Light City Roller Derby – Tackling Illegal Drugs to ‘Whip It’ in the Bud
When April Whitehead first set foot in a roller derby arena, she barely knew what roller derby was, let alone if it was something she could do. “It was just one of those things”, April says when recalling her first encounter with the sport in 2013. April was initially apprehensive when her friend invited her along to watch her try out for Light City Derby, believing it wasn’t her scene. Before she knew it, she was hooked. In an ironic turn of events, April has remained at Light City Derby long after her friend chose to give up the sport. Now proudly serving as Light City’s Club Secretary, April takes action on and off the rink. One of the biggest priorities was tackling illegal drugs through the Good Sports program.
April chuckles when asked if her story is much like the action-packed sport of Roller Derby itself – not everybody who starts can last to the finish line. “Yeah absolutely! It’s been so much fun and I’ve learned so much”, April confessed. “It’s a real grassroots sport”. While there’s no grass to be found in the world of roller derby, this is certainly a perfect description. When an independent promoter Leo Seltzer created the Transcontinental Roller Derby, a simulated road race between two-person teams of professional skaters, roller derby was born.
A punk rock sport with an 80-year history
While many first found out about roller derby from the hit 2009 film Whip It (Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut starring Oscar-nominated actress and LGBTIQ activist Ellen Page), the origins of the sport date back to the 1930s. In a sport known for terms such as ‘jamming’ and ‘tripping’, taking part in a roller derby is truly a crash course in fun. It’s also about learning how to hold your own, your line on the track, and your commitment to sportsmanship.
“I did come in thinking it’s just like Whip It, that you get a cool nickname and get to hit people”, April laughs. Since joining the club, Light City has become like a family. April says roller derby has become not only a huge part of her life, it has also shaped her as a person. “We all work really hard to make Light City what it is”, April confirms. “It’s run by the skaters for the skaters.”
No experience necessary – joining roller derby and the Good Sport program
April came to the sport with almost no skating experience, “I had a pair of rollerblades as a kid, barely skated then and hadn’t skated since.” When she arrived at Light City, she was amazed how the club embraced her regardless.
“I’ve always been so clumsy and uncoordinated. But my league’s really cool when they do their intake program. They’ll actually teach you from scratch. And it was quite the learning experience!” April admits.
Light City Derby is a relatively young club (established in 2011), and it was founded by a small collective keen on bringing roller derby to the Port Adelaide city of Osborne. It has gone on to expand as a league to even include junior teams. “It’s just grown and grown”, April beams.
The inclusion of juniors and young adult members pushed them to look at putting an illegal drugs policy in place, even before joining Good Sports. While Light City’s history with the Good Sports program is relatively brief, this hasn’t stopped them taking rapid and major steps to make the most of what it has to offer.
Tackling illegal drugs one step at a time
“It’s been really good for us.” April says of her experience with Good Sports. “It’s helped us along with things we were already starting to do at the club.” April remembers vividly when Good Sports visited the club. She recalls the impact she felt when she found out what it is to be a Good Sports club and what the program is trying to achieve. “It’s all about best practices, especially with the Tackling Illegal Drugs and Safe Transport policy.”
April proudly reveals that in the short time the policies have been in place at Light City, the positive changes have been profound. “It’s also been a way of boosting culture within the league as well.”
At Light City Derby, skaters understand that it’s only fun if everybody embraces their duty of care. The Good Sports Tackling Illegal Drugs policy was first an important step for the club, and now an invaluable part of their ethos. “If something does go wrong, we’ve got guidance on how to move forward.”
Making roller derby and community sport a place for everyone
Not only a proud Good Sports club, Light City is also on a determined mission to make roller derby something for everyone. April is clearly proof that roller derby can be a sport for the masses, even for people with no idea what it is or how to skate.
That said, Light City is a rather unique league being that it has mixed gender teams. Their philosophy of inclusion is what led to this notable trademark. “That was something quite different in Adelaide at the time”, April says. “Other leagues in the area were for women only, so it was quite unusual”. Light City’s commitment to identifying as a LGBTIQ and family-friendly club goes hand-in-hand with their mission to welcome everyone to come along and have a go. April adds that this also defines their role in the community. “It’s what we’re all about”.
April believes the policy shows how much like a family Light City Derby is, and proves how much everyone at the club cares about each other. “It fits in really well with our determination to always look out for one another.”
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