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The Derby Life of a Brewcity Bruiser

Oct. 14, 2010
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Some would find a career as a competitive figure skating instructor at the Pettit National Ice Center sufficiently stimulating, but Angela Johnstad—or "Terror Lapinski," as she’s known to roller derby fans—added even more excitement to her life through roller derby. On the cusp of her fourth season with the Shevil Knevils, part of the Brewcity Bruisers (BCB), Milwaukee’s own roller derby league, Johnstad discusses the ups and downs of derby life.

What attracted you to derby?

After two minutes [watching] Brewcity debut at Summerfest in 2006, I said to my friends, "Why am I not doing this?" I became part of the new rookie class heading into season two.Since I grew up as a figure skater, the skating part came easy; the bumping [and] hitting took some getting used to.Roller derby isn’t a violent sport, but it is aggressive and physical. I love that women of all shapes and sizes can participate; it brings together an incredibly diverse group. Straight, gay, bi—doesn't matter. Young or old—doesn't matter. We have students, bartenders, artists, business owners, stay-at-home moms and lawyers—people whose social circles would never cross—brought together by shared passion.

Not violent? Any injuries so far?

Our league has seen many: broken ankles, collarbones and even a jaw, plus lots of sprains and torn ligaments, but probably no more than any other full-contact sport. As for me, other than a tricky knee, I've avoided any sidelining injuries, but had some wicked bruises including one on my chin that made me look like I was sporting a goatee.

How well did the recent Hollywood film, Whip It, reflect derby life?

I find myself having to clear up inconsistencies between the real rule-regulated sport we play and the dramatized movie version. For example, in the movie there was a moment where the team stopped, turned and elbowed the other team in their faces—so not legal! However, one of the really neat things about the movie: It created a growing interest from kids and teenagers. “Junior" teams are popping up around the country. There’s no junior team currently in Milwaukee, but the BCB is collecting names for possible future junior events.

Most embarrassing derby moment?

During my rookie season on semifinals night, I was announced for the first time as the new co-captain of the Shevil Knevils, and as I took my glorious solo intro lap, “Don't Stop Believin’” rocking through the air, I totally tripped myself in front of the 2,000 cheering fans. However, the night turned into my best derby moment. My last-place Shevils upset the defending champion Rushin’ Rollettes and won our first game ever, sending us into the championships!

What’s the best part of being a derby girl?

I love having my skaters come watch me compete, see another side of "Coach Angie." I think it sets a great example to my kids about following your passion and that there are many different ways a woman can show her strength.

For upcoming schedule information, visit BrewcityBruisers.com. If you’re interested in being part of a future junior team, e-mail junior.recruitment@brewcitybruisers.com


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