WFTDA to Launch Independent Junior Roller Derby Coalition

The leading organization in women’s flat track roller derby has revealed plans to spark the growth of a new body for junior roller derby—in spite there already being a well-established one.

The WFTDA has announced that it will help create what it is calling the Junior Flat Track Derby Association. The JFTDA will be a new coalition of junior roller derby leagues, exclusively for those that wish to abide by and share the “by the skater, for the skater” vision and mission of the WFTDA.

“Following in the footsteps of the member-owned, member-operated WFTDA,” says the WFTDA in its announcement, “the JFTDA will be a democratic organization that is overseen and operated by member leagues who will work together to manage day-to-day operations and overall structure.”

“The WFTDA is so thrilled to support the junior leagues playing roller derby all over the world by facilitating their work together, said WFTDA Executive Director Juliana Gonzalez. “Many of our WFTDA member leagues are affiliated with or support local junior teams already, and we believe that junior derby skaters deserve access to the same organization and democratic principles as adult skaters.”

Gonzalez also said that players playing roller derby having a voice in the game they play “is at the heart of the WFTDA,” and that in helping to create the new organization, JFTDA member leagues can “similarly collaborate to govern their sport.”

Though it will be initially set up by the WFTDA via its Junior Committee, which will provide “support and guidance” through the initiation phase, it is expected that the JFTDA will become an independent body not organizationally tied to the WFTDA. After being built up by its members enough to maintain a sustainable structure, the JFTDA will elect a board and take over operations from there.

Though the WFTDA has ambitions to make the JFTDA independent, the WFTDA notes that the resources and opportunities that the JFTDA will eventually make available will go on to “provide an organized pathway and smooth transition from junior derby to adult WFTDA and MRDA participation.”

The formation of a new junior roller derby organization, not to mention its announcement in the middle of the WFTDA playoff season, came as a surprise to many in the derby community given that there is already a well-established junior roller derby organization out there.

The Junior Roller Derby Association, formed in late 2009, currently has over 100 junior member leagues with girls-only and co-ed teams spread out across North America and internationally. (Many leagues holding JRDA membership are also affiliated with or have other ties to adult WFTDA member leagues.) The JRDA’s international growth allowed it to put on the very first Junior Roller Derby World Cup in conjunction with the JRDA Championships earlier this summer. It also holds JuniorCon, an annual training clinic and social event for junior-age skaters.

As a young democratic organization itself, the JRDA has been through some of its own growing pains, no different than any other derby organization. And like everyone else, it has taken feedback from its members (skater parents, coaches, and league officials in this case) to implement improvements. Recently, the JRDA has updated its governance policies to include more polling and voting on principles and more frequent and consistent communication among and between members, among other changes.

But the main goal of the JRDA is as it has always been: “To nurture bold self-confidence in youth by developing teamwork and athletic ability while treasuring individuality within a culture of integration, encouragement, and service to others.”

With the JRDA and the WFTDA sharing many common goals for the growth and success of junior roller derby, the sudden announcement of the JFTDA does at first glance seem somewhat counter-intuitive for the overall health of the sport. (Why split finite resources among two good associations when you can combine them to form one great one?) For its part, the JRDA said in a post to its Facebook page that it “offers our support to WFTDA in their efforts while we continue to more forward with our own.”

As the JFTDA coalition is just getting started, there isn’t a concrete outline for exactly what its efforts will ultimately be; those will be outlined by the leagues that may eventually form the JFTDA.

Perhaps in part due to the establishment of the JRDA, the WFTDA is offering what amounts to be a “no commitment” sign-up process for interested parties. Those that register can discuss, collaborate, and vote on what they would like to see the JFTDA become. (Whether or not it will accommodate co-ed gameplay, for example.) At some point in the future, after the requirements for membership have been outlined, registered leagues will have the option to commit to join or back out. The JFTDA will physically form with those that choose to commit.

What the WFTDA is offering presents an interesting opportunity for unaffiliated junior derby leagues—and an even more interesting one for WFTDA member leagues with JRDA-affiliated juniors programs.

However, there are many questions that will need answering in the months ahead, from both the WFTDA and the eventual JFTDA. Just how much input will (should?) junior skaters have in a youth version of “for the skater, by the skater?” What about junior insurance reciprocity? How much involvement does the MRDA have in this effort, if any? What of the Amateur Athletic Union and it including roller derby to the Junior Olympic Games next year, in partnership with USARS?

What position would an independent JFTDA have on any of those things?

It’s very, very early days for the Junior Flat Track Derby Association. Those questions will take some time to answer. In the coming months, we should start to get a better picture of just what the WFTDA is thinking in creating a separate-but-similar junior derby organization alongside another separate-but-similar junior derby organization. Roller Derby Notes will keep a close eye on this development, so check with us if any new developments emerge.

More information about the JFTDA, and info on how to register if interested, can be found on the WFTDA website, here.