Crash Course in Girls' Self-Confidence; Playing on Junior Roller Derby Team Is Rewarding

By Kelso, Christina | The Florida Times Union, July 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

Crash Course in Girls' Self-Confidence; Playing on Junior Roller Derby Team Is Rewarding


Kelso, Christina, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Christina Kelso

ORANGE PARK | All of a sudden, little Kaelyn Knorr, 10, was bitten by the derby bug. The once shy, soft-spoken girl took off. Like wind on wheels, "Kitty" sailed over the skating rink and slammed powerfully into Madison "Wednesday at Emz" Wolfe, 15, knocking the elder, more experienced girl to the ground.

"I stopped practice, picked her up and hugged her," said Laura "Scarlett Dragon" Powell, head coach of the Cherry Bomb Charmers junior roller derby team. "It all clicked."

Kaelyn is one of 14 girls, ages 10-17, who have found confidence in a pair of quad-skates on the Cherry Bomb Charmers, Clay County's first junior roller derby team.

"That's the moment I love so much," Powell said. "I've seen these girls just blossom and really come out of their shells."

Since beginning recruitment in February, the Charmers have been in practice, preparing for their first competitive season. Their first home bout is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Skate Station in Orange Park against the Sk8 City Sirens, a junior roller derby team from Pooler, Ga. Tickets are $9; children under 10 and active-duty military get in free.

"It has made me feel stronger, physically and mentally," said Madison "Mad Dog" Quinones, 12.

A full-contact sport, roller derby helps to build the girls' self-confidence, Powell said. Unleashed onto the track, girls of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to find their power as they push through their opponents.

"Most girls don't really fit in or don't connect with mainstream sports but with roller derby it's different," said Dana Wolfe, president and general manager of the Cherry Bomb Charmers. "It doesn't matter how tall you are, how small you are, how big you are, you can embrace your individualism and be an athlete at the same time."

The girls work closely with the adult team New South Roller Derby, whose players serve as positive role models to the girls. They are strong, confident women who have not only made a niche for themselves out in the world but also on the track, Powell said.

"Everyone is really supportive and teaches you to go your own way," said Hayley "Gizmo" Spurling, 12.

When Powell is not strapping on her skates to coach the Charmers or play on their adult sister team New South, she is an ophthalmic technician and pre-med student at FSCJ.

"It's like an alter-ego," Powell. "I can be a completely different person. I can be Laura, focused, detail-oriented, always in the medical mind. I can be Scarlett, who dances when we're lining up and knocks the crap out of other girls. …

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