Roller derby is gaining popularity in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne with three leagues within 10 kilometres making the sport easily accessible for young women.
Erin Beckett, a member of South Sea Roller Derby based in Springvale and East Vic Roller Derby based in Dandenong, said roller derby is popular in the local area as it is “one of those sports and exercises that’s coming along in great booms and something that’s also affordable for middle class people.”
The availability of rinks in Mordialloc, Springvale and Dandenong also contributes to the sport’s increasing popularity in the local area, said Ms Beckett.
The first league in the local area, Kingston City Rollers, was founded in 2009, with neighbouring teams East Vic Roller Derby and South Sea Roller Derby formed shortly after.
According to the 2016 Australian Government’s ‘Girls Make Your Move‘ campaign, young women are twice as likely to be physically inactive than young men due to barriers including self-consciousness and the fear of being judged due to appearance or skills.
One of the primary barriers to female sport participation is feeling uncomfortable exercising in the presence of males, according to the 2016 Physical Activity and Sport Participation Campaign Insights Report, making the female-oriented nature of roller derby appealing for women.
Being a female-dominated sport, roller derby provides a “sense of being together with other females and coming together and accepting who we are and what we look like,” said Ms Beckett.
As a coach of the Junior Derby Program, Ms Beckett said team members may be “very shy and quiet at school and then they come down to training and are completely different.”
With the initiation of a Junior Derby Program in 2016 based in Dandenong for children between 8 and 17, girls and young women who would otherwise not engage in physical activity due to self-consciousness or other factors have the opportunity to participate in a predominantly female sport that encourages body positivity in the local area.
Gemma Duncan, a member of East Vic Roller Derby and founding coach of the Junior Derby Program said she had previously never played sport and was drawn to it because it had “more agency” than other traditionally feminine sports.
Roller derby is “something different- it’s very good exercise”, and provides an alternative to male-driven sport that is also easily accessible in the south-eastern suburbs, said Miss Duncan.
“It’s really good for young girls to see these strong, positive role models with all these different body shapes and I love that everyone is useful in roller derby,” said Miss Duncan, who founded the program for children and teenagers with the purpose of showing them “something different and something positive”.