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  • Writer's pictureLa Nouvelle Orléanaise

Orléans Roller Derby, "a hot league"

I got to know the Orléans Roller Derby sports association last summer, during the Made by Women festival organised by Le Ponton – the famous open-air dancehall which offers you very nice hot dogs and music every summer (see article).

Originally from the United States, Roller Derby is mostly a women's contact sport practiced on quad roller skates (traditional skates). Appearing in France in 2009, it now has a little more than 4500 members within the French Federation of Roller Skating and Skateboarding. To understand the rules of this sport in video, click here.

Orléans can boast about having seen the birth in 2011 of the first league of the Centre Val-de-Loire region with, on the one hand, a team who plays in the best French division, called "Elite": Les Simones (team A), and, on the other hand, a team competing in National League 2, but who is more on a leisure basis: Les Simones de B (team B). In all, there are about sixty people who run association.

During the Made by Women festival, some members of Les Simones team had a stand to promote their sport and its values, namely surpassing oneself, combativeness and also a spirit of fair play, benevolence and inclusion.

Curious to discover this team and this sport, I went to support Les Simones de B during the French Roller Derby National League 21, which was held at the Jacques Cosson gymnasium, in La Source district, last November.

This first experience made me want to go and cheer team A on, on February 10th and 11th at the Palais des Sports, in Orléans. Indeed, the sports complex will host the eight best French teams for the first stage of the Roller Derby National Championship ! The ten scheduled matches will be peppered with entertainment (personally, I really want to attend the one with the cheerleading team: the Pêche pêche boys, as well as the one with the dancing club OP45). To buy a ticket, click here.

On February 4th, I went to a training session of Les Simones (team A). Emilie, who is both the president and the coach of the team, as well as some players, agreed to answer my questions.

Les Simones (team A), & les Simones de B (team B)

LNO: Could you please tell me who was behind the creation of this first Roller Derby league in the region in 2011?

ORD (Orléans Roller Derby): The three founders met by way of the Internet. As each of them wanted to try their hand at Roller Derby, they decided to set up an association. At the beginning, there were not enough players to form a team, which led, at the time, to the creation of a regional team: Les Centrifugeuses. Today, as you know, there are two (teams A and B). It is hoped that a third team (team C) will be created very soon.

LNO: Each league has a catchy name (and so do the players). Why Les Simones?

ORD: We wanted a French-sounding name to distinguish ourselves from the other teams and from the American origins of our sport, and Simone is a name that, in the collective imagination, evokes an old granny walking her little poodle. Despite its small physique, this breed of dog can be surprising and surly. That's the image and the message we wanted to send to the other teams.

Old logo (left), new logo (right). To be able to wear this very stylish jacket, you have to be a player.

LNO: What do you like about that sport?

ORD: First of all, it's a sport which helps to unwind; there is a commitment of the body that is important because it is at the service of the team. Secondly, we are very attached to the values defended by our sport, in particular respect, which is at the centre of everything: respect for the individual, respect for the opponent, respect for the referee... And then, beyond sport, there is a strong bond between us.

LNO: How many hours of training per week does it take to play in the Elite Division?

ORD: We train four hours a week. And that's not counting the hours of training that we each do on our own: some do muscle strengthening, others go swimming, do some yoga or some running... It depends. It's important to keep this pace in order to stay in the Elite Division. Throughout the year, we train against other teams, and the results have an impact on the European rankings. The National Championships take place twice a year.

Some photos of the training session, February 4th. It started with mental training, followed by a warm-up and some jams between 2, 3, 4 & 5 players.

LNO: In 2022, you moved up to the "Elite division". Since last summer, you have joined the international federation WFTDA (Women's Flat Track Derby Association) and met foreign teams. Which countries have you traveled to?

ORD: We had already had the opportunity to travel to Italy in 2018, but thanks to the support of our sponsors, we have had the chance to travel to Switzerland, Spain, Belgium and New Orleans, USA. The advantage of these trips is that it allows us to compare our ways of playing and refereeing. For example, we can congratulate ourselves on having a very good level of refereeing in our country.

Les Simones de B & Les Nasty Pêcheresses, under the watchful eye of a referee.

LNO: At the moment, you are promoting the National Championship which will take place this weekend at the Palais des Sports, in Orléans. Posters of Les Simones can be seen all over the city. Do you feel supported by the city and the public?

ORD: Absolutely! From the very beginning, we have been collaborationg with the media and using social networks in order to publicise our sport to a wide audience. The people from Orléans are more and more familiar with our name: Les Simones. The city of Orléans supports us too, for we have access to various gymnasiums in the city and we also have more slots than before to train.

Les Simones, drawn by the very talented Anne JC & Nadine Ramond on February 4th.

LNO: What is your fondest memory?

ORD: The day we went from Major League to "Elite" in 2022, in Lille. It was crazy! Today, we are ranked 7th out of 8, among the cities of Toulouse, Nantes, Paris (two teams), Lomme, Mérignac and Clermont-Ferrand. On Saturday, we will face Nothing Toulouse, the defending champions since 2017, in our first match of the competition.

LNO: What are your goals for the future?

ORD: We want to stay in the "Elite Division" while continuing to train new recruits – we accept players from the age of 16. We also aim to improve the skills of team B.

Les Simones de B, last November.

La Nouvelle-Orléanaise

For more information, visit the website, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube of the Orléans Roller Derby association.

1 The teams can be ranked into one of these categories : the "Elite division", the major league (N1) or minor league (N2).


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