EL Roller Derby Hosts Basic Skills Boot Camp and Learn-to-Skate Sessions

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Photo courtesy of Ali Jahr. Photos by David Lewis.

Ever marveled at roller derby skaters and thought, “Wow, I wish I could do that?” Well you can, and here’s your chance. 

Beginning on Aug. 29, East Lansing Roller Derby (ELRD) will host a Basic Skills Boot Camp – a comprehensive roller derby training course – that runs twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays for eight weeks. The group is also hosting learn-to-skate sessions on Sundays.

The East Lansing Roller Derby is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, skater-run team that strives to promote health and physical fitness as well as fair and honorable competition. ELRD also works to provide opportunities for leadership and personal growth.

Since its beginnings in July 2010 at Demonstration Hall in East Lansing, ELRD has grown to include two teams of skaters, which consist of members at all levels: the more competitive Lansing Mitten Mavens and the growth and learning-focused Broadbarians.

Current President, Co-Coach, and active skater Ali Jahr has been involved with ELRD since 2011. Jahr said she had been searching for an adult team sport, and her friend from Central Michigan’s team suggested it to her.

Unfortunately, Covid completely shut down all competition and the majority of in-person activities from March 2020 until June 2021, but the teams persisted.

Photo courtesy of Ali Jahr. Photos by David Lewis.

Jahr said the teams tried to remain connected by utilizing Zoom to discuss rules and strategy, watch footage, host virtual workouts, and play team-building games. They also took the time off to focus on administrative work that’s been on the “wish list” for some time, including the development of a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee.

“When you are a completely volunteer-run organization with people who are also playing a sport and living their full lives, we are not always able to prioritize everything as timely as we would like,” Jahr said. “Surprise pandemic blessings.”

When it was safe to return to the skates, the teams transitioned from traditional indoor gyms to outdoor parking lots and trails. Since being able to return indoors, Jahr said things are still very different, but she’s happy to return to their space.

“Even still, we are only able to participate in limited-contact drills and are closely monitoring state and federal guidelines to keep everyone safe. We were very fortunate that our facility worked with us to maintain a spot to return to,” said Jahr.

“Not all organizations in roller derby across the nation have been so lucky, and we fully recognize that, and because of this, we are so appreciative to Court One and their dedication to keep space available for sports in Lansing,” she said.

Keeping a safe space for players is important to the derby teams, and because of that, those practices, which used to be twice-weekly, look a lot different these days.

Photo courtesy of Ali Jahr. Photo by David Lewis.

“Skaters are asked to complete a health questionnaire before attending each practice, and if they are experiencing any Covid-19 related symptoms or have been exposed in any way, they are not allowed to attend,” said Jahr. “We have also asked that all unvaccinated individuals wear a mask while they are indoors for the entire duration of the skating session.”

On Aug. 29, the ELRD will host their Basic Skills Boot Camp, which can take skaters from Level 1 to 3, according to Jahr.

“The first 3 weeks, we focus on Level 1 beginner course skills: teaching stops, falls, proper derby stance and skating form. After the completion of Level 1, skaters move onto Level 2 (agility and footwork) and Level 3 (Intro to contact) consecutively, followed by a feedback-orientated safety assessment at the conclusion of the boot camp. Our boot camp offers a flexible attendance option,” she said.

The flexible attendance option allows skaters to join the sessions when they can, creating a more relaxed environment.

“Our trainers will be working with your skill level on an individual basis, which means even if you miss a few [meetings], no worries, we will get you caught up to speed,” Jahr said.

“ELRD firmly believes that your progress is your journey, and you won’t be limited to, or pushed past, your comfort zone to match the progress of those around you. If you find yourself taking a bit more time to pick up the skills than others we will still make sure you succeed, just at your own pace,” she said.

If you’re still a bit intimidated by the game of roller derby itself, perhaps the learn-to-skate sessions are more your speed. These will take place at the same time as the Boot Camp sessions, in the same facility, Court One Training Center. But, Jahr said, there is room for everyone within the sport.

Photo courtesy of Ali Jahr. Photo by David Lewis.

“When we say folks come in with no experience, we mean it,” she said. “Just as much as roller derby is training your physical body, we challenge your mind as well. The sport is encouraging, supportive and empowering. That’s what makes this sport incredibly unique. Even if you try it out and decide the sport is not for you, there are several other ways to be involved in the roller derby community.”

Interested participants who are 18 years or older, should bring a water bottle, a mask, mouth guard (SISU is recommended brand), and roller derby gear, if owned. Loaner gear is available for free for those who do not have the proper equipment.

You can sign up by filling out the new member interest form. The Boot Camp costs $80 for 16 sessions over eight weeks, and the learn-to-skate sessions are $5 each.

Interested participants can learn more through a virtual Zoom orientation on Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. The meeting can be accessed through this link. The meeting ID is 955 0088 3927 and the passcode 341283. You can send questions to join@mittenmavens.net.

The in-person boot camp and learn-to-skate nights will be held at Court One Training Center, located at 7868 Old M-78, East Lansing, MI 48823.

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