The Paris Rollergirls are another team putting their country on the WFTDA map this year, with their Playoff debut. Like most teams with a competitive edge, they dreamed of making tournaments and after taking a risk, Paris realized how attainable their goals really were.
Going 5-0 in sanctioned games this season, Paris’s passion is taking them all the way to Pittsburgh, PA, as a #3 seed at the Division 2 Playoffs. Read on to learn more about the French roller derby scene, and how the drive and commitment of the Paris Rollergirls have taken them this far.
Since roller derby has long been an American-based sport, many other countries have formed their own tournaments or governing bodies. Skater for the Paris All-Stars, and secretary for their league, Charlie told us how the French derby scene has grown the past few years. “We have a Roller Derby committee inside the national federation (French Roller Skate Federation), operated only by players and officials, and we make our own decisions for our sport.” The French have also organized their own Championship tournaments into three levels of play, and the Paris Rollergirls participate in the Elite French Championship level, which is made up of the top eight French teams.
This type of structure helps all kinds of leagues towards their own goals, since the games don’t have to be sanctioned by WFTDA – in fact, many French teams aren’t WFTDA member leagues. The Paris Rollergirls play in the Elite Championship, but also play competitive sanctioned games. “For instance, la Nothing Toulouse won the National Elite Championship this year (we came second), and they play at a very competitive level against WFTDA teams, but unsanctioned.”
Looking at Paris’s long term wins and losses on Flat Track Stats, overall they seem to be a winning team. However, just a few years ago WFTDA Playoffs seemed like an unreachable goal to them. The team felt they were under-ranked, as was so often the case for European teams, but they couldn’t fix that since many teams wouldn’t sanction games with them. A trip to the USA seemed like a way to solve their problem, but that route was a pricey one with uncertain results – since they didn’t know how they would fare against their unfamiliar competitors.
“After we took this difficult and expensive decision, we were really motivated to do our best and to make the most of it as a team,” Charlie told us. After they attended the Beach Brawl tournament, the team rose 55 spots to #78 in the 2016 May rankings – that’s when they knew Division 2 Playoffs were an attainable target, and they set their sights firmly on it.
At the start of 2017, Paris was close to reaching D2s, with a #64 ranking, but they wanted to be sure to reach the Division 2 cut-off (which now ends at #52 with the way WFTDA restructured Playoffs). “At some point, we had some insecurities concerning our ranking, so we decided to do a Strength Factor Challenge against Crime City in order to have a very last sanctioned game after that in case our ranking was not good at the end of May.” Despite these concerns, by April they had already reached the D2 zone at #49, and then, after their Beach Brawl games fell off their average from last season, the team moved up to #42 – ensuring themselves a spot at Playoffs.
As any team knows, it takes a commitment from the whole team and dedication to improving to move up in the rankings. Charlie says that an important word for the team since the founding of their league is “Passion”. They may only have retained one skater, Butch Shan, since the very beginnings of the league, but their charter has remained consistent over the last two or three seasons, helping them grow very close on the track. “Also, all the league trains together, so every skater from Paris Rollergirls knows the same strategy and works in the same way. It helps a lot when you welcome a new skater on to the roster.”
Along with their clear team goals from the start of the season to focus on, Paris will now be bringing their passion to D2 Playoffs.
Paris started their season last September, and normally end in June with a break in July, but since qualifying for WFTDA postseason they had to shorten their break. After their last National Championship game they took a few weeks off but got right back to training, concentrating on their strategies and different styles of game play. “It is actually tough because all of the facilities are closed in France in August and July [while everyone takes their summer vacation] so we train outside; it’s not the best conditions.” But it certainly means they’re used to handling adversity.
#3 seed Paris will take on #14 Bear City Friday at 12:30pm (6:30pm CEST) on Track 2.
You can purchase your passes to watch D2 Playoffs and all the tournaments on WFTDA.tv and keep tabs on the games here and on all of our social media throughout tournament season.
You can help Paris get to Playoffs by donating to their GoFundMe.