Lothian Derby Dolls are living proof that regardless of age or ability, anyone can put on a pair of skates and take to the track.
Taking part in a sporting initiative comes with a multitude of benefits. Beyond more obvious physical and mental health improvements, exercise can promote confidence, broaden a participant’s social horizons and help them to gain new skills. All of these are attributes that Baillie Gifford aims to pass on to others through their Grassroots Sports Fund. Working in partnership with Foundation Scotland, the programme was launched following the successes of the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games with the remit of supporting small sporting organisations.
One such initiative is Lothian Derby Dolls, a roller derby league who train in Edinburgh and the Lothian Regions. Established in 2011, the league prides itself on its accepting and accommodating approach, “The league welcomes everyone –we want people to enjoy all that roller derby has to offer. We also acknowledge that life gets in the way sometimes, so we are very flexible for those who have families but still want to take part,” explains Katherine Cotter, a skater with Lothian Derby Dolls.
Roller Derby is Europe’s fastest growing female sport. Played on quad roller skates, it is a fast-paced team sport that places emphasis on speed and strategy. Inclusivity is at the heart of the sport, which is for people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. “One of the joys of playing with Lothian Derby Dolls is there is a role for everyone,” says Katherine. “Since it only came to be in its current form in the mid-2000s, Roller Derby isn’t your typical competitive sport, so lack of experience isn’t a barrier.”
Many players in the league are struck by how much they get out of playing, “When I joined, I didn’t expect to become so passionate about it,” says Katherine. “I had been taking my children to roller discos for a while, but it never occurred to me that I would have so much to gain from giving roller skating a go myself,” laughs Katherine. “The benefits are wide ranging; I hadn’t appreciated how much of a work out it would be and I have grown in confidence. Above all, I love the community feeling that comes with being part of a team that supports and challenges you to improve.
“Skaters get the chance to adopt a derby name,” adds Katherine. “I chose Stormer because I wanted a weather related name. As the sport is full contact, having a derby name allows you to take on a different persona when you get on the track.”
Running a roller derby league is no easy feat; the sport is built on a ‘for the skaters, by the skaters’ ethos, so it’s up to the members to keep the league going. As a result, funding is crucial and as Katherine outlines, every little bit goes a long way in running a successful league, “The grant from the express grants scheme allowed us to introduce a help-to-buy scheme,” explains Katherine. “This allows us to help new skaters meet the initial cost of their equipment. In other words, it breaks down the financial barrier, which encourages people to join who may have been unable to do so otherwise.
“We also bought a Trackzilla machine that lays out the track for competitive play, purchased first aid supplies and we replaced old equipment. This has made a big difference to our weekly training sessions,” says Katherine.
When it comes to ambitions for the future, Lothian Derby Dolls hope to continue in the same vein that they were established, by promoting inclusivity and encouraging anyone to try roller derby, “We are keen to continue to grow. We run new skater sessions twice a year and we want to encourage anyone who is interested to come along. Without funding, we couldn’t do this, so we are eternally grateful for the support from the express grants scheme.”