Nearly four years ago at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, Kaylyn Kyle was the fourth youngest player on Canada’s squad, despite having made her debut for the Canucks’ senior side in 2008.
Since September 2011, only a few months after Canada failed to progress out of the group stage in Germany, when John Herdman was brought in to replace Italian coach Carolina Morace, Kyle has been at the heart of the Canadian team that has seen their fair share of successes, including a gold medal finish at the 2011 Pan American games in Mexico and an Olympic bronze medal at London 2012.
Now, as the 2015 Women’s World Cup looms on the horizon, Kyle has become one of the most reliable players for coach Herdman – impressively featuring in 56 consecutive matches for her country from 2011 to 2014 – and she has established herself as a senior member of the team alongside the likes of Canada’s all-time leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair.
“I know how hard it was coming into a national team as a young player,” Kyle said about her transition into a more senior role during an exclusive chat with FIFA.com. “There are obviously plenty of nerves already, so we just try to keep the atmosphere within the team really comfortable and like a family.
“The players I looked up to, like Christine Sinclair and Erin McLeod, they were always the ones who were doing the little things right. I learned by watching their actions. So, that’s what I want to bring to the team. I lead by example. It’s the small things. I read the game really well, so I try helping the younger players out that way by watching film with them and showing them our tactics, just to make it as easy as it can be.”
When asked what advice she was given ahead of her first match at a World Cup and what she would want the newer players to know, Kyle’s answer was simple: “Ask a lot of questions!” she said enthusiastically. “The advice I was given was to ask the senior players questions, even about the little things, such as ‘What’s the locker room vibe like at a World Cup?’ It sounds so silly, but questions like these really prepare you for a major tournament. Everyone is willing to make everyone better, so questions are always being asked. We have this familial mentality around our team and we are very welcoming.”
That mentality has indeed proven valuable for Kyle and her team-mates over recent years, but the Saskatoon native is also aware that each and every Women’s World Cup brings its own set of challenges. “I think that’s why we’ve been successful since the last World Cup,” Kyle explained, referencing the atmosphere around the Canadian dressing room. “But everything changes when you go into the World Cup. ‘Expect the unexpected’ is what we always say, and I think that’s one thing John (Herdman) preaches.”
Support on home soil
When discussing what to expect at Canada 2015, the prospect of playing in front of family and friends on home soil resonated with Kyle, who is also a veteran of two FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups. “When you get the most prestigious tournament in your home country, it’s a dream come true.” The 26-year-old said. “There are not a lot of players that get to play in a World Cup, let alone in a World Cup on home soil. It’s amazing.
“We have all of our family and friends able to come to the games and having the fans’ support you have when you step out onto that field in a Canadian stadium, it’s very cool and very close to my heart.”
And while there are still several months of hard work and preparation ahead of Canada 2015’s opening match between the hosts and China PR on 6 June, Kyle can sense the optimism around the team. “I think there’s a really good buzz within the team. We’re not really feeling pressure as of yet.” Kyle said. “I’m sure it’ll come a little bit closer, once the tournament is a couple of weeks away, but we’re really looking forward to it."
Part of the aforementioned preparation comes in the form of the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season, which kicks off in April and will serve as a platform for players to build upon until they join up with their national team’s training camps. Kyle, who is set to feature for Portland Thorns, her fourth NWSL club in three seasons, cannot wait to get started in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s a dream come true,” said the central midfielder, who has also shown her versatility when filling in at centre-back during her days with Seattle Reign in 2013. “It’s such a great situation going in and preparing for a World Cup. You’re playing with the best players, you’re playing in a great organisation with the Thorns, and you also have their fan support, which is absolutely incredible.
“The beginning of the season is incredibly important not only for Canadian players, but for all the international players in the league. It’s a league that allows you to become a better player. There are other players who are fighting for your spot and genuinely pushing you. These games leading up to the World Cup will be really beneficial for all of us.”
All in the family
Kyle comes from a family rich in sporting background, her father played ice hockey professionally, and she has clearly implemented the lessons and examples she learned when she was growing up. “After a game I can go to (my father) and have a genuine conversation with someone that’s familiar with professional sports,” said Kyle.
“I remember growing up I could ask him anything and he showed me that working hard off the field and doing all the little things right go a really long way. It’s the stuff that people don’t see is what allows you to be successful. That’s what I’ve prided myself on.”
Naturally, the entire Kyle clan is looking forward to watching Kaylyn wear the red and white at Canada 2015. “I’m so fortunate to have the family that I have,” Kyle said proudly. “They’re so supportive and they come to all of my major tournaments. To be able to share the Olympic bronze medal with them was great and to have them at this World Cup will be pretty amazing. I owe everything to them."