Sports
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria roller derby teen laces up for victory on the world stage

16-year-old Naomi Morrell, aka Scream Soda, will represent Canada at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in France

By Nina Grossman
January 7, 2023
Sports
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria roller derby teen laces up for victory on the world stage

16-year-old Naomi Morrell, aka Scream Soda, will represent Canada at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in France

By Nina Grossman
Jan 7, 2023
Naomi Morrell, AKA Scream Soda, is heading to France this summer for the Junior Roller Derby World Cup. Photo: Nina Grossman / Capital Daily
Naomi Morrell, AKA Scream Soda, is heading to France this summer for the Junior Roller Derby World Cup. Photo: Nina Grossman / Capital Daily
Sports
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria roller derby teen laces up for victory on the world stage

16-year-old Naomi Morrell, aka Scream Soda, will represent Canada at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in France

By Nina Grossman
January 7, 2023
Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Victoria roller derby teen laces up for victory on the world stage
Naomi Morrell, AKA Scream Soda, is heading to France this summer for the Junior Roller Derby World Cup. Photo: Nina Grossman / Capital Daily

A local roller derby teen has made it to the big leagues.

Naomi Morrell, also known as Scream Soda, was selected to represent Canada at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in France this July. It’s the highest level for a player her age, she said.

That’s why ‘Scream Soda’ let out a big scream when she read the offer email.  

“Part of me, I'm letting myself be excited and really pumped up and enjoy it,” she said. “But then I can't think about it too much because I get so nervous.”

Morrell’s roller derby career started when she was 11 years old and searching for a new activity. A family member had given her Roller Girl, a graphic novel about a young girl who joins a derby team. The novel piqued her interest, and Morrell’s mom took her to watch a practice session at the Eagle Ridge Sports Arena.

Morrell watched with awe as the Margarita Villains—a house team of the Eves of Destruction, Victoria’s only flat track roller derby league—did their training drills, speeding by her in a flurry of colour and noise. She became captivated by the game: the rough and tumble energy, the determined, brawny packs and jammers pushing their way around the track, and the rare fact it was a physical, high-energy sport played mostly by women and girls.

Morrell was all in, and she knew exactly what her derby name would be. She turned again to Roller Girl, where there was a character named Scream Soda. When Morrell joined the local junior team, the Rotten Apples, it was only natural she claimed the moniker for herself.

The name turned out to be well-suited. Five years later she’s team captain, and has no qualms about putting the “scream” into her Scream Soda identity.

“I think when I'm playing derby, I'm the most true version of myself that I am anywhere,” she said. “I don't have to be quiet. I don't have to slow down. [Scream Soda] has become that part of me where, at that place, I can be loud and I can be extra, and I can be strong.”

With a warm smile and a head of bouncy brown curls, the 16-year-old is friendly and approachable, but she has an undercurrent of confidence and tenacity. She knows she’s good. And she’s in it to win it.

Her coach, and longtime teammate Kiana Mckinstry, or Kamikaze K, wasn’t surprised to see her friend make the national team.

“She’s very loud, energetic, and very team-oriented,” Mckinstry said. “She picked up this sport one of the fastest I’ve ever seen another junior pick it up. She works hard for what she wants.”

Morrell’s favourite position in a bout (the derby team for a match) is as the first jammer on the first line. The jammer’s job is to pass the opposing team’s blockers, who will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. After the jammer laps the pack, they earn a point for every blocker they pass.

On that first line, the jammer needs to skate fast and hard to win the advantage and break out of the pack. It’s that moment, Morrell said, when “everything is crackling with energy.”

“I don't get nervous a whole lot when it comes to roller derby. But that beginning line is so nerve-racking, I feel like I'm going to throw up,” she said. “And then you just explode, and the game starts. It's the best feeling in the world.”

Roller derby has orbited in and out of popularity since its origins in the 1930s, but it's always been popular among women and the LGBTQ+ community. A New York Times article titled The Long and Surprising History of Roller Derby noted just how unusual it was for a women-dominated contact sport to even exist in the first half of the 20th century.

Margot Atwell, the author of Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby, told the New York Times that, “Feminism is in the DNA of the sport.”

That's another draw for Morrell, who used to play soccer and noticed the mainstream perception of women's teams were that they were secondary to men’s teams.

But roller derby has never had separate rules or standards for women’s and men’s teams. Most teams, even from the beginning, have been co-ed, she said.

“What draws people in is that there's no setting us aside,” Morrell said. “There's no, ‘oh, that's the Women's League.’ It's just, 'this is derby.’

“Along with women, the sport was built by the LGBTQ+ community,” she added. “It’s a place where we can play our sport, we can excel the way that we're built, and there's no judgment. It's always been such an inclusive space for everybody.”

Morrell said derby is unlike other sports, which have to create space for marginalized players.  

“We are the space,” she said.  

Naomi Morrell AKA Scream Soda (far right) is captain of The Rotten Apples, The Eves of Destruction's junior team. Now the 16-year-old is preparing to represent Canada at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in July. Photo: Provided / Saskatchewan Avalanche Watch

Morrell’s mom, Cindy MacDougall, agreed. That’s an enormous part of what makes derby so special, she said.

“Something I really appreciate is the community of role models that the juniors get from the adult skaters. It is amazing to me that there was this badass group of women and femmes and [non-binary] people who consider my kid family. Derby family.”

The physical nature of the sport can be a bit nerve-racking to watch, MacDougall added, but it’s part of what makes roller derby such an incredible spectator sport, and the perfect sport for her dogged, determined teen daughter.

“Naomi takes very much after my mother, who was the toughest human being I ever met, and had a natural competitiveness and aggressiveness,” MacDougall said. “You can't bottle up that type of person, you have to let them find safe ways to express themselves.”

Now along with the role of team captain, the Belmont Secondary School student is balancing her 11th grade studies with a rigorous training schedule in preparation for the World Cup.

But without any grants or scholarships, roller derby is, for the most part, a self-funded sport. MacDougall has started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs of travel, both to France and to practices scheduled in Calgary and Toronto.

“It's an honor to be able to just go to the World Cup,” Morrell said. “And if we got silver or bronze or whatever, we'd be totally content. But the way that I see it is, they're there to win. And I'm really thankful for that, because that's the push that I want,” Morell said.

“I want everyone [on the team] to feel the same way I do, and I want to get gold.”

Article Author's Profile Picture
Nina Grossman
Newsletter Editor
contact@capitaldaily.ca

Related News

Victoria roller derby teen laces up for victory on the world stage
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.