MARYSVILLE – Nyla Murray wasn’t into sports at all, until her mom and grandma talked her into trying roller derby.
Now, she can’t get enough, practicing at the Marysville Skate Center twice a week almost year-round.
“It’s been so good for her confidence,” mom Lisa of Arlington said. Sophia Garcia coaches the junior coed team, called the Marysville Derby Demons. It consists of seven girls and three boys ages 10-16. But Garcia would like to expand the program as it begins another season in August.
Garcia said interested youngsters don’t even have to know how to skate. She said kids learn so fast compared to adults.
“They have no fear,” she said. “When you’re older you worry about getting hurt. The kids have more confidence. They are used to learning how to do stuff.”
Garcia has coached the team for 1 1/2 years. Prior to that she skated in roller derby, first with Rat City out of Seattle and then with the Jet City Bombers out of Everett.
She said she likes coaching kids because they have “no hidden agenda.” She found that adults tried it to “fill a void during some transition in life.”
With kids, “They are way braver to try new things. They pick up things way faster.”
Like most good coaches, Garcia likes to stress the fundamentals. She even teaches them to fall. If done properly, injuries can be avoided.
All players learn to block, even the jammers, the speed skaters whose job it is to score points by passing opposing players.
“You need to know how blockers think,” said Garcia, a jammer whose nickname was Sofa King Ninja.
Nyla, 12, who attends Lakewood Middle School, is a blocker. It’s her job to open up holes for the jammer, similar to a lineman in football.
Her mom was a roller figure skater when she was young. To encourage Nyla to be more active, Lisa started taking her skating Wednesday nights. That’s when Nyla was recruited to join the team.
“I can’t do this,” Lisa remembers Nyla saying, adding “We’ll teach you,” was the team’s response.
Grandma helped out by taking Nyla to a couple of adult roller derby bouts to see what it was like.
Nyla, whose nickname is “Nytalized,” said: “It was a little scary for me. But they were so accepting.”
Team captain Nayeli Lougo-Isaacs, who will be a junior at Marysville Getchell High School this fall, said what she likes most about the team is they are friends who become like family.
“We’re a community that all gets along,” she said, adding they have potlucks and Christmas events and other get-togethers, along with practice and bouts.
Nayeli, who has been on the team 2 1/2 years, said she joined because of peer pressure but now, “I absolutely love it.”
She plays pivot, which means she is a blocker first, but if the jammer can’t get through the pack she also has the ability to take over to score points.
Nayeli is so into the sport that she also work at the skate center.
“Derby, work, school,” that’s pretty much my life, she said.
Her nickname is “Nayslayer,” and it fits her. “I love getting big hits in,” she said.
Coach Garcia admitted she wasn’t big on getting hit. “Duck and dodge” was more her style, she said. Garcia said along with Nayeli two other skaters on the team work to pay their skate team dues. The team would love a sponsor. But they were able to get jerseys for the first time this year, along with team pictures. She said they like to have one bout a month. Each consists of 30-minutes halves. “Jams” last two minutes. Five skaters at a time compete.
Garcia, who lives in Seattle, heard about the coaching position and came up to check it out. Parents were trying to fill in after the previous coach quit.
“I kind of fell in love right away” with the team, she said.
At first, they were a non-contact team with skaters as young as 8. But when the kids decided they wanted contact roller derby instead, the age limit was raised.
Garcia, an Army trainer for 11 years, and assistant coach Tim Groves try to teach more than roller derby. “We instill good values,” she said, adding no bullying, drinking or drugs are tolerated.
“Our team empowers both boys and girls, teaches them discipline, teamwork, how to give and receive constructive criticism, and gives them a strong foundation to build self-confidence,” Garcia said.