Junior Kaijah Monson is a blocker in roller derby, a sport gaining popularity in the United States

GIRLS ON WHEELS: Junior Kaijah Monson (center) competes in an Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby game. Monson said next year she wants to join the Naptown Roller Girls, an adult roller derby league. HAILEY MEYER / PHOTO

GIRLS ON WHEELS: Junior Kaijah Monson (center) competes in an Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby game. Monson said next year she wants to join the Naptown Roller Girls, an adult roller derby league. HAILEY MEYER / PHOTO

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Before she started playing roller derby, junior Kaijah Monson said she preferred sketching over sports. However, three years ago, she joined the Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby (IJRD), a non-profit roller derby league for girls from ages 7 to 17.

GIRLS ON WHEELS: Junior Kaijah Monson (center) competes in an Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby game. Monson said next year she wants to join the Naptown Roller Girls, an adult roller derby league. HAILEY MEYER / PHOTO

Now Monson is a blocker in roller derby. She goes to practice twice a week, goes to an additional speed-skating practice and stretches at home.

Although roller derby was more popular in the 1970s, it experienced a recent boost in popularity in 2004, according to Monson. Furthermore, Monson said that it even draws more people to the Pepsi Coliseum than the Indiana Ice, the Indianapolis ice hockey team. Although mostly females play roller derby, there has been an increase in male leagues. The creation of junior leagues, which Monson joined, is also a new phenomenon.

“My cousin was on the Naptown Roller Girls. I watched them a good year before I started talking to Melissa Brooks, and she started the league in the fall of 2009,” Monson said.
Brooks, president and director of training for IJRD, said Monson was never a sports kid, but when she started playing roller derby, she found her body was capable of more than she knew. Monson said it took her three months how to learn how to skate. Although she said she’s still not stable, she is happy that she can skate backwards now.

Monson not only skates for the IJRD, but also draws for the team.

Brooks said, “One of (Kaijah’s) cousins was on the team, and I had run into (Kaijah) while she was doodling on her art pad. I realized how good of an artist she was and asked her to create a logo.”
Monson’s anime-inspired art has appeared on IJRD T-shirts, the IJRD website and the IJRD Facebook. If she had to choose between art and roller derby, Monson said she would still pick art because she could get paid for it; however, roller derby is still a strong hobby.

Monson said next year she plans on joining the Naptown Roller Girls, which is the adult roller derby league. According to Monson, the availability of a roller derby league will somewhat affect her decision of which college to attend.

“(Kaijah) came in not very athletic, and she’s one of my older girls, so she’s completely done a 180,” Brooks said. “Her athletic ability has just grown exponentially. She’s super smart on track, and she (has) emerged as a leader.”

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