May 16, 2019 --
This was one after-school program that really got on a roll.
From January until the middle of March, 50 students from seven Prince George elementary schools had the chance to give the sport of roller derby a go. The first-year initiative, organized by Van Bien Elementary School's Nicolle Therrien, proved to be a big hit with the Grade 5-7 participants.
"They had so much fun," said Therrien, Van Bien's Community School Coordinator. "I really wanted to create something where girls could be the majority and try something new and challenge themselves in a safe environment. It just started with an idea and grew from there. It was really neat."
Players hailed from Van Bien, Ron Brent, Nusdeh Yoh, Quinson, Peden Hill, Spruceland and Westwood. They gathered at the PG Dome (formerly the Roll-A-Dome) on Thursday afternoons for 90-minute sessions and were fortunate to get instruction from members of Rated PG Roller Derby, a local women's league.
From the first floor-time to the last, which was a play-day, the students made tremendous progress.
"It started with the majority of the girls trying to walk – so learning basically how to roller-skate – to learning safety, how to fall properly, how to move their bodies, to actually playing scrimmage," Therrien said.
The program was funded by an IMAGINE Community Grant through Northern Health (which paid for equipment) and an After School Sports and Arts grant (which covered the facility and coaching costs).
"Roller derby is not a sport that's typically accessible to our girls and the whole point of our jobs and this funding is to create sports that are accessible and taking away the barriers from getting there," Therrien said.
One of Therrien's key objectives now is to expand the program for next year.
"Next year, depending on availability of coaches, we're hoping to take the group that started this year and put them in an advanced group and then do a beginner's group as well," Therrien said.
Ideally, the groups would be on their wheels in the after-school hours over a period of eight weeks.
"It gives kids a safe place to play and feel good about connecting with other girls and creating new friendships among the community schools," Therrien said.