Cascades Q&A is a weekly feature where we fire a series of random questions at a Cascades athlete. Some of the questions are serious, some not so much. In the crosshairs this week is Kayla Klim, a fifth-year goalkeeper with the women’s soccer team.
Q: You’ve had one of the more interesting off-seasons of any Cascades athlete, spending several months taking classes in Austria as part of UFV’s Study Abroad program. Tell me a little bit about what you were up to, and what it was like.
A: “I was at the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt. The small class sizes, group work, and practical learning approach really suited my learning style. It was nice because I not only felt like I knew what I was getting into class-wise, but campus-wise it was very small – smaller than UFV – and a similar distance to a major city. I was just outside of Vienna in the city of Wiener Neustadt. It was a 30-minute direct train ride (to Vienna). Public transit there is awesome, and Austria is pretty central to Europe, so it was awesome for traveling. I visited 12 countries while I was there – not including two countries I had layovers in but didn’t actually get to explore.”
Wow, 12 countries – can you list them all off the top of your head?
“OK! I was in Austria, obviously (1). I went to Slovakia (2) just to get my visa, and while we were waiting for that, we explored the capital city. Hungary (3), I spent a lot of time there and really enjoyed it. If you accumulated it all, I was probably there for about two weeks. I went to Germany (4). I was in Italy (5) for a good portion of time. Turkey (6), specifically Istanbul. Greece (7), specifically Athens. Barcelona, Spain (8). Finland (9), which was amazing. The Czech Republic (10). I drove through Switzerland (11), and stopped in a couple places. And I’m missing one.
“No – my layover on the way there was in France, but I didn’t spend any time there. And my layover coming home was in Amsterdam, but I didn’t actually spend any time in the Netherlands. So maybe we’ll stick with 11, and we’ll see if I remember the last one.”
(Later, via text, Kayla would add England to the list for an even dozen nations visited.)
I arrived in Europe on Feb. 12, and I was back here July 12. I was there for five months and jam packed it full of new experiences.
Of all the sights you saw, if you had to choose just one, what would recommend as an absolute can’t-miss?
“I think the place that took my breath away the most was Istanbul, Turkey. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going there right now – we were actually there when one of the suicide bombings happened, and it was only 10 minutes from our hostel where it took place. The night previous, we had walked through Taksim Square, which was about a block away from where it happened, so it was a little too surreal. But it’s a beautiful, beautiful country and city, and I would like to go back, for sure.
“The Prince Islands are amazing. I think three of them are open to go to by ferry. One of them, they don’t have any cars on the island – some people have mopeds, but most people ride bicycles. Another one had wild horses everywhere. We hiked the whole circumference of two of the islands, and all the way up to the peak of them as well. It was just breathtaking. And also, just seeing the history and cultural aspects of Istanbul, trying the food and everything, was so unique to anything else I had ever experienced.”
You came back on July 12 – obviously the Cascades were training together in the off-season. What’s it been like re-assimilating into the team after having a shorter off-season program with them?
“I kept fit and active while I was away. I kind of developed a love for cycling. It was never something that appealed to me before . . . but I really enjoyed cycling around. There was a bike rental station right outside our dorms, and I’d often just rent a bike and go for an hour to get some fitness in, along with some of the other exercises I was doing. There was a gym in our dorm, and it wasn’t amazing, but it did the trick.
“So coming back, I might have been behind the eight-ball as far as on-field stuff, but fitness wise I was feeling pretty good, and overall refreshed. We did a new fitness test this year, and I held my own. I hadn’t touched a soccer ball in seven months, probably. I didn’t play after the season ended (in November), and I think I played futsal maybe two or three times with the team when the new year came around. But I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty quickly (coming back).
“It’s weird for me going into a season, especially being my fifth year, and not know the rookies ahead of time. I came back, and it was like, ‘Oh no, there’s 10 new girls here, and I don’t know their names!’ So there was a bit of an adjustment, but everybody was really welcoming of course, and we kind of just picked up where we left off.”
You’re the Cascades’ team captain this year, and your head coach Rob Giesbrecht told me that it was a unanimous vote by your teammates. What does that mean to you?
“To be honest, I’ve been trying to find my leadership style. We have a team culture group, where it’s all the senior players plus two non-seniors voted in. We’ve been working through a leadership book, and I would Skype in from Austria at really random times – sometimes two in the morning, to be part of those leadership meetings. Just trying to stay connected while I was away . . . so that people knew I was fully committed.
“My leadership role in the past few years has been more about on-field – I’ve got a big voice, and I direct a lot of the traffic. That’s obviously something that’s good for a leader to do. Now that I’m captain, it’s interesting trying to find my place off the field. Am I still more of a lead-by-example player like I feel I am on the field? Or do I need to try and reach out to people in different ways than I had before to build those connections? It’s been an interesting process, and I’m really happy that (UFV kinesiology professor and sports psychologist) Roger Friesen is back (from the Summer Olympics), because I feel like he’s such a good help to us as a team and to me as a leader in figuring out what I should do.
“Overall, it’s not something that goes to my head. It’s just cool. I’m in my fifth year, and I get to be a leader. I feel like I was a leader with my playing in previous years, so nothing really changes for me, other than finding a role off the field.”
Hockey goalies are known to be really quirky – Patrick Roy famously talked to his goalposts, for instance. Are soccer keepers the same way?
“We definitely are a bit quirky. Something we’ve had going on recently with the guys team goalkeepers is, whenever we’re on preseason trips, we make our own music videos. We send them to the guys as a challenge, and they’ll send one back, and we’ll go back and forth.”
You’re quite friendly and outgoing, and Coach Giesbrecht told me a funny story about that. On the trip to Saskatchewan last weekend, your teammates challenged you to talk to a complete stranger for an entire flight. How did that go?
“Actually one of our coaches had a bet going with me – our goalkeeper coach (Marcus Nielsen). He’s also a bit quirky, it goes with the territory! So it was to see which one of us could maintain a conversation with a stranger on an airplane the longest. That’s natural to me, being pretty outgoing. Even in Europe, I wanted to meet people, I wanted to hear about their lives, I wanted to hear about their culture.
“Anyway, I didn’t have a random sitting next to me so Sunny (Samra, Cascades midfielder) said, ‘Kayla, we’re switching seats!’ I talked to this guy for our whole flight from Abby to Edmonton . . . Emily (Harold, Cascades goalkeeper) timed me and said that it was an hour and 24 minutes that I talked to him. I knew his age, his name, how many kids he had, where they played soccer, his occupation, where he went to school! I found out all the details.
“Marcus didn’t have anyone random sitting next to him on that flight, but he did on the flight from Edmonton to Regina. And he got this guy to come to our game (against the Regina Cougars)! It was an Australian guy who was coming to the university to work in a contract position, I think it was for a month. He says, ‘My Airbnb isn’t far from the university, I don’t really have much going on.’ And Marcus is like, ‘Sold! You’re coming to watch the game.’ And sure enough, after the game, this guy came over and talked to us! He was there for the whole game. It was just awesome – I love that kind of thing!”
Tell me about how you get hyped up pregame. Is there a song you absolutely have to listen to?
“While I was in Austria, I started listening to some German rap! (Laughs). There’s one song in particular called Wie Ein Mann. I understood some of it, but I translated it all into English just to make sure I got the gist of the song.
“Normally I listen to three songs in warm-up. It changes from season to season and game to game. Last year I had Stronger, an older song by Kanye West, on there. Just things that pump me up. Or sometimes, if I’m nervous before a game, I’ll listen to a slower song during warm-up to keep my nerves calm.”
Your team has a really unique opportunity this weekend. You’re playing the defending national champs, the UBC Thunderbirds. You’re also playing the team that knocked you out of the playoffs last year, the UVic Vikes. What’s going through your mind heading into those match-ups?
“The great thing is, we’re playing them at home first, and we’ve been better off playing at home against these teams in the last little bit. We were the only team to beat UBC (last season), and that was on our home park. And we’ve got a new home park this year (MRC Sports Complex), and teams have never played there before.
“It’ll be interesting to see how some of our younger players can step up to the plate. If you look at our game against Sask (a 4-0 road win last Sunday), especially the first half, we were playing some of the best soccer in a while, and I hope we can continue that.
“It’s exciting, more than anything, I think.”