Current Issue

Rolling to Success: Inside the World of Junior Derby

With an emphasis on inclusivity, leadership, and team building, Junior Roller Derby provides  young skaters with an opportunity to come together–regardless of skill level–and compete in a game that builds confidence and strengthens empowerment.

Junior Roller Derby is a full-contact sport that is played on roller skates. While it may seem intense, there are plenty of safety rules to keep everyone safe. Played on an oval track, two teams–consisting of up to five skaters–skate counterclockwise in short games called “jams.” The goal is to score more points than the other team by lapping opposing players. Jams are divided into two, 30-minute halves, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

To learn more about the game and how it’s changing in our city, we talked with the president of the junior committee and a few of the skaters of Denver Roller Derby.

Luna Thornes, President of the Junior Committee
Derby Name: Luna Shovegood

How would you describe Junior Derby in your own words? It’s a full-contact sport for anyone who’s interested in building confidence, feeling strong and finding community, and having fun.

How did you become involved in Junior Derby? My family moved from Tucson, Arizona to Fort Collins, Colorado when I was 15. My parents said I had to join an activity to make friends, and for some reason, roller derby just called to me. We found a flier and went to a game and the juniors were the halftime show, so I ended up signing up within that week, and it stuck. I ended up choosing which college I wanted to go to and where I wanted to play roller derby based on Women’s Flat Track roller derby rankings, and that left me in the Denver area. I started playing for Denver’s world-ranked team, Mile High Club, and as part of that, I wanted to continue to grow the sport. Once I left Junior Roller Derby, I started coaching and I’ve been coaching for the past 10 years.

What are your goals when coaching junior skaters? Our biggest thing that the coaches find value in is really creating community for our skaters. While, of course, we’re trying to teach them roller derby and make them feel strong and athletic in the sport, our biggest value is that they walk away feeling like they have friends, they have people they can trust, and they belong.

How do you create that environment? I think the biggest thing for the coaches is to make sure that we connect with the skaters so that they can talk to us and build relationships with their coaches. And then lead by example, of course, encouraging them to follow the values, and being friends with the other coaches and working really hard with the other coaches. A big part of it is not just the coaches, it’s the skaters and the families that really shine through and continue to show those values.

How do you see the future of Junior Derby evolving? Soon there’s going to be tryouts for Team USA. That’s been going on for a few years, but I think that’s really cool. Additionally, in the past few years, we’ve seen the juniors go up to high-level play, competing at an adult worldwide ranked level.

Jazzy R.L., Jammer
Age: 15
Derby Name: Jazzmanian Devil

How long have you been involved in junior derby? Five years.

What encouraged you to start playing? My best friend played and got me into it. I had started skating a few years before I started, so it sounded cool.

What has been your favorite part? I think the playoffs last year were a lot of fun. It was fun to be there as a team. Our team is like a family, so it’s really nice to be able to travel with everybody.

How would you describe the team? Our team is like a family to each other, and it’s really nice to have other people to bring you up and help you with the sport you enjoy.

What does a typical training session look like? It’s a lot of endurance, strength building, and working on drills and strategy. Our coaches are great, so we learn a lot each practice.

How do you prepare for a game? Before every game, the whole team will sit in a circle and say why we won today. We’ll all say a certain thing of why we won; for instance, we won today because we stayed out of our heads. Derby is a very mental sport, so that is something that helps us prepare for every game.

What has Junior Derby taught you about yourself? It has completely changed our lives in the best way possible. 

Bea T., Jammer
Age: 16
Derby Name: Track Mamba

How long have you been involved in Junior Derby? Eight or nine years.

What encouraged you to start playing? We lived in Minnesota and went to a lot of Minnesota roller derby games. They didn’t have a junior team, so when we moved to Colorado, we found Denver, and I’ve been skating there ever since. Plus, my mom was an official, so we were already pretty into derby.

What has been your favorite part? I love the community around our team. We have a very supportive team.

What does a typical training session look like? A lot of skill and strategy-type drills. Sometimes the jammers or the blockers break off because we work on different things, and we have four different coaches to help us with everything that we might need.

How do you prepare for a game? For me, I like to listen to “She Wolf” by Shakira. I don’t know why, but it just puts me in the derby mood.

What has Junior Derby taught you about yourself? It’s prepared me to handle different situations. It’s helped me build my mental game because it is a very mental sport, and it has also allowed me to take feedback better.

Those looking to join Junior Derby should know that they will find community, learn more about themselves, and be a part of something that is fun, safe, and inclusive. For more information, visit

Family Food

Newsletter Signup

Your weekly guide to Mile High family fun. Colorado Parent has a newsletter for every parent. Sign Up