Roller derby providing an inclusive environment

Sam Sterling at Minoru Arena in Richmond.

Sam Sterling at Minoru Arena in Richmond.

Dubbing herself as “muscle ma’ am,” Sam Sterling, roller derby player extraordinaire, finds community in the sport of roller derby. Sterling has played for the Nanaimo Harbour City Rollers, one of the youngest roller derby teams in B.C., since 2012.

Sterling finds there is an appeal to roller derby that other sports she has participated in don’t have.

“I’ve always liked doing sports, but I’ve never been great at any sport. I always thought roller derby seemed really cool and tough, and I always liked that it was all women doing it,” Sterling said.

Determined to be a part of roller derby, Sterling ended up on the Harbour City team by fluke. After trying to get in contact with other Nanaimo derby team and getting no response, Sterling found Harbour City more welcoming and responsive.

Sterling, who identifies herself as a butch lesbian, has struggled when coming out in the rural area of Nanaimo. By participating in the sport of roller derby, she finds that she can be more comfortable with her identity given the environment that roller derby encourages.

“There’s definitely the stereotype that roller derby is full of lesbians, which like I wish. But, definitely every person I have met in roller derby, they’re not necessarily (LGBT), but they are definitely really open minded, and they ask about my girlfriend, which is nice because in every other aspect of my life people don’t really ask, or care, or know that I have a girlfriend,” she said.

The Harbour City Roller Derby Association is non-profit and was established in 2010. Roller derby was first played in Chicago in 1935 and then had a comeback in 2001, becoming a national sport, so Harbour City will have to catch up to other, more established teams.

“That definitely has a big disadvantage on us, because they are more experienced and have been able to form their plays better,” said Sterling.

Although roller derby is a notoriously rough sport, Sterling hopes for longevity in her roller derby career and hopes to be the best player in her division.

Harbour City’s goal is to be active in the community, as well as being “positive female role models,” according to its website.

Sarah Schuchard

Sarah Schuchard is a third-year journalism student interested in news, politics and advocacy journalism. Her passion is to tell important stories that effect change while, also, trying to balance her creative aspirations, even if they are horribly assembled ones.


  • Danielle Himbeault
    Reply December 7, 2013

    Danielle Himbeault

    Roller derby is so awesome! It is a really competitive sport, and has kinda fallen under the radar for most people. Those who do seem to know it exists kind of think of it as a joke, which is really too bad because it is a riot to be a part of, as an athlete or a spectator. Also, I am really jealous of some of their awesome nicknames, I wish someone would call me ‘Murder Mama’ or ‘Slaughter Sister’ or something badass like that!

  • Parker Lund
    Reply December 8, 2013

    Parker Lund

    Honestly, I had no idea Roller Derby was a sport played in the lower mainland; in fact, I’m not sure i knew it was a sport that happened outside of the movies. I, for one, am happy to have learned a little about this sport — it seems really cool.

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