Formed in 2010, Kallio Rolling Rainbow has the privilege of being one of two high-level leagues in their hometown of Helsinki, Finland, together with Helsinki Roller Derby. While silliness is an essential part of the league’s culture, their many accomplishments are proof of Kallio’s embodiment of the Finnish concept of sisu: courage and determination in the face of great obstacles. Read on to learn more about their experience hosting the WFTDA-Recognized Rournament Kallio FINvitational, their many league mottos, and why sometimes winning just doesn’t matter.
Where are you located?
In Helsinki, Finland. I guess we are located or at least from Kallio, which is a district in Helsinki, hence the name.
When was your league formed?
Kallio Rolling Rainbow was formed in 2010 when a group of skaters separated from Helsinki Roller Derby, which was the first ever roller derby league in Finland.
When did you join WFTDA? 2013.
When did you graduate from the Apprentice Program? March 2014.
How does your season run?
We train all year round with about a one month break during summer.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have around 60 active skaters.
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We run three travel teams: A – “All Colours,” B – “Kinapori Fistfunkers,” and C – “Piritorin Ässät.” We do not really have home teams as we focus on the travel team practices with the few practice hours we have. All teams are run by the training committee, which consists of coaches and captains.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
Currently, with our venue situation, it varies. We used to have practice even five times a week but currently we run two to three practices a week which are divided between A/B and B/C/beginners. In addition to that, everyone of course has their own workout regime.
What are your biggest training challenges?
Venue problems! This year we lost our training venue Bunkkeri, which we shared with Helsinki Roller Derby and others. Currently we train in very small venues or at lousy times or both.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Helsinki Roller Derby is in the same city and, as you might know, Helsinki is not very big. Other teams that are pretty close to us are Tampere Roller Derby and Dirty River Roller Derby in Turku.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments when you’ve played them?
Helsinki Roller Derby (HRD) is our biggest and finest rival. But we do not only compete with each other, as we said, we even shared a venue with them. We are also trying to organize regular scrimmages with them as we have this great opportunity to have two high level teams in the same city. HRD has always been a year ahead of us but we have followed them pretty much every step of the way: joining WFTDA, competing in a WFTDA tournament, going to play in the US for rankings, and, finally, WFTDA Playoffs last year.
The most memorable moment would for sure be winning against them in the Suomi Cup in 2013 and taking home the Finnish Championship. But a memory from a little closer is our first sanctioned game together in March 2017. We might have lost that but it was altogether such an amazing game where both teams showed camaraderie and great sportsmanship and absolutely everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
There seems to be a strong roller derby community in Finland. What makes your country such fertile ground for this sport?
Maybe the strong culture of DIY associations in Finland is one of the reasons for the number of roller derby clubs here, and also the hands-on attitude of people getting together to get s*** done. Only in Finland if someone gets the idea of making cell-phone-throwing a sport, the next week they will have a registered association with 50 members and their own competition the following summer (yup, that happened for real). We don’t just dream big. We DO it as well.
We also have a fairly well organized structure on the governmental side of sports and with the cooperation of several leagues we formed Roller Derby Finland which is the national governing body for Finnish roller derby. With this kind of organizational structure we (here meaning all of the 23 leagues in Finland) have also achieved some great progress in working together with other skating sports.
What are some of the unique challenges of your home town?
Helsinki is pretty much perfect! You should all come and visit, we’ll give you a tour! We only lack having our own hall for our derby leagues.
You call yourselves the “funniest league in Finland”! What is your league culture like and how do you keep your skaters happy and motivated?
“Let’s always be stupid. Forever!” is one of the many mottos of our league. We are a bunch of real goofs who absolutely love this sport and even more, each other. Our whole league — including skaters, officials, photographers, volunteers — is a group of people you can call your extended family whether in good or bad. We want derby to grow but we still want to maintain the inclusive community spirit in it that has attracted so many of us to derby.
We had a little setback last year with many skaters retiring and other changes, so this year we decided to focus even more on the FUN in roller derby instead of just focusing on the rankings. It was a much needed change after working so hard for a couple of years to get into Playoffs. Some might have heard that our A team’s current chant is based on this silly but cute video.
Some might question why the “win doesn’t matter” for us, but it actually, really, doesn’t at this point. We do this because we love it and we want our team and our whole league to keep loving it. If it means appearing a bit silly, then so be it.
Tell us about your training facilities.
Our best venue in Helsinki is currently the Pasila Sportshall in which we also organized the WFTDA-Recognized Tournament, Kallio FINvitational. It is a wonderful one-track hall with a wooden floor. Unfortunately we have very limited hours we can train there because those mean floorballers steal almost all of our track time. In addition to that, we train in school gym halls around the city that are mostly too small for even one track — or even one turn — so figuring out how to practice in a very very small space has been a hot topic for us.
We really miss the shared venue Bunkkeri with it’s beautiful, dusty, but so smooth, concrete floor and two tracks. We are all putting our efforts into finding a new venue to skate in. If anyone has any outside-the-box ideas for how to turn a place to a training hall for us, let us know. We’re currently a little low on ideas as the last idea was to ask for a track on the deck of an icebreaker.
Where do you hold your public games?
Currently only in Pasila Sportshall which is the only one that fits a track with safety areas and can be accessed by the public.
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
It’s boring to say that all of our players are stars, but it’s true. Actually, all of our officials are even bigger stars. No, wait, our volunteers are on the top of the star-chart! It’s like, when you watch the games from our FINvitational tournament in Helsinki and saw our A-team jammers like Gilbert #777 or Kamasuttura #31 calling off a successful jam, or some of our most versatile blockers like Macho Bitchu #49 or T-Bag #9 denying a scoring pass, you first cheer for them, but right after that you say ”What a call-off from our bench, Kulta-Seppo!” And when you go on and check the jammer referee Angry’s fingers for points, and see the scorekeeper Kissanen already on top of it, you can do nothing but explode with pride.
And when you think you couldn’t be more moved, you realize the audience is roaring and there are rainbow flags all over the beautifully organized venue and everyone’s smiling and… *insert a bucket of tears and gratitude*. Being a somewhat small organization compared to a lot of the leagues in WFTDA, we especially need everyone to shine the light on each other’s stardom. A-team veterans teach the beginners and make the coffee for the officials in the C-team games.
“Kallio ollaan me” — Kallio is us. We actually have a song we sing to the tune of Era’s “Ameno” named like this, you should hear and see us singing, it’s amazing.
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
The biggest behind the scenes person would be Sniff Poppers #30 who is a former skater but currently focusing on coaching. She also works as the bench coach for our A team. She’s the heart of the league and has been around since the beginning. She is involved in every part of the league from coaching to the board of directors, volunteering and generally always being there. We haven’t yet figured out how she manages everything time-wise, she might have superpowers we don’t know about.
On the officiating side we would like to mention Laura Kiralfy “Kirahvi” who worked as our Head NSO for years and helped our officiating side develop in so many ways. After FINvitational she unfortunately had to move to her roots to Copenhagen where she’ll be taken over to the Army of Darkness, the NSO-crew in Copenhagen, but we hope she’ll always have the rainbow in her heart.
But, as stated previously, it is not about one or two or only some persons in our league: we, all together, make Kallio what it is.
You just finished hosting your first WFTDA-recognized tournament, the Kallio FINvitational. What was it like to organize such a big event with top teams from four different countries?
That was one of the best things we’ve ever done! We put so much effort in making it a fun, inviting and in every ways great event for the participating teams, the officials, volunteers, staff, announcers, and the audience. It seemed everyone loved it, so we’re happy!
Having all the teams over was amazing. Not only because we can actually have such high-level tournaments with European teams but also that Sun State made this huge trip to come to us. We can’t even put into words the gratitude we have for everyone who made this tournament happen. Even though it was hard work, we would totally, in an instant, do it all over again with these people.
What are some of your league’s biggest accomplishments?
Getting to Playoffs last year was most definitely the biggest achievement for our A team, but organizing the Kallio FINvitational was something that was accomplished by the whole league. And not to leave out from the list is winning the Finnish Championships in 2016, 2015, and 2013.
Each season seems to bring with it exciting developments for your league. What’s next for Kallio Rolling Rainbow?
Organizing Playoffs…? Building our own hall? Who knows, we are up for any challenge, just bring it on! We’re also hoping to organize Kallio FINvitational II as a WFTDA-Recognized Tournament next year as well.
Do you have any big games and/or other tournaments coming up that you are looking forward to in 2017?
We’ll see what the ranks say after June! Just wait for it!
Do you have any video footage from bouts or other events that you would like to share?
All FINvitational footage can be watched on Fanseat! The first month is for free! Our Instagram account is also totally worth following, loads of funny stuff too.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Here’s a little lesson in Finnish for y’all: “Käytä kypärää” — use your helmet (this is also a little song of ours, very beautiful as well).