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Kyla Richey | Professional Athlete
Many people have helped shaped who I am as an athlete, but more importantly as an individual. I am a big believer in that everyone you meet in your life will have a direct impact on you as a person. We are constantly learning from each other, even through the negative or tough encounters and experiences.
Being a professional and national team athlete, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day process. Most of my days are spent running back and forth to the gym (or just staying there from 8:30am – 7:30pm) for on-court sessions, weight lifting, lunch breaks during physio sessions, hanging out with our sports psychologist or nutritionist, meetings with the coach, meetings with our head trainer, running errands, and grabbing coffee (again). It gets really busy to say the least, and that’s only when we’re actually in Canada. More likely than not, I’m living out of a suitcase, traveling the world with the national team or living in Europe for 6-8 months of the year. It’s really grounding for me to look back and see how far I’ve come.
Ever since I can remember, sports have been my backbone. My identity.
In Grade 5, I made the Gold 1 West Vancouver soccer team and played with them up until grade 9 when the travel to and from practices / games on the mainland became a little too much (although I just ended up doing the same thing for five other sports). My mom coached me in volleyball and my dad in cross-country running, track and field, and soccer. Through sports, I have made some of my best friends, and I continue to be grateful for all of the people I meet along the way. Throughout high school, I took part in basketball, soccer, volleyball, and track and field but in my Grade 12 year, I really focused on my main passion, volleyball. I was named to the Jr. National team in my Grade 10 and 11 year (there was no program in my Grade 12 year so I had the opportunity to train with the Senior National A team for a couple weeks after I was finished with Team BC).
In the summer before Grade 12, Hanna Anderson and Trina Borley were killed in a car accident – best friends and also volleyball and basketball teammates. We had an extremely close group of friends throughout high school, and this devastating loss not only shocked our school, but the entire Sunshine Coast (BC). I was training in Regina with the Junior National Team at the time. It was their passing and the struggles we went through before the school year and volleyball season had even started that made me realize that I needed to follow my heart and go where life takes me.
There isn’t time to have regrets – I learned to trust my instincts and embrace what life is presenting to me. I was recruited to UBC where I played my whole five years. It took me a while to decide what school I wanted to attend; it was either University of British Columbia or the University of Washington, right after they won the NCAA finals. It was an amazing program down at UW, but in the end I knew that I wanted to stay in Canada. It was also a little easier to focus on having a (larger) role with the National Team in the summer as I wasn’t called down for spring/summer training.
Some of my best memories are from my years at UBC – a big part in that was winning five consecutive national championships and receiving Canada West and CIS Player of the Year in my final year. Before we won our first championships in my first year, UBC had not won since my Mom played there. I continued with the Senior National Team every summer – sometimes coming in late to school (so I would take online courses or just do the first month by distance) – in order to compete at the last tournament that was usually in September or October. In 2010, I missed the whole first half of school/my UBC season in order to compete at the 2010 World Championships for Canada. A lot of sacrifices have been made along the way, but I have no regrets. I believe that things happen for a reason, and the path that my life has taken me has given me the opportunity to meet some lifelong friends and travel the world to give me a global perspective. Volleyball has given me so many things to be thankful for and still to this day – after so many years – I love what I do. After I graduated from UBC with a Bachelors in Human Kinetics, I went overseas to live life as a professional athlete.
Since then, I have played in Potsdam, Germany, Istanbul, Turkey, and this past year I started my year off in Urbino, Italy but ended up switching teams due to financial problems of the club, and finished my year in Vilsbiburg, Germany. Having the opportunity to live abroad and play is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s a lifestyle that is certainly not made for everyone, but you learn so much about yourself as an individual and an athlete.
Describe your Mission.
Work as hard as you possibly can. It’s all on you – how you treat your body, how you treat other people, how you live your life. As a professional athlete, I am constantly humbled by every new and old place I visit. I try to live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted, as I’ve learned the hard way; tomorrow is never promised.
“Take the risk or lose the chance.” has been written on many of my court shoes… a friendly reminder for each game, practice, and life in general.
What is it you would like women to most know about what you do and the impact you are looking to make?
I am surrounded by powerful women every single day. I learn so much from all of my teammates – the National Team or overseas with each professional team I’m a part of. It’s about finding out their story and who they are. Through my job as an athlete, I am able to witness first-hand how incredibly strong we as women are, and the direct impact we have on the people around us, the younger generation, and the world as a whole. Women’s sports are on the rise and through that, greater independence and respect is being created. I want younger athletes to dream their dreams and go after them. I’ve had the opportunity to come back to the Sunshine Coast and work with some of our athletes there, and they inspire me with their love of the game and their commitment to sport. I get just as much from them as they do from me.
And what does that look like on a daily basis?
Giving everyone around me the respect that they deserve and finding the best part of a person. Everyone has their own story, their own strength, their own struggles. Being part of a women’s volleyball team calls for a lot of communication between teammates, coaches and support staff in order to create a positive environment. As a co-captain for my National Team, it’s important for me to be a support system for my teammates and help them be in a good mindset in order for them to be at their best and enjoy what we’re doing everyday.
[PH: Collaboration = serving others and setting the space for them to excel.]
What is your ultimate dream for your Mission and where you’d like to take it.
My dream for our National Team is to make it to the Olympics. This is the final “preparation” year in our quadrennial; the last push for the Olympic Games. This particular group of girls has been together for the last few years, and we’ve been working so hard to reach this goal. We are able to compete with the top teams in the world, and now it’s just a matter of finishing the close sets and edging out our opponents when it counts. We have a lot to prove. We don’t get the same amount of funding as the men’s National Team so we have to make do with what we have available to us and take every opportunity as it comes. Being women, we also don’t get as much publicity as a men’s sport team. Creating my website was to help the public learn about individual players and where our team is competing in the world. Giving the fans an inside scoop to our crazy life, I hope, will have a positive impact on the volleyball community. My hope is that by spreading awareness as to what we are doing and working towards, we can also help inspire the younger athletes at the grassroots level.
The Olympic Qualifiers are in January 2016, and the Olympics take place next summer (August) in Rio. Until then, all of our tournaments and games are very, very important in this Olympic lead-up year. We are continually refining our skills and team play so that when we get into those must-win qualifying games, we are completely prepared.
Describe what success looks like.
I think success is all about being happy. If you can wake up every day and be grateful for the opportunities you’re given, the little joys throughout the day – love and laugh a lot – I would say you’re a pretty successful person.
Describe your success strategy in one sentence.
Take pride in the life you are living.
Biggest highlight in your career so far?
I have had the privilege to attend two FISU University Games and two World Championships. Not only has volleyball given me the opportunity to travel the world, it has also given me the chance to compete against the best volleyball players in the world. The first time I went to World Championships, I was still a rookie on the team. I hope that I can get to a third World Championships before the end of my career. FISU games in Kazan, Russia had one of the most amazing opening ceremonies I’ve been to. In the middle of July (10-26), I will be competing at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, and I can only imagine how wonderful it’s going to be. I am anticipating that competing in an international competition of this magnitude in front of our home crowd will be the biggest highlight in my career thus far.
As a young woman who has been involved in fitness and sport your whole life, do you feel that fitness ‘could’ play an expanded role in women’s lives if we’d allow it to? What do you think that role could include? How will you introduce your daughter to fitness (should you have one)…?
Fitness absolutely could and should play a large role in women’s lives. I believe that it’s the key to positive body image and overall happiness. This past year I read a very interesting article called “The Confidence Gap” which really resonated deeply for me. The overall theme of the article was that women are holding themselves back. We are our own worst enemy. There is a direct link to playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult (which is how our society measures success). Girls are 6x more likely to drop off team sports, most before adolescence, which decreases self-esteem at a very important time. On the other hand, boys are often exposed to high levels of roughhousing, teasing, and other kids pointing out their limitations. They learn to deal with this “loss of power” at an early age and become more resilient. Once men and women enter the workforce, we see a lot more men rising to the top. Why? Because men are able to take a lot of the criticism much better than women. Women often only feel confident when they are (practically) perfect, but the irony of it is that perfect actually keeps us from getting much of anything done. A lot of wasted hours go into trying to be perfect which makes us unsure and second-guess ourselves. Through sport, we can build a sense of partnership, work ethic and risk-taking. Confidence accumulates through hard work, success, and even failure. The natural result of low confidence is inaction, and when women hesitate, we hold ourselves back. Obviously you can’t teach confidence but I would definitely try to teach my (perhaps future) daughter to try new things and take risks; don’t be afraid of failing because that’s all part of the process, and everyone does it. If I can instill a positive outlook on sports and work ethic at an early age, it would be my hope that her confidence would naturally follow.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure? [We know there is one!]
Germany –France – Germany – Cyrpus – Rome – Germany – home
My latest adventure (free from volleyball) would have been this past April after my professional season in Vilsbiburg came to a close. My flight home wasn’t until weeks later so I had a few weeks to run around. I went from Vilsbiburg to Corsica, France, back to Germany. Then after a few days I flew down to Cyprus to visit a friend in Larnaca. The following week I flew directly to Rome and had a few days of solo travel before flying back to Germany for an afternoon, and then flying back to Canada the next day (which actually flew through Istanbul first). I had visited Rome back in January with a teammate from my Italian Club, and I absolutely loved it there. I knew I had to come back and was planning to after the season. However, when I had to switch clubs it became a bit more complicated – but of course – ended up working out in the end. I was a crazy tourist for over 3 days, and I think that it was better I was traveling alone for that trip – not sure any travel companion would have been able to keep up. I wanted to see everything and yet also take my time to soak in everything. I spent the majority of one day in the Vatican and the other days traveling every square inch of the city. One day I walked for 12 hours straight.
What’s coming up next for you?
We just finished a tournament in Lima, Peru where we placed fifth, edging out Puerto Rico in the last game. The Pan America Cup is the most grueling tournament of the entire summer where we played 8 games in 9 days. Two weeks before, our Canadian National Team was in Havana, Cuba where we unfortunately came up short on qualifying for World Cup in Japan this August. However, with our extremely busy schedule this summer, we can definitely take that time in August to nail down our training and recovery in our training center in Winnipeg.
We had 7 days to train in Winnipeg at the end of June and then we’re off for two weeks of Grand Prix which takes place in Puerto Rico and then Argentina. Post-Argentina we fly to Toronto for the Pan Am Games which is going to be the most incredible experience. We don’t get very many opportunities to play in front of our home crowd, and to do so at an international tournament with this magnitude is really just unbelievable! It will absolutely be one of, if not the highlight of my career.
Depending on how we do in the first weeks of Grand Prix, we may or may not head to Poland (also directly) after the Toronto Pan Am Games for Grand Prix Finals. If not, we will get about a week off and then continue training together in Winnipeg. Our last tournament of the summer is in late September with our NORCECA zone where we need to place top 4 in order to qualify for the Olympic Qualifier that is scheduled for January. It’s a tricky year with regards to professional teams. Usually we would join our respective teams after the last National Team stint (in this case it would be sometime in October), but because we have Olympic Qualifiers some months later, there is an option of staying behind and training together until then. The other option is to join the team in October, but then fly back before the Olympic Qualifier, play with the National team, and then fly back to Europe after that to play out the season. Personally, I haven’t signed anywhere yet. I’m holding out for a strong offer, otherwise I will stay in Winnipeg in the Fall to train with the National Team program until after the Qualifier.
Describe how you stay PowHERful and on the top of your game.
It’s really important for me to take time to recharge. Whether or not that’s taking a “personal” afternoon or evening just to hang out, write, or go on a walk. If I try to do too much and help out everyone around me while still training 6 hours a day, I tend to burn out faster. It’s all about moderation. I need to have time for my friends, family, fun things, training, but also make sure to allow that important down-time.
What would you say your Top 3 Excellence Habits are (ie. habits that ensure your success).
Being a professional athlete has us playing on (usually) different European teams each year. You don’t know what you’re getting into, so it’s really important that you go in with the mindset that you have to take care of yourself. Nobody is really looking out for your best interest – you have to be the one that knows what you need to be on your game. One example is that I am always watching video of my past games / plays. This way I am able to slow down and really see what I can improve on.
- Journal: I have one journal specifically for volleyball and that’s the one that I write down statistics/thoughts I had during or after the game, but I also have another one where I’ll just write anything and everything down. When I travel, my backpack is usually completely filled with journals, notebooks and novels. Writing helps me a lot – it’s time where I can be completely honest with myself and break down barriers when I need to. It really helped me when I was playing and living in Turkey, as it was only months after my brother Connor passed away. Writing helps me to acknowledge and explore my inner strength.
- I have journal entries after every volleyball game I’ve ever played for the last 3 years. I write down how I’m feeling, what I did to get out of any bad head spaces, or what I did to keep myself at a high level for the match. Anything really – but it all gets written down.
- Stay Active: I’m always active and in the gym. I love being outdoors, and am definitely my happiest when I’m in nature so I try to get up into the mountains as much as possible – hiking, running and bike riding whenever I can. For me, it’s one of my best habits. If, at the end of the day I haven’t been active, I honestly don’t feel my best.
- Eat Well: Third, I love eating healthy. Finding new recipes and experimenting with fresh vegetables and ingredients – I love it. The Oh She Glows cookbook is definitely the favorite.
Describe your Top Consistency Tips as they relate to your Mission.
Take care of myself – fuel my body, my mind and my soul.
Describe collaboration and what the looks like/feels like on the ground – how does it show up in your life?
Collaboration is communication. As a National Team, our entire support staff is collaborating with each person to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals. There has to be a lot of give and take within a program, and the only way to be successful as a group and as individuals is to make sure that everyone is willing to do their job and make sure they’re doing it to the best of their ability.
Describe a favourite hobby or adventure.
Travelling is my favourite thing. Ever. There’s nothing quite like exploring a new place for the first time, or even revisiting the amazing places you have once been. To be able to immerse yourself in to a totally new culture and experience things you never thought you would get the chance to do is one of my greatest passions. I have travelled to so many places around the world, and I am not even close to being done. One of my top adventures so far would have to be my trip to South East Asia with two national team mates after the 2010 World Championships. We travelled in Japan for a few days before heading to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. It definitely stole my heart, and I will absolutely be going back for more incredible adventures.
Favourite energy meal or healthy snack.
Favourite indulgence or treat.
Top (4) things on your Bucket List.
- Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Walk El Camino (Spain to France)
- Buy a VW van and drive/camp the California coast
- Go skydiving
- Road trip and explore through England and Scotland on the same route that my grandmother did about 40 years ago. She kept a journal of her adventures, and I would love to do the same while following in her footsteps!
What does giving back (fulfillment) look like to you?
It’s all about giving back to my community. Since I was young, I’ve had such a wonderful amount of support through all of my sporting adventures. Being from a small town (on the Sunshine Coast, BC), I feel that I have the opportunity to be a positive role model for the younger age groups. Having the Coast separated from Vancouver by a ferry, our athletes often have to sacrifice more than someone who is from the mainland. For example, since I started Gold 1 soccer in Grade 5, I was taking ferries over multiple times a week, missing school, and spending lots of money on food, transportation, and general costs of travel, not to mention time. I try to give back to my community as much as I can by helping run volleyball clinics and popping into various team’s practices and coaching. Growing up, I looked up to many strong, athletic women. Being able to mentor the younger athletes is so fulfilling to me. I love to remind them that I was once where they are now; and that with a lot of dedication and hard work, anything can be done!
I never leave home without my……..
Music, journal, and water bottle.
What’s not being said? What would you like to add that perhaps there hasn’t been a question for?
The only thing I can think to mention is how important my family is to me. They have been my biggest support system through my entire life, and we have always been extremely close. Almost two years ago, I woke up in Winnipeg to a missed call from my Mom at 8 in the morning, and I instantly knew something was wrong. I found out that one of my twin brothers was in an accident, and I needed to be home. Once I arrived in Vancouver, I found out that he wasn’t going to make it, and my whole world was completely shattered. He was days away from his 21st birthday and a couple weeks away from leaving for Texas to play out his golf scholarship.
Since that day, I have definitely changed as a person. To be forced to deal with such a tragic death in my life yet again, I have really been exposed to how fragile life is. It sounds so cliché, but I have to live every day to the fullest, and really love what I’m doing – otherwise, what’s the point? I learned a lot from Connor. It’s actually exactly how he lived his life; whatever he felt was right, he would do it, and he took nothing for granted. Our family continues to support one another to the fullest but our lives are forever changed. We created the Connor Richey Legacy Fund. Through the donations we receive in Connor’s name, we are able to help sponsor different athletes, teams, and programs in our community. It is especially rewarding to help a young athlete further their sports dreams and aspirations because as an athlete that has gone through it all, I know how important it can be.
With all that being said, sports have always been an extremely important part of my life. Currently it is acting as a healthy release to help combat the roller coaster of emotions that I have with dealing with Connor not being here. Sports, and especially volleyball, have connected me to some of my best friends in life and taught me so many important lessons, helped me overcome so many physical, emotional, and person barriers, provided a chance to see the world, and most importantly, have so much fun along the way. Living a healthy, active lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s an opportunity to push your own individual limits and amaze yourself – the self confidence will quickly follow suit after that! “Take the risk or lose the chance“… I hope that everyone can take it.
“My journey continues every day, and my goal is to live each day to the fullest as strong and confident as I can be. I know that life will lead me on a very winding road, but I am willing to follow it and experience each high and low and come away with new understanding and insight. I hope I can inspire young girls to live their dreams as I have been inspired by many powerful women in my life. The future holds some exciting times; I can’t wait to experience it all!” – Kyla Richey