Monday, 2 July 2012

Looking at LOCO: Considering a Young Derby League

Officially founded in London, Ontario in 2010, LOCO Roller Derby is a low-cost, low-contact, low-commitment league intended for players who love the sport of derby, but find participating in competitive full-contact derby untenable. I joined LOCO pretty early, in the autumn of 2010. My attendance has been pretty spotty amidst efforts to finish my Master's, start my PhD and handle my anxiety in the almost two years since. At the same time, it's been a bit like seeing a really young cousin sporadically at family events - every time you look they're bigger and more complex.

Starting with original London league, LOCO has since expanded to four chapters, including Stratford, Kitchener, and Brantford. During one of this blog's occasional periods of radio silence, they also added a full-contact chapter, the Violet Femmes. Even more recently, LOCO has starting hosting Juniors practices for skaters under 18. Every time I come back (usually bent from carrying a backpack full of books), it's grown.

It's been tempting to identify personally with LOCO's growth - when I started wobbling across the  gym floor on borrowed skates, LOCO was at a temporary home due to construction at our downtown YMCA. It had a relatively small number of players at practices. It didn't have much contact with other leagues. Now that I'm (finally) reading up on the rules and training as a ref, the league has multiple weekly practices, four chapters, multiple practice venues, several charity events and inter-league bouts under its belt, a huge increase in its membership and all in all, a lot to be proud of. Since I learned to skate backwards, LOCO's been featured in Hit and Miss magazine as well as in newspapers and on television. LOCO isn't just a league - it's a mindset regarding how everyone deserves access to the sport, regardless of schedule, finances or athletic ability. People with the time, money and talent to play full-contact can (and do, still within the league), but the rest of us aren't an after-thought. We're a family.

When I look at this picture on the LOCO website, taken in the league's early days, I see skaters who have moved on to other leagues as the result of moves and skaters who I just haven't seen in person lately or I never got a chance to know. But I also see skaters who have taken breaks from derby and returned, skaters who have continued to volunteer as leaders within the league's administration and, personally, I see a spot for me and for all the players who have joined since that picture was taken.

Naturally, there are places, both literal and metaphorical, that I would love to see LOCO go. I would love to see us have a permanent practice space more directly under our control, providing increased skating time to our league-members. I would love to see us expand to other cities so women who thought roller derby couldn't be a part of their lives can hit the track instead. I would love to see us make more connections with other leagues and build up our in-house teams. We need more referees. We need to find a way to better enable financially-strapped skaters with aid. An online forum for skaters would be sweet. But we're a healthy league powered by a lot of passion. We will find a way to make these things happen.

In the mean time, if you're interested in getting LOCO in your city, check out our organizational structure and master manual, then contact us through the LOCO site.

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