Roller derby may have a lower profile as a sport in Warman but that doesn’t stop local athlete Raina Owen from pursuing the activity.
She’s just in her second full year with the Bridge City Bruisers junior roller derby team out of Saskatoon and she already has a chance to compete in a tournament that features the best athletes in the sport.
Raina will be participating in the Big O in Eugene, Oregon on May 5 to 7. It’s an international roller derby tournament and athletes from around the world will be competing in the event.
Teams from, Argentina, Australia, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, among other clubs within the United States and Canada will be participating in the event.
The tournament features both men’s and ladies teams along with a junior division, which Raina will be competing in.
She will be playing with the Gapland Rollers out of Rocanville as that is an elite junior roller derby team. Raina became a part of that club when the coach for the Rocanville Small Town Smashers junior roller derby team was looking for players.
“Nicole, who’s the coach in Rocanville, needed to put together a high competition team. So she contacted our coach (Curb) and said ‘you got some girls that are at that level’ and she suggested Raina and a couple of the girls,” said Raina’s mom Janice.
After a tryout, Raina, along with her Saskatoon teammate “Skidlette,” made that elite junior team and they’ve been practicing with the club twice a month, since the beginning of March.
Raina learned the sport quickly and even though it came natural to her she was able to gain some life skills.
One of those skills is communication. She said outside of roller derby she doesn’t really socialize with that many people. However, being in roller derby helped her come out of her shell a little bit.
“I’m very socially awkward, I don’t know how to talk to other people,” Raina said.
After Raina joined the sport it didn’t take too long for her to advance through the levels. Level one and two are for the beginner skaters who still need to work on their skating skills. Level three is for the experienced and more skilled skaters.
“She (Raina) jumped from one to three basically in the first six months she was here because it was natural,” Janice said.
Janice also believes that roller derby has a positive effect on Raina as well.
“(It’s) a really good community … and it’s just a really neat community. There’s such a wide spread backgrounds of people here,” Janice said.
“You probably wouldn’t have met or be friends with (people) away from here. It’s just a really cool community,” Janice said.
Even though it took a while for Raina to learn certain skills, Janice believes it fits Raina’s lifestyle.
“She’s always been a sporty girl. She played tackle football … she’s in hockey and she played baseball and basketball, and all the school sports,” Janice said.
“It just fits in with just who she is. She’s not just a little wilting, little flower type of a girl, so she’s always been very active.”
When Raina competes in a roller derby game she usually is the jammer.
“I’m the one that gets hit a lot but I’ve been trying to be a blocker more because a jammer is only good as the blocker,” Raina said. “The jammers are the ones getting the points, and the blockers are trying to stop that from happening.”
One skill that Raina said she has learned but needs to get better at to become a better blocker is booty blocking.
“It’s basically getting in front of people and jumping … it’s a big thing, I have a friend on my team that’s amazing at that,” Raina said.
Another key technique in roller derby that you need to learn is footwork.
“I need to learn about being more balanced. I need to learn more about that because new skates, old skates, all skates, anything, it’s really hard to balance on them,” Raina said.
“Especially if you’re used to something else. I’m used to hockey skates and switching (skates) … it’s kind of hard trying to maintain balance between those.”
An important aspect of roller derby is communication and Raina said she has really picked up on that since joining the sport.
“They taught me how to communicate (in the sport). They yell at you … ‘you need to speak up,’ then you speak up. They’re basically like your critics. So they’ll help you because they see everything. They’re either sitting off the track or they’re on (the track) with you.” Raina said.
The Saskatoon ladies teams and the junior team come to the Legends Centre usually once during the season to play some games.
That is a great way to showcase the sport in Warman and generate some interest, as Raina is the only youth from the community participating in the sport.
“It would be nice to have more people from my town to come (play the sport) because … I only see (my teammates) twice every week,” Raina said.
Raina is 15 years old and she has a few more years of competing in the junior league, as youth 8-18 play on the junior team. Once she ages out of that division, she said she wants to play in the ladies division as they’re are four teams in Saskatoon.
“It’s definitely … one of those things you wouldn’t normally do … (and) it’s a good experience.”