results that this bravery elicits is incredibly rewarding.


The Cheese may well stand alone, but I don’t think a Captain ever should.  I couldn’t do what I do without support - which usually appears in the form of my vice-captain, Do Or Dyduch, and of course Coach Herbie.  The three of us are usually in contact most days, discussing team progression, concerns, plans of action and ways in which we can help individual team members improve with their own goals.

The final and most important part of what enables me, and perhaps all, to Captain well is the team that you’re working with.  And in all honesty I'm extremely lucky with Riot squad. Their tireless and consistent dedication never fails to amaze me. They regularly turn up to training fired up, excited and positive - ready to push ever harder to see just how high we can go.


‘Because Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.’ John Keating



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