In the northern part of Europe lies a tiny country called Denmark. In Denmark, you don’t grow up with birthday parties at the roller rink and the weather is often too dull and rainy for casual outdoor skating, so it’s probably not surprising that roller derby is still not widely known here. But I am here to tell you a story about some amazing people who are working tirelessly to change that.
Roller derby first saw the light of day in Denmark in 2009, when Saboteur from Copenhagen came home from a trip to the US, feeling inspired to make this cool sport happen on their home turf. Saboteur and a few dedicated people got together and skated in a roundabout in the middle of nowhere, and thus Copenhagen Roller Derby was born. Soon the rest of the country jumped on the bandwagon and new leagues were formed in other major cities. The adventures of Danish derby had now begun.
Bringing a new sport to a tiny country where people tend to be a little afraid of the unknown was no walk in the park. Roller rinks are a thing that we can only dream of, so most of us skate in school gymnasiums or somewhere similar. And I am sure that many European leagues will know the challenge of renting a public space like a gymnasium and convincing the people who run the facilities that we won’t damage the floor with our skates and pads. We will get the late time slots because the more popular sports get first pick. And because of the late time slots, attendance will often be low. Recruitment can be a hassle, because very few adults are willing to commit to the time it takes to learn how to skate along with the time you have to dedicate to volunteering.
But despite the struggles with attendance and training space, we are too stubborn to step down. We want to fight for this, and derby in Denmark still maintains the underground DIY spirit we know from the early days. It is a place for people who don’t fit into boxes. Even now that junior derby is slowly gaining momentum in Denmark, we still have many new skaters who never played sports growing up. And I think that is an important thing to cherish, because derby can provide the social space that was missing in your childhood. Those of us who were awkward nerds in school can get a second chance to find our own crowd.
Our ability to include people from all walks of life seems to have caught the attention of the official governing bodies of Danish community sport. As of 2018, a roller derby committee has been formed as a part of Rullesport Danmark, the Danish association of roller sports. This committee consists of a handful of people who have been active in roller derby for years; some as skaters, others as officials or coaches. Thanks to their hard work, we are getting exposure and financial support through the association and are able to share our experiences with other sports in order to inspire each other. The committee is not here to dictate the rules for everybody playing derby in Denmark; it is here to help us grow as a community. Little by little, we are making progress in creating a serious and inclusive sporting environment.
I have been a skating member of three different leagues in Denmark and I have worked with the rest of the Danish leagues on various occasions. Every league has their own unique challenges and brings a different color to the canvas that is Derby Denmark. But we all have one thing in common – we want more people. We all struggle with burnout and we all hope that someday there will be more of us to share the burden. Personally, one of my greatest joys in this world is when I can pass on my knowledge and passion to someone new to the sport and see their face light up when they talk about derby.
As I am writing this, I feel confident that 2019 will be the year where Danish derby will grow stronger than ever. In my league, we had more than 30 people show up for our new skater intake in January. Last year, Copenhagen Ladybugs became the first league in Denmark to host a Sevens tournament, and this year two other leagues have already followed suit and scheduled their own tournaments.
To this day, we have 6 active leagues and a few up-and-coming around the country, which I think is pretty cool considering that the total population of Denmark is less than 6 million people. I feel so immensely proud of everyone involved and everything we have accomplished together throughout the last decade. It hasn’t always been an easy ride – in fact there has been quite a large amount of blood, sweat and, especially, tears involved – but Derby Denmark has always been there for me, no matter what challenges I was facing in my personal life. And that is why I want to give something back and do everything I can to make this community flourish. This is my tribute to Danish roller derby.
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