It’s official: Canada is third-best in the world when it comes to junior female roller derby.
And for one Greater Victoria teen, it’s cause for celebration.
Naomi Morrell is still riding the high of the Junior Roller Derby World Cup – held in Valence, France July 28 to 30 – where she helped captain the team to the bronze medal, defeating team World 340-67. But ascending to the sport’s highest ranks in such a short amount of time has also left her with some mixed emotions.
“It feels like it all ended so quickly. I feel like I just got (to France), and now it’s already done,” said Morrell – known in the derby world as Scream Soda – speaking to the Goldstream Gazette from Valence Tuesday (Aug. 1). “I’m so proud of my team and I saw myself develop so much over the course of the world cup. But to be honest, it also feels unsatisfying because I won’t get to see my teammates as much anymore.”
Named a team captain just days before she started the arduous 25-hour journey to the tournament, Morrell, who turns 17 on Aug. 2, said she faced just about every emotion she could have during competition.
She enjoyed the thrill of leading the team out into the stadium for the opening ceremonies, but she also learned a hard lesson in responsibility during a particularly tough match against team World, which consisted of players from countries who were not able to field a full team.
“For a moment there, we were behind, and my freaked-out, stressed, sleep-deprived self panicked and took it upon myself, rather than trusting my team to do what they were good at doing, and I went out there and decided to score all the points,” said Morrell. “I ended up getting lots of penalties and actually fouled out of that game.”
Morrell said she sat down with a veteran in the sport after being ejected and had a long chat about the importance of leadership, and the need to trust your team rather than try and do everything yourself as a captain.
The team managed to win that game and continue on in the tournament, and Morrell said she couldn’t have been happier with how everyone did, and how amazing every team and player was off the rink during the tournament.
But while the success at the worlds is no doubt a cause for celebration, she said she also feels a bit like there is nowhere to go but down for her in the sport she has loved since she was 11 years old, given its relatively niche status and limited professional opportunities.
That said, she is proud of the impact she has had on the sport, both in Canada and in Greater Victoria since it was first announced she had made the team. She said the local league and Victoria Rotten Apples she plays for at home have already seen a surge in new players, and Canada’s success at the worlds has raised awareness of the sport to new heights as proven by the amount of support she has received and is thankful for.
And while she may feel she has already reached the top with few options on where to go next, already that outlook is starting to change, with the junior team’s athletic therapist telling her just before speaking with the Gazette that he had recommended her to the adult national team ahead of the next world cup in 2025 – just in time for her to be eligible.