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Published on August 10th, 2011 | by DerbyLife

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Inside World Cup: Team England

We interviewed Team England’s Head Coach Ballistic Whistle about the team and more in this first look inside the creation of the historic teams that will meet in Toronto December 1-4 to compete in the first ever Roller Derby World Cup. See the full roster on Derby News Network.

DL: What was it like putting together your country’s first team?

BW: It’s been great fun. The three members of Team England’s coaching staff are actually, all coaches for their respective leagues. While that sounds kind of obvious it has become apparent that we really could have done with someone to own the “Manager” role that was advertised as part of the application.

Not having someone to manage the team has meant that we three coaches have had to realise our weaknesses and commit a lot more effort to ensuring we get right the things that don’t come naturally. All of the training, coaching, and team-building aspects of putting the roster together have been relatively straight forward.

We had 6 pre-qualifying tryouts at which any English skater was able to apply as well as allowing skaters to apply via video. This only really became tricky when dealing with skaters that we had little or no knowledge of. We narrowed all the applicants down to a shortlist of 40 who recently attended a final tryout at which they were put through their paces. It was incredible to see so many amazing English skaters in the one place, something that doesn’t happen often enough. At the end of that session, the coaches got together and selected our roster of 20.

DL: What are you doing to prepare the team for World Cup?

BW: Since we named the roster we’ve tried to get everyone on the team talking and getting motivated to research into the other coutnries and the kinds of players they have. Seeing other team rosters being posted up has been useful, but often it’s difficult to find any footage for a lot of the younger derby countries.

The big issue we have is that, even though England is a relatively small country, it is expensive to travel around and still takes a significant amount of time to get from one end to the other. We’re also dealing with skaters who are already committed to extremely busy schedules over the coming months so finding appropriate dates for training sessions is proving problematic.

DL: What kind of challenges are you experiencing?

BW: Aside from the practice issues mentioned above, fundraising has definitely been the biggest issue. We worked out quite early on that the magical figure to get everyone over to Canada was around the £20K mark. No small amount of money by any means, and none of the airlines that fly from England to Canada seemed interested in sponsoring a team that plays an unrecognised and still relatively low-profile sport.

Thankfully we’ve managed to recruit someone from a league here to take on the management of fundraising and so far she’s been doing an excellent job. We’re hoping to be playing some fundraising bouts before December, but as it stands that looks like our main revenue stream..

DL: What are the benefits or great experiences you are having from creating a World Cup team?

BW: The best experience so far has just been seeing all of those great players all in the one place together. I’d really like for the momentum to keep going after the World Cup as well. A great deal of effort has been put into this over the course of the year for just one weekend’s worth of Roller Derby. We’re currently toying with the idea of approaching the other European Teams about having a European Cup some time next year. This will hopefully give the other European Countries, who were unable to make the journey, the opportunity to put together National teams of their own.

DL: How are locals responding to a first national team?

BW: The outpouring of support has been fantastic, especially since we named the roster. I think the derby community over here is really positive about the team and our prospects at the World Cup. We’re hoping that support translates into bums on seats at our exhibition bouts.

DL: What would help you most right now?

BW: Money. The pitch or shift roster submission deadline of September 1st is fast approaching. We’ve made it pretty clear to our skaters that, as it is now, they are going to need to self-fund the trip. This has meant that a few of the skaters have already bought their flights in the hope that they got them cheap early on. Given those that have already committed their finances, Team England will be there in one shape or another. Hopefully we’ll be able to raise enough money to make it affordable to those that will struggle to cover the costs personally.

DL: How do you expect to perform in the World Cup?

BW: We’re quite confident about our chances at the cup. Obviously there are going to be a lot of unknown elements in attendance. At the very least I think England are good for a top 4 finish, but to be honest we’re hoping to meet the US in the final.

DL: What are your hopes for your team?

BW: As I mentioned earlier, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to keep the idea of a Team England going for some time. Whether there be further World Cups in the coming years or not, we’re hoping that we can arrange a smaller, regional tournament for ourselves as well as the other European national teams.

DL: What does this first World Cup mean to you or your team for the future of roller derby in your country?

BW: It’s quite an exciting opportunity for everyone involved in the team. We’re getting the opportunity to play with and against some of the most talented players in the sport. The prospect of travelling to Toronto with a bunch of your friends to play a sport you love coupled with a healthy dose of national pride surely sounds like a recipe for good times.

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