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Banking on derby

OC Roller Girls' junior league offers more than a rough-and-tumble sport for its members.

February 20, 2013|By Jennifer Lane
  • Jim O'Donnell, left, high-fives his daughter, a member of the OC Roller Girls junior team, as she skates by at halftime during a matchup with San Diego's Juvenile Dollinquents.
Jim O'Donnell, left, high-fives his daughter,… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

It may seem from the stereotype that it's all about jabbing elbows and shoving people over the rails, but for the juniors at OC Roller Girls, it's also about taking pride in personal growth and ability.

OC Roller Girls is a roller derby organization based in Huntington Beach. Founded by Heather "Disco Dervish" Shelton in 2006, the group trains women at several levels of expertise to work in teams and compete against area leagues.

The junior league, consisting of girls ages 8 to 17, formed in 2010. Together with the adult league, the organization has about 175 members.

"First we had to convince women to play, then we had to convince children to play," Shelton, 38, said.

With its latest game sold out, the junior league is quickly becoming as popular as the adult league.

Both of the league's founders are deeply involved with the league and believe derby is a sport to help women grow, change and develop. The junior division is now a nonprofit organization and is part of the Junior Roller Derby Assn., also a nonprofit.

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"We believe that sport is a catalyst for change in women's lives," original skater Deborah "Dirty Deborah Harry" Monterossa, 45, said.

Monterossa said she has seen women and girls come and learn how to skate and play the game, and has seen how it changes their lives.

"Self-esteem is garnered through achievement, not necessarily based on how you look," Monterossa said. "When you achieve, you start feeling better about yourself."

Parents like Wendy O'Donnell, of Huntington Beach, think it's not just sports in general, but derby in particular, that made the difference for her daughter.

O'Donnell, mother of junior league member Megan O'Donnell, said her daughter tried many different activities, but none of them hooked her like derby.

"She did soccer, softball, Girl Scouts and a lot of other organizations; but this is just so awesome and so well-run — it is just cool to be a derby girl. It is just incredible," she said.

Wendy O'Donnell decided to get into the action as well. She recently signed up for the adult fresh-meat program, the league's beginner level, and said she can better understand how tough it is for her daughter and is even more impressed with how far she's come in her year and seven months in the league.

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