Fabulous Female Friday – Olympian Kara Lang

It isn’t everyday that you get to interview your own role model. It isn’t everyday that you get to chat with her over email like you’ve known each other for years. And it isn’t every day that you get to share her story with others. But today I get to do all those things and I’m super-stoked to be featuring one of Canada’s best female soccer players.

Today I’m featuring Kara Lang, Olympian and World Cup soccer player. Kara was a member of the women’s Canadian National Team and she’s also my favourite athlete and soccer player.

I love watching women’s soccer on TV, specifically Canada’s team. I love observing all the players but I’ve always identified most with Kara because of her style of play.

Though my skill level doesn’t come close to Kara’s, I do like to think my style of play is similar, just down a few notches. I admire Kara not only for her skill in soccer but also her positive outlook on life and her passion to pursue her dreams.

Please join me in getting to know Kara Lang more intimately.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 24 years old. I’m a former World Cup and Olympic soccer player, graduate of UCLA and now I teach Yoga and work on-air for Rogers Sportsnet.

What was it like to be the youngest women ever to play for Canada’s National Team?

I think at the time I was almost too young and naive to fully understand all that was going on around me. I just knew that I loved soccer; that I loved representing my country and that one day I wanted to be an Olympian.

I was also very fortunate to be surrounded day in and day out by so many inspiring and influential women at such an important age in my development. You couldn’t have asked for better role models and I learned so much from them both on and off the pitch.

At the age of 24, you retired from women’s soccer, how difficult a decision was that to make?

It was absolutely the most difficult decision I’ve ever made. I knew that it would be very hard to walk away from that lifestyle. For so many years it was all I’d ever known. It was extremely scary. But the hardest part was saying goodbye to my teammates. They were like a second family. You don’t really realize how lucky you are to have a constant support group surrounding you 24/7 until you don’t anymore.

Nothing can really compare to being a part of a team, and I miss that the most. But I also knew that at 24 years old I was way too young to be feeling as old as I was.

The last year leading up to my retirement was miserable. I felt like I was constantly fighting an uphill battle and eventually realized that I couldn’t push my body any further. I was getting injured all the time because I was constantly compensating for my knee and I was sick of being in pain.

I’ve always believed that happiness is a choice we make ourselves.

When I was told that I’d be facing a knee replacement in the future if I continued, I knew it was time to make a decision. For so many years it was eat, sleep and breathe soccer. It’s a huge sacrifice and it means you don’t have much time to pursue other things. I’ve always had other interests and I’m excited to have the opportunity to pursue other dreams now.

While I may not be able to play soccer anymore, I know that as long as I’m challenging myself and working hard to achieve my goals, I’ll be happy.

At the end of the day I’m grateful for the career that I had and grateful for the opportunity to now have a second one. I’ll always be involved in the game and hopefully I can continue to have an impact because it’s something that I’ll always be very passionate about.

Did you watch the Women’s World Cup? What was it like to be a spectator?

I did. I actually worked for Sportsnet as an analyst during the tournament. I think being so busy, and having my own challenge in front of me during the tournament was probably the only reason I was able to get through it. Had I been sitting on my couch watching the games from home as opposed to in the studio, focused on our broadcast, it would have been very difficult to watch.

There were definitely more than a few moments where I wished I could have been out there in the Canadian jersey alongside my friends and former teammates. But since it was my first experience in front of the camera, there was no time for self-pity! I had a job to do; a very nerve-wracking and exciting job at that.

The whole experience was so much fun and it certainly confirmed for me that broadcasting is what I want to do.

Contrast that with playing at the 2008 Olympics Games, what was that like?

I’d dreamt of being an Olympian even before I ever touched a soccer ball. I remember watching figure skating with my mom at 4 years old and knowing that one day I wanted to be there. Obviously it just wasn’t in the cards for me as a figure skater (not that I didn’t try; I skated for 4 years before choosing soccer).

There’s no other way to describe the Olympics other than a dream come true.

Going to the World Cup is one thing because in soccer it’s considered the pinnacle of the sport, but being a member of the Olympic team; being surrounded by so many world-class athletes, not just in your sport, but in every sport!…it’s pretty special.

With the absence of soccer at a competitive level, what are you doing to keep busy?

I practice yoga daily, and teach at our family’s studio – shunyata yoga in Milton.

What keeps you motivated to pursue your passions?

I think having the goal to always be doing something I love is my biggest motivation. I don’t believe in spending 90% of your week at a job you aren’t passionate about, no matter how much money you’re making.

As a soccer player, I was lucky enough to live a lifestyle where I got to do something I loved day in and day out, so I know how great that can be and I won’t settle for anything less. That’s not to say that it was always fun and it certainly wasn’t easy or lucrative!

The sacrifices were worth it because I was passionate about what I did and I was excited to do it every day.

There was a lot of dirty work involved. Fitness testing, training in the rain, long travel days, time spent away from loved ones, injuries. I felt that same way working at Sportsnet and that’s why I know it’s what I want to do now!

As a role model to young girls, what advice would you give them on pursuing their dreams in general and their dreams of playing soccer at the highest level?

I would say that no dream is too big and that anything is possible. As a player I was always driven by the idea that somewhere someone with the same goals as me was working harder than I was. Nothing worth having ever comes easy and nothing feels better than achieving a goal that you put it all on the line for.

As for soccer, I think challenging yourself and pushing yourself to the limit is the only way to improve so when I was younger I always played a few age groups up. If your own age group isn’t challenging enough, you’ll get comfortable and develop bad habits. Then if you do get the chance to play at the highest level, you won’t know how to deal when you aren’t the best player on the team anymore.

If you’re used to always being a big fish in a small pond you have to learn how to be a small fish in a big pond and fight tooth and nail for your position.

What’s the last song you listened to on your iPod?

Ooh that’s a tough one! I’m such a music geek, I can’t just pick one! Can I do a few?

You Should Do Better, Cut Off Your Hands, Heart in Your Heartbreak, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Caregiver by Memoryhouse (an awesome band from Toronto that I saw live the other night!)

What’s the last book you read?

I’m always reading a few at one time so Bossy Pants by Tina Fey- and Those Guys Have All The Fun (inside the world of ESPN).

Thank you so much to Kara for taking time out to share some insights with us. We’ll miss you on the pitch but look forward to following your broadcasting career. Best of luck!

For more on Kara Lang visit karalang.ca

City Mom

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