Long-time captain of Philly Roller Derby’s all-star team, the Liberty Belles, Mishel Castro has skated her extensive derby career in the City of Brotherly Love.
After joining Philly’s first travel team in 2006, Castro dove knee-deep into derby. She skates on and off with the Vagine Regime, the PA All-Stars, and is also a proud member of a Philadelphia-based roller derby drinking team called the Fishtown Fighting Shad.
Primarily a line blocker, Castro also puts on the pivot cap, and was the WFTDA’s featured skater last September. A native of New Jersey, Castro is also a member of The Bont QuadStars, aka Team Cool Hair, if you couldn’t tell by her style.
You are both a committed vegan and committed roller derby player. Is being vegan as an athlete more difficult, or better, than most people imagine?
It’s honestly really easy for me – I love a plant-based diet for how good the food tastes, but I also find it easy to digest and process what I eat into energy.
As an athlete, being aware of your intake is key for getting and staying strong. I love to cook and meal prep so this doesn’t seem different than anyone who cares about what their body is fueled by. It’s been great to see a shift in how players focus on their diets now. In the early days, people thought I was nuts.
If there were a downside, I’d say I just find myself eating all the time, especially when I’m trying to gain. I love food, though, so really, this is more of a blessing than curse.
As a defensive player, what do you love about the role? And, what not-so-much?
It’s incredibly satisfying to stop and stymie an opponent – those two minute jams where the opposing jammer never breaks is the ultimate feeling of success. I also love that blockers can be powerful at any size. In my head I am The Incredible Hulk and I am somewhat shocked when I see the reality in photos or footage.
As far as what I don’t love: Thankfully passive play is fading as a strategy. Marrying aggressive play with speed modulation makes the game so exciting, too.
Photo caption Tyler Shaw
By profession you’re an art director with a tech background. Roller derby gets a rep for being all creative people. But do you think left-brained people are changing the game?
Well, according to the last internet quiz to discern my left / right brain dominance, I am equally split 50/50.
Derby isn’t predictable in the sense that doing A means B will happen – so I actually tend to think the creative thinkers may have the advantage. Being intuitive and able to adjust seems more relevant to changing the game than trying to develop formulas. Derby has a ton of moving parts!
Fun side fact: Philly used to have these amazingly complex flow-charts of how strategy was to happen, developed by our left-brain specialists – and they just never truly worked. Those team meetings to explain them were super fun though.
Photo credit Tyler Shaw
You were once mistaken for professional footballer, weren’t you?
I was in Bangladesh to train outsourced programmers for work and the subject of hobbies came up. I explained I played roller derby, which was met with confusion as skating or roller sports aren’t common in Bangladesh.
To try to simplify the sport I reduced it to the cliche of being a cross of rugby, ice hockey, car racing but on roller skates.
One of the managers was introducing me to all the staff and by the end, the elaborate game of translation telephone quantified me as a professional rugby player. It was simpler to not correct them and just smile in a confused state.
You’ve spent 2016 so far traveling around the US. What have you seen?
Yeah! When the company I was with for nine years was acquired, I took the option of a sabbatical to go on an epic road trip.
I went from Philly to Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Lincoln, Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno, Tahoe, the Bay Area, Yosemite, LA, San Diego, Maricopa AZ, Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park in CO, Santa Fe, Old Route 66 from NM to OK, Fayetteville AK, Memphis, Chattanooga, Roanoke and then back to Philly. I stayed home for about 5 days and then went south to Columbia SC, Savannah, Charleston, Charlotte, Roanoke again (there are so many hikes there!) and home. I may head to the Pacific Northwest.
I spent most of my time wandering, using an old road atlas to pick my next stop, finding weird abandoned places, and getting to skate (thanks to the Chicago Bruise Brothers, Denver, Wasatch, Angel City, NWA and Memphis!) and hike.
From learning how to mountain bike at Sedona with Joy Collision, skating in Venice with Danger, almost dying trying to hike out of the Grand Canyon, the incredible history recommended by Mick Swagger at Mesa Verde, the beautiful ruins of Route 66…to all the amazing friends who hosted me – my heart is so full.
I would actually say the people are what made this experience so wonderful, and frankly, possible. When else could I stay in Trish and Ivanna’s adorable casita in San Diego, or be hosted by relative strangers (now friends) in Charleston? I am so grateful!
I’m hoping to do another trip after RollerCon. Travel is addicting!
Photo credit Tyler Shaw
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