Girls get so excited about the opportunity to play junior derby. The first thing I hear from new juniors is when can we play real derby? I love the enthusiasm, but I see girls struggle with the same issues over and over again. They are all easy fixes. So for the junior derby parent who has never played roller derby, I’ll save you some trial and error.
1. Mouthguards are not one size fits all. I know the list of required equipment you are handed says mouthguard (or gumshield in some places), but not just any mouthguard will do. If all you can afford at the moment is a cheapy from a sports store, that’s fine, but make sure it’s a youth size. I see young skaters choke on oversized mouth guards all the time. They can’t breathe much less communicate with their teammates. I know you want to protect your skater’s teeth, but a thinner guard, like SISU or one from your dentist (yes, your dentist can make those), will protect just as well.
2. Hydrate. Young skaters would usually much rather chug a soda than a glass of water. I see them pay for this in practice. Maybe you can make it a family initiative to drink less sugary drinks and drink more water. And remember, hydrate! Did I say hydrate? Because they should really hydrate. Also, HYDRATE!
3. What-if pads vs. derby pads. The idea of dropping a ton of cash on protective gear is a bit scary, especially since you don’t know if your skater will stick with it or how soon they’ll hit a growth spurt. It seems more cost-effective to buy some pads from Walmart, but junior gear sets really don’t cost that much. (You can find some here.) The pads you find at stores like Walmart are what-if pads. You wear them because what if you fall? Derby pads are for when you fall. We fall a lot, and those other pads just won’t hold up. Also, if your skater mentions she is falling on her butt a lot, there are these amazing things called padded shorts.
4. Know the difference between hurt and injured. You and your skater should have a discussion about identifying the difference. Watching your skater take a nasty spill is scary. The first thing every derby player learns is how to fall safely. Safe doesn’t mean there won’t be some bumps and bruises. If they can get up and skate, they are usually fine. I talked more about it in this post.
5. It’s all about the team. This is something suggested by my friends on Facebook, and it’s very true. Your child is embarking on an amazing journey with new friends. The important bit is the friends. The coaches decisions will not revolve around your child. Instead, it will be about the betterment of the team. This experience is about your skater growing into an outstanding athlete, teammate, and friend. Give them a little growing room.
Every junior derby coach wishes she or he had had derby around when they were younger. We want this sport to be a positive experience for your skater. Please help us by making sure your little derby player has good equipment and encouragement from you.