Meet the Match

A Roller Derby Superstar Spreads the Sport in France

In the office, her colleagues call her Katie. But on the track, she’s known as “PsychoKat,” a fearless warrior eager to create roller derby leagues for women throughout France.

Katie Bourner, a British-born Frenchwoman, was introduced to the sport of roller derby through a friend who saw it in action for the first time in Canada. Anxious to see a game, Katie searched the internet for roller derby leagues, but couldn’t find any in her town of Nantes. She did, however, find a team in Paris and quickly packed her bags to see this curious new sport. Inspired by her meeting with the women on the team in Paris, she returned home and founded with her partner Nantes Derby Girls, where she currently serves as a player and president.

Despite having a master’s degree in professional analyses and social interventions, Katie says everything in her life now is a means to roller derby and aiding its expansion throughout France and the rest of Europe. On top of her full-time job as a customer relations officer for Generali France, and her roles with the Nantes Derby Girls, Katie is also the French liaison to the Woman’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association, the international governing body for the sport.

After five years of development, sports federations in France are only just starting to recognize roller derby as an official sport, which means it receives no government funding or regulation. Many upstart leagues also cannot find training spaces, due to the lack of facilities, leading teams to practice outside all year round, regardless of weather.

Although she wants the sport to maintain its purity, Katie believes roller derby can serve an important role in women’s empowerment, inclusion, and the development of positive body image for thousands of women in her country.

Within the next five years, Katie is driven to ensure that junior roller derby is introduced throughout the country. She also wants to see added structure and a growth in the standard of trainers, officials and facilities. Ultimately, her dream is to see roller derby on TV. In order to achieve these goals, she hopes to use her time in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) to learn about marketing, promotions, public relations, fan growth, and strategic planning.

As Katie seeks to grow the “game,” there is no one in the industry better than Hilary Shaev, Vice President of Marketing Operations for the National Basketball Association (NBA), to support her on this journey. Hilary has extensive experience in marketing and promotions, both in the music business as well as the sports world. She was instrumental in rebranding the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and also developing the WNBA Pride platform.

Like Katie, Hilary is passionate about advancing women’s sports, especially in the area of fan growth. Both Katie and Hilary have worked diligently to promote sport for women in tough markets. We are excited to watch these two power players expand the market for roller derby fans, participants, sponsors, and media outlets. Ultimately, we look forward to the way this sport can create an empowering space for girls and women of every shape, size, and age in France and beyond.

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