Orlando Derby Girls’ LGBT-inclusiveness puts them on track to compete internationally

orlando derby girls

Orlando Psycho City Derby Girls are skating their way to high-stakes competition. On Jan. 22, the league was accepted alongside nine other teams – ranging in location from across the country in Hood River, Oregon to across the world in New Zealand –into an apprentice program for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing body of a sport considered by many to be the fastest-growing in the world.

Completion of the apprentice program typically takes from six months to a year. If the league is then accepted into WFTDA, it will play against the best teams in the country and even the world.

“The apprentice program is opening a huge door to a different level of competition for us, and it’s something that we’ve wanted for a really long time,” says Heather Kinkade, OPCDG president.

Kinkade joined the league three years ago, and said she was immediately impressed by it.

“I was just struck by how open and welcoming they were, and how focused they were on their goal of eventually joining the WFTDA and becoming competitive athletes,” Kinkade says.

She says it took about a year to restructure the league and get it up to the standards needed to submit the application.

Starting in 2004 with just a handful of leagues, WFTDA has grown to include 355 full-member leagues and 81 apprentice leagues, according to its website.

Orlando’s league started in 2009, the same year WFTDA introduced its apprentice program. It has also seen incredible growth recently, with about 100 interested new recruits this year.

“We’re growing astronomically,” says Sara DeAvilla, recruitment coordinator.

DeAvilla said that of this initial large recruitment class, probably only 10 or so will make it into the league; but that’s still a large amount considering that some leagues only have 10 members total.

DeAvilla pointed to the sport’s inclusiveness as a reason for its continued growth.

“We’re very LGBT-friendly… I don’t see that in a lot of sports. We’re very trans-inclusive,” she says.

WFTDA monitors its leagues to ensure they’re open to transgender individuals.

“If they’re in transition from going M-F transgender, [we] don’t ask questions. It doesn’t matter if they’re finalized. It doesn’t matter what stage they are. Everyone is included,” she said.

Kinkade says the league makes a point to ensure beginners feel welcome.

“What makes Orlando unique is that we don’t just make people try out and already know [how to play roller derby],” DeAvilla says. “We teach you everything from the ground up… If you’ve never put on skates in your entire life, I can teach you how to skate and within a few seasons, you can be an MVP.

Kinkade adds that derby is unique because it’s a full-contact sport pioneered by women athletes.

So many of us when we started had never played a team sport, let alone a full-contact sport, and here we are,” she says. “We get this great way of bringing this very broad spectrum of people together with one common goal.”

Psycho City Derby Girls consists of three home teams that compete against each other – the Arkham Assailants, Sunnyland Slammers and the Serial Thrillers – and one traveling all-star team, the Straight Jackettes, which would be the team competing in WFTDA tournaments upon the league’s acceptance.

The 2016 season kicks off Feb. 14 with a double header opener at Semoran Skateway in Casselberry. The Serial Thrillers will take on the Sunnyland Slammers, and the winning team will then play 2015’s reigning champs, the Arkham Assailants.

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