For Sloan Conner, roller derby was love at first sight.
During the Monument Mayhem tournament, she saw her first bout of the Naptown Roller Girls.
“She’s been hooked ever since,” said her mother, Holly Conner.
While the family was at the tournament, they ran into a co-worker of her father, who told them her daughter played in the Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby.
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“When I heard about (junior roller derby), I said I’m done with softball, this is what I’m doing,” Sloan said. “I played a lot of other sports, but this is the one that I really liked.”
So Sloan started playing at age 8. Now 13, she keeps getting better.
Sloan, who will be an eighth-grader at Franklin Community Middle School this fall, is the youngest member of a Great Lakes Region team that was selected to play in the Junior Roller Derby Association/AAU Junior Olympics July 12 and 13 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I didn’t think I was going to get picked because I’m the youngest on my varsity team,” said Sloan, adding the oldest girl is 17.
Prior to the Junior Olympics, Sloan’s Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby team will be competing in the July 9 to 11 national tournament in Lincoln.
Sloan is in her fifth year playing with Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby and third on the varsity.
“She hits harder than a lot of the adult skaters that I already coach,” said Matthew Carr, a Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby assistant coach. “To have that amount of skill and talent she has now, it’s exciting to see where she’ll be in three or four years.”
Carr said Sloan has the role of enforcer.
“It’s gets out a lot of aggression,” Sloan said.
Occasionally too much, Carr said.
“Sometimes she hits too much because she likes that more than anything,” he said. “She’s very good at it.
“Sometimes we have to tell her to tone it down a little.”
Sloan started skating when she was six at Franklin Skate Club.
“I used to be just a blocker,” Sloan said. “I used to be scared to jam. I didn’t feel like I was good at it. Now I like to dip into other things. I’ve always been a blocker. They said I was built for that.
“I can skate pretty fast. But you have to think like a jammer. I figured out to be a good jammer you have to be a good blocker.”
When Sloan does jam, she usually pushes her own way through.
“Most jammers juke around a lot,” Sloan said. “This year people started telling I look like a jammer who can get through the blockers.
“That gave me a lot more confidence.”
Holly Conner said she had a little concern about Sloan getting hurt.
“But she has two older brothers, so she was used to physical,” Conner said.
Sloan had one close call.
“When I was a lot younger, I got squished and almost broke my ribs, but that was about it,” Sloan said. “I think if you think about getting hurt, that’s when it happens.
“You should just not think about it.”
Outside the rink, Sloan tends to be more shy.
“Once she gets inside here, it’s like a totally different kid,” Holly Conner said. “It gives her a lot more confidence.”