Rolling out a derby community for Iowa City

Midwest+Mayhems+no.+54%2C+Bloodhound+%28right%29+passes+Midwest+Maulers+no.+13%2C+Loona+at+the+Marriott+Hotel+in+Coralville%2C+Sunday%2C+June+26%2C+2016.+The+I.C.+Bruisers+are+Iowa+Citys+only+roller+derby+league+for+children.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FTing+Xuan+Tan%29

Ting Xuan Tan

Midwest Mayhem’s no. 54, Bloodhound (right) passes Midwest Maulers’ no. 13, Loona at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville, Sunday, June 26, 2016. The I.C. Bruisers are Iowa City’s only roller derby league for children. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

By Mason Clarke

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A colorful mastermind just blurred past you, complete with spunky hair and stealth on roller blades that allow her to live up to the name on the back of her jersey: Rainbow Assassin.

Her real name is Cecilia Ferreira, and she skates alongside the likes of Termataytor, Fireball, and Garden Gnome for the Iowa City Bruisers junior roller-derby team, a one-of-a-kind team that has brought a community of kids together.

“My son has been able to find a group [here] that accepts him for who he is,” Bruiser coach Brian Ferreira said. “If you have troubles, you have teammates and coaches you can call. You have adults you can talk to who won’t judge you.”

Ferreira helped found the Bruisers just over two years ago, after his daughter, the aforementioned Rainbow Assassin, developed an obsession with roller derby that would not go away.

“I first saw a roller-derby game in 2009 … and I just automatically fell in love with the sport,” 12-year-old Cecilia Ferreira said. “My parents thought [my love for roller derby] would just go away, but it didn’t.”

After a number of different efforts, Ferreira decided to start the first Iowa City junior roller-derby team, and he wanted it to be special.

“We wanted it to be free. We wanted to make sure of that, because the sport can cost money for gear and stuff like that, and a lot of people cannot afford it,” he said. “We don’t want it to just be a middle-class sport; we want it to be a sport for everybody … As far as I know, we are the only free roller-derby team in the world.”

The Bruisers operate under a mission statement:

“ICB is a league of youth members and adult coaches. We aim to represent eastern Iowa with integrity, pride, and goodwill while promoting athleticism, confidence, and community among local youths regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.”

The team is open to any and all area kids ages 7 to 17, and there is even a 5-year-old who takes part in Bruisers’ competitions. Practices take place on Sundays at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center and Mondays at Wood Elementary School.

Ferreira said the ability to practice at Iowa City public locations has been completely crucial to the team’s existence.

The last two years have seen great changes in the Bruisers.

“Tremendous strides,” Ferriera said. “Almost everybody on the team didn’t know how to skate when they started … Just like in life, you’ll get knocked down, but you have to get back up. We’ve come a long way.”

Ferreira said a good way to sum up what the team means for the community would be to talk about paying it forward. He and the other volunteers pay it forward to the players by providing the team, and the players then appreciate the ability to pay it forward to the community.

The families who have joined the team come from a number of backgrounds, but they all say they are incredibly appreciative of Ferreira and the rest of the team.

“My kids and I have been through a lot since my divorce … Their father is not in the picture,” Kaytie McNeese said. “[The team] took us in and accepted us … What [the coaches] offer these kids is unbelievable. And they have kids of their own, and they have jobs. What they give back to the community and what they give back to the players is phenomenal.”

McNeese is far from alone in her appreciation.

“[My daughter] didn’t want to conform … other kids made fun of her for it,” Dana Clark said. “Now, she’s got a whole new family. They accept her for who and what she is through all of it … The team helps the kids to find themselves.”

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