In the last 20 years, roller derby has gained in popularity worldwide. In Salem, we are lucky to have the Cherry City Roller Derby and its junior team, the Cherry Blossoms. Cherry City has its own rink on Madison Street in their building, The Madhouse. Cherry City Roller Derby was founded in 2009 and has fielded a junior team since then. At this point, there are multiple junior teams. The Comets are the least experienced and play modified contact bouts with other regional teams. The Brawl Stars are the lower-level team playing full contact against other teams throughout the West Coast. Finally, “The Blossoms’ All Stars charter team competes in sanctioned games nationally and represents the CCRD Cherry Blossoms in the JRDA national rankings.”

Salem roller derby Cherry Blossoms
An adult roller derby bout. Many of the junior skaters at Cherry City Roller Derby aren’t ready for full contact like the adults and do modified contact bouts. Photo credit: Chris Bojanower

Salem’s Cherry Blossoms

Anyone of any gender ages 7-17 can join the Cherry Blossoms. You don’t need to know how to skate or have any of your own equipment. There are recruitment nights every few months that explain what new skaters need to go through, and then those who join enter “boot camp,” where they do conditioning and learn some of the basics. After these first few sessions, the skater becomes a “new recruit” and starts working on the skills needed to move into Level 1.

Skaters can rent the gear they need (skates, pads, helmet) to ensure they want to make the commitment. For those who want to buy their gear immediately, there’s an excellent roller skate store, Hit This Derby Gear, inside the Madhouse with any kind of skates, pads, or helmets a person could want. The store owner is an expert on derby wear and has helped hundreds of people get well-fitting and safe items for skating.

Many of the kids who join the Cherry Blossoms have never skated before. This means they will first work on just making it around the rink. Once they have some basics, they learn different ways to stop, how to do crossovers at the turns in the rink, glides, and how to begin skating faster. At the same time, they learn about roller derby. The instructors (usually older skaters) tell them about the different positions, the calls they might encounter, and how the game typically works.

Bouts occur at the Madhouse every few weeks, and juniors are often part of them. Teams come from around the West to compete. At the bouts, the juniors run the snack and merchandise tables (and get volunteer hours) and watch their teammates or the adults in their competition. The entire event can take an afternoon into the evening, so there’s typically a food cart outside for those who get hungry and adult beverages inside for anyone wanting that kind of drink.

Salem roller derby Cherry Blossoms
A practice session for the Cherry Blossoms, the junior roller derby section of the Cherry City Roller Derby. Photo credit: Mollie Nouwen

Salem Roller Derby is a Family Affair for All Kids

All families and skaters are asked to do volunteer hours. The entire league is volunteer-run, so the help is vital to keeping the roller derby going. For kids, jobs range from helping to sweep the rink after practice to different positions at bouts (selling tickets or merchandise). Parents help keep the league running and raise money for team travel and other necessities. Being part of the roller derby community means pitching in and helping when there is a need.

Roller derby for kids is a welcoming and egalitarian sports environment that can be hard to find in other teams. Kids of any size or fitness level are encouraged to join and make progress on their terms. Everyone can participate, and no one is cut. There’s an authentic atmosphere of camaraderie and acceptance among the kids. Many start when they are young and do it through their teen years. It’s not like many sports where teams are formed each year with different kids – it’s a core group of kids that keep being added to.

It’s a great sport, particularly for girls or trans and non-binary kids, though a number of boys and young men are part of the teams. The majority of the skaters are female-identifying teenagers, and the coaches are all women. The adult team is also specifically for female-identifying people, so the leadership of the teams are all women.

Finally, roller derby is an affordable sport. Dues for the month are only $20 and include the twice-weekly two-hour lessons. Skate rental adds another $20, but those are the only costs facing participants. For those who have trouble paying, there is a fund specifically to help skaters cover their dues. Roller derby is a radically accepting sport that is an excellent option for a lot of kids who haven’t felt comfortable in other sports teams and environments. Even if you don’t have a kid who is interested, everyone should check out a bout someday and support the Cherry City Roller Derby teams.

The Madhouse
1335 Madison Street NE, Salem

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