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Beacher finds her tribe with roller derby

It's sometimes Surprising the amount of people who find a passion through a chance encounter. Call it fate, or call it happenstance – either way, Dara Douma has jumped in with both feet (and eight wheels) to the world of roller derby.

rollergirls-Dara-crop

Dara Douma, known as Triple D-Stroyer when in roller derby mode, seen in action at a GTA Rollergirls bout. PHOTO: Adam Chard

About two years ago, she went to watch a bout at Downsview. Upon returning home, she immediately began to look into what it takes to learn the sport. The GTA Rollergirls league, which calls Ted Reeve Community Arena home, was holding a 'fresh meat' program (an introductory course for roller derby, where newbies test the waters, learn the rules of the game, and sometimes learn how to skate from scratch), and now Douma is better known to the derby world as 'Triple D Stroyer'.

“I tried the drop-in 'freshie' night when GTA Rollergirls had it, and I remember coming home and saying 'I've found my tribe',” she said.

The rules of modern-day derby can seem a bit convoluted to those not familiar with the sport, which generally means most people.

“It wasn't something that most people grow up watching,” said Douma.

Though the sport may be familiar to TV viewers of the 1970s and 80s, today's derby has only a passing resemblance to that early version of the game.

“It used to be more like a spectator thing for entertainment, but it's a bit more serious nowadays,” she said.

derby-rollergirls-Dara-cAlthough the sport is taken more seriously, there is also a serious level of fun, especially when it comes to player names.

“We do make our own names. People sometimes wonder if they get assigned,” she said. “Sometimes you grow into one.”

Douma said it helps to have a group of other players to bounce potential ideas off of. As for Triple D Stroyer, she said it comes from the fact that all three of her names begin with 'D', as well as the fact that she plays all three positions: jammer, pivot and blocker. As for the 'D Stroyer' part, “I was looking for something feisty that started with 'D'.”

Douma has played hockey and taken part in other sports in the past, so she wasn't completely alien to the concept of skates, although roller skates require their own approach and set of skills.

“There's a lot of similarities, so I wasn't totally starting from scratch,” she said. “The sport itself is great exercise, and it's a hoot to play, it's really fun.”

Of course, one of the dangers of a sport that revolves counter-clockwise at all times, from an exercise perspective, is the lack of variety. Douma said during practice, the team regularly reverses direction on the track, “just so that you don't have one huge leg and one that never develops.”

Outside of derby, Douma is a firefighter at station 321, near Laird and Eglinton. While she loves the job, the shifts can sometimes make it a challenge to take part in a team that practices three nights a week.

“If you're not a person that has a nine to five job, it can be hard to fit that into your life,” she said. “It becomes a fairly big commitment in terms of practices…some people do drop off just because of the commitment level.”

Which is why she's starting up a daytime derby team for shift workers like herself. The idea is to make the sport more accessible to those that don't work a regular  nine to five job.

“You can find daytime leagues in Toronto if you're a hockey player or a curler, lots of the things that I do I can do during the day, but not this,” she said.

The sport attracts a fairly wide range of people, anyone from tattooed punks and rockers to stay-at-home moms, teachers, nurses, and all sorts of white-collar professionals.

“It's a fun group of people. It's a really diverse and really inclusive group of people. That's kind of what I love about it,” said Douma.

Triple D Stroyer plays on the Derby Debutantes team, part of the GTA Rollergirls league. The season runs from late spring to fall, with home games at Ted Reeve Arena. Visit gtarollergirls.com for more information on the league.

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