Introducing a new series featuring stories of everyday people living active lifestyles.
The Lethbridge Sport Council is proud to be launching: Your Quality Life (YQL). In YQL we hope that, with the help of the community, we can highlight positive sporting and active lifestyle experiences throughout the greater Lethbridge area. With YQL Stories, we will draw attention beyond just the competitive aspects of sport, but also the important role it plays in personal development, relationship building, and living an overall quality life.
Welcome to the second edition of our YQL series. The story for this installment comes from our interview with Caroline Reimer also-known-as “Coach Meow”. Caroline Reimer has spent the past 11 years of her life involved with the sport of Roller Derby at the Lethbridge Roller Derby Guild. 9 years ago Caroline began coaching and for the last 5 years Caroline has taken up the head coaching position. Her career in roller derby has opened up some incredible opportunities for her as for the last two years Caroline has held the position of assistant coach for Team Canada in the Junior Roller Derby Open Division.
In spite of her now prominent position on the Canadian National team’s coaching staff, Caroline did not have meaningful involvement with sport throughout her teens and twenties. Growing up in a small town on an island in British Columbia, Reimer had next to no exposure to sports, save during P.E at school. Her small amount of access to sport was further limited by growing up in a family that had a more old-fashioned idea of how girls should spend their time; the expectation was for her to dance and ride horses, not participate in sports. After moving out east at the age of twelve Caroline was finally able to experience some organized sport in the form of soccer. Caroline enjoyed playing soccer and was able to play more during her middle school years. Later on Reimer moved back into the area of Kimberly, BC and at that time sport took a back seat as she focused on her academics.
Throughout high school, and her early and mid-twenties Caroline didn’t participate in any sports. Going into her late twenties she began to look to play some recreational sports, but repeatedly found that her lack of playing experience from her high school and varsity years became a sticking point with the members of the teams she looked to get involved in. Caroline found herself discouraged as, time after time, her lack of experience led to her being turned away by recreational teams.
Caroline finally found a way to get involved with sport again. At the age of 30, Reimer heard an ad on the radio and decided to try out Roller Derby. Having no roller skating experience Caroline reports that she spent a majority of the time on her butt the first night. But unlike her previous attempts at getting involved with sport Reimer didn’t find herself being turned away because of her inexperience and she went on to purchase a pair of roller skates that same night. Coach Meow hasn’t looked back since that first night and introduction to the sport.
Caroline has no issues answering when asked what made her experience with Roller Derby so special: its community. Reimer was happy to discover an open and accepting community of strong women that didn’t care about whether or not a new athlete came into the sport with years of experience or none at all. For her, finding that level of acceptance that she thus far hadn’t found anywhere else was what set Roller Derby apart and kept her coming back. Caroline credits Roller Derby and the friendships she formed within it for helping her find a level of strength that she never knew she had.
Much like her choice to get into Roller Derby, Caroline’s decision to step into coaching was an easy one. With her six-year-old daughter wanting to play Roller Derby, but no Junior Roller Derby program in Lethbridge, Caroline took it upon herself to help set up and coach the Junior program. Also, like her introduction to Roller Derby: Reimer had no previous experience with coaching prior to working with the Junior program. When the program first started she enjoyed being able to shadow and learn from some of the other leaders in her sport, began watching more sports, and doing her own research to develop her own coaching style and abilities. By stepping out of her comfort zone Coach Meow discovered a side of herself that she hadn’t seen before, growing as a leader and public speaker.
While Coach Meow has undoubtedly had great impact on her athletes as a coach: sending multiple skaters to the national team, and seeing former athletes return to the sport looking to coach, it’s safe to say that her experiences as a coach have had just as profound an impact on her. Reimer credits her experiences as a coach as the primary inspiration behind her leaving her position working in insurance to return to post-secondary and pursue a degree in education at the University of Lethbridge. Her newfound passion for teaching and leading since becoming a roller derby coach has motivated her to change her career path.
While there’s a constant theme of community, acceptance, and fun being more important than winning in Coach Meow’s story, it would be unfair to say that there’s no value placed on high performance within her career. When Caroline first got involved with coaching Roller Derby she set the goal for herself to one day become a member of the national team’s coaching staff. Reimer was able to get acquainted with Dave Morris, the Junior Roller Derby Regional Coordinator for Western Canada of Vancouver and a fellow Roller Derby coach. Through Morris, Reimer was able to receive mentorship on the expectations of national-level coaches and she in turn was able to share her coaching philosophies. When Canadian Roller Derby broke away from being governed by the USA, Caroline stepped up and had Lethbridge host the first-ever round table for Roller Derby in Western Canada. Caroline sent in an application to be considered for a national team coaching position, and while camping on the Canada Day weekend had to dirt bike to the top of a nearby mountain to get into cell phone service to receive the phone call telling her that her application was accepted, she had achieved her goal of being named to the national team coaching staff. While COVID-19 may have prevented the team from competing over the past two seasons nothing could take away the pride that Caroline experienced setting and achieving her goal.
All sports have their own appeals, competitive formats, and sets of skills required in order to compete in them effectively. However, something not all sports have is a culture that is open and welcoming to newcomers. It’s thanks to the outstanding accepting community within Roller Derby that Caroline was able to pursue this path, a community the likes of which many other sports could do well to learn from. Caroline and her experience put on full display how much desire, passion, and goal setting play into how successful someone might be when they pursue a new sport or hobby. She went on to show that starting late into a sport isn’t a sentence to never being able to achieve anything. Over the past 11 years, Caroline has grown, learned, and achieved with so much of the positive change in her life coming from her willingness to try new things. Whether trying a new sport just for fun, or stepping up to coach her daughter, or setting the goal of representing her country on the international stage Caroline has consistently stepped outside of whatever was the norm for her and has always discovered new levels of strength, passion, and talent within herself. It is all thanks to a radio ad and a curious and willing mindset 11 years ago that Coach Meow is where she is today, and she serves as an exemplar of someone whose life has been greatly bettered by getting involved in a new sporting community.