Interview with Kyla Richey

May is almost over, but that doesn’t mean we are going to skip our monthly interview! This month, I am featuring Kyla Richey. Kyla is a veteran on Canada’s Indoor Women’s National Volleyball team, and I had the privilege of sharing the court (and a house) with her for 3 years. She has played professionally all over Europe, in countries such as Germany, Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Kyla was a star at the University of British Columbia, where she was a part of 5 CIS National Championship teams, and was CIS Player of the Year.
 

Kyla is a great player, and an even better person, and I hope you all enjoy reading about her experiences and what she has learned!
 

xo, Sarah
 

1. How did you get started playing volleyball?

My mom was my volleyball coach from grade 4-12 in school and club on the Sunshine Coast [in British Columbia]. She put together a volleyball team when I was in grade 4 with all my best friends. Small town vibes –we also made up the majority of the athletics club, track and basketball team. We played school and club volleyball all the way through until my last club year when I joined BCO in North Vancouver.
 

2. Did you play other sports growing up, or were you always a volleyball athlete?

I played many sports up until Grade 12. I was first introduced to running cross-country and track and field at an early age. My dad coached and taught at my elementary school and he coached me in those early years as well as in soccer. I remember doing fast-feet drills, sprints, and soccer skills in our backyard and could do 500 “juggles” in a row by the time I was in grade 6.
 

Once I started competing in track and doing well in competitions, I had the dream that I wanted to go to the Olympics. A few years later, I started to love soccer, particularly the team aspect of it as opposed to track, and from grades 5-9 I was traveling over to Vancouver 2-3 times a week to practice and compete with a Gold 1 West Vancouver Elite team. This was my first introduction on how to really balance sports with life. I also played basketball until grade 11.
 

I made Team BC Summer Games for volleyball in grade 8, even though I had just come out of a cast for a broken arm from the 200m-hurdle provincial finals two weeks before, and after that knew that volleyball was my sport. I made the Junior National Team in grade 10 and have been competing for Canada ever since. I was definitely highly involved in a lot of other sports growing up and would encourage anyone to do the same. It’s so amazing to know various athletes across other sports and have those unique experiences growing up. I continue to have connections with the girls I played soccer with in West Vancouver (Georgia Simmerling is a good friend and just competed in her third Olympics) and follow some of the track girls who are now competing for Canada as well.
 

3. When did you know that you wanted to pursue volleyball past high school? What steps did you take to make that happen?

After making the Junior National team in Grade 10, I realized that I wanted to continue to play post-secondary. Jesse Knight came to the Sunshine Coast every summer to run a camp and was a very influential person as far as helping me pursue that dream. I went to all the camps and clinics that were held on the Coast and in/around Vancouver to continue getting high level coaching as well as exposure. I knew that I wanted to continue to play for the National Team and so was looking at staying in Canada and attending university here (even though I took the longest time ever to decide between UBC and the University of Washington).
 

Having both parents attend UBC and compete in sports there certainly made it a strong contender.  I attended a number of camps at UBC in the summer and got to know their coaches.  I also made a number of visits to Washington’s campus and had to weigh out the pros and cons of both programs.
 

4. Did you ever experience any setbacks on the way to achieving your dreams? If so, how did you overcome them?

I have had incredible setbacks related to loss and now have a very good grasp on how fragile life is. Just before the start of my Grade 12 year my two best friends and teammates from high school, passed away in a car accident. We had been dreaming of a provincial championship together since Grade 8 and their loss really made me realize how short, and unexpected life can be. I lost a very, very close friend to brain cancer, and four years ago, I lost my brother in a tragic accident. During each of those times, I was in the middle of competing with either National Team or my university team and each time, had to choose to continue on my path.
 

Life has been anything but easy and smooth. I wouldn’t say I have overcome those things, but have more taken them in to who I am as a person. I don’t want to live a safe, surface-level life, and really realizing how quickly life can change, I take pride in not taking things for granted. Especially after my brother passed away, I feel that now more than ever. I am living wholeheartedly and with fierce purpose. It’s not every moment, nor everyday, nor is it EASY, but I’m trying to find the balance between living life and living life with loss.
 

Kyla serving in the Team Canada jersey

 

5. What is your fondest sports-related memory?

I have a few. It’s really hard to choose just one!
 

Making the junior national team in my grade 10 year. I remember crying my eyes out, jumping up and down, and hugging all the girls around me that had also made the team (fellow UBC and National teammate Jennifer Hinze was in that group!). I was so happy and so proud that I would get to represent and compete for my country.
 

My years at UBC were also magical; winning five national championships with the team but winning in such different ways every single year was really something. One year we went undefeated throughout the entire season. Another year we barely made playoffs. But what a cool lesson to learn; every path to success is so, so different!
 

The first championship won in my first year as a T-Bird ended the dry-spell UBC Volleyball had at nationals, as my mother and her UBC team were the last team to win the championship (1978). She was there in Moncton, with her old medal. That was a really special moment for the both of us.
 

And most recently: walking out into a CANADIAN crowd during the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. 

6. What is one of the most important lessons you have learned during your athletic career?

Be the hardest working person in the gym every single day, and then again when you get home. While my team is on break, I’m usually at home, always working out. I heard the quote “Work hard even when nobody is watching” at an early age and since then have just run with it. I realized that somewhere in the world, another athlete is preparing for battle. Is getting faster. Stronger. What can I be doing to not only be the hardest working athlete on my team, but to take it a step more than that? It’s something I’ve always embodied.
 

The other thing: support systems still love you regardless of whether or not you had a bad game.
 

7. If you could go back and do everything over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I am really fortunate that I can’t think of anything I would do drastically different. Of course, as you grow older and become more sure of yourself as an athlete and as an individual, I would tell my younger self to be more confident at an early age. In elementary school I had to develop a quick wit because I was always the tallest in my class and as a growing female, that’s not the most enticing, easiest thing. As the years progressed I realized it was a gift, especially in volleyball, and did embrace it but it definitely took a lot of time. I would love to see more young female athletes confident in their bodies and in themselves.
 

8. If you could give one piece of advice to young athletes, what would it be?

If things don’t go your way all the time – don’t give up. I’ve played with some incredible athletes in university, on the national team, and on various professional teams around the globe. A lot of them had been cut from younger junior and school teams, or started playing volleyball later in life (such as right before university). You don’t need to specialize early; take the time you need to develop various sport, high-performance skills. It’ll actually benefit you down the road. Be the hardest worker on the court every single day, stay humble, and enjoy the path you’re going down – everyone’s is unique.
 

And bonus piece of advice: make sure you’re just as committed to working on the mental, psychological, and emotional sides of sports and life, not just on the physical.
 

9. What 2 things do you do daily/weekly, etc. that make you a successful athlete?

Daily: fuel my body with a plant-based diet.
 

Throughout the week: get physio and different kinds of treatment for my body, stretch/roll at home and do my (shoulder) band exercises to make sure I can keep up with the young-bucks on the court!
 

& Have BALANCE!
 

A little throwback to our playing days together

 

10. What is your favourite place you have played?

Italy for sure – it had the whole package. I lived just outside the small town of Urbino, in the Italian countryside. The food was amazing. The coffee made me a “snob” when I came back to North America – nothing could compare to their cappuccinos! The professional league in Italy is one of the best in the world so I was very fortunate to play against some of the biggest names in volleyball. Despite the club having financial issues and therefore not finishing the entire season, it was still my favourite place to play professionally thus far.
 

With National team we also head down to Peru quite often and get to enjoy their rowdy, oh-so-loud fans. In Cusco, Peru back in 2010 we played in front of 10,000 fans in a (what seemed like) a sold out stadium. THAT was unbelievable!
 

11. Do you have a specific health or wellness routine?

Not a routine, necessarily, but the last couple of years I’ve really tried to schedule in some downtime for just myself. It’s how I reset in all aspects so especially training in a high level environment day in and day out, this is something I have to do. Focusing on Holistic Health and overall wellness is something I’m very passionate about so I encourage all athletes not just only focus on the physical. Fuelling my body correctly, getting enough rest and downtime like I said, writing, using essential oils, taking the vitamins and minerals my body needs, are just a few ways I stay on top of things.
 

 12. What is in your gym bag?

Headphones

Advil (I’m older now…)

Two longer bands, one looped-band

Ice bag

Raw almonds

Baseball (used for rolling)

Extra socks

TicTacs
 

 13. What are 5 things you can’t live without?

Not including my family, friends, and RUDY [my fiance]:
1. The mountains/’great outdoors’

2. Plants

3. Coffee

4. Blistex

5. A great book.
 

14. What do you do to unwind/in your free time?

If I’m unwinding at the end of the day, generally, things need to be somewhat organized first. Dinner has been made, dishes done, and things are set out for the next day of practice, THEN I can turn my mind off. Reading and writing are some of my favourite ways to unwind in the evening (diffuser on, tea in hand, music in the background).
 

On free days I love spending time with my phenomenal friends, attending concerts, exploring new areas and restaurants (at home or abroad), biking, and being out in nature! Currently, I’m attempting to plan a wedding so that has taken up a lot of free time this year!
 

Right now, I am so excited to be back home in our new training facility – the Richmond Oval! For many, many reasons but mostly to be closer to grandmother, the most special person in my life (PS she’s 95 and has all life’s answers!)! I’ve already stopped in to see her 6 times in the last couple weeks! I hope she’s up to all the visits!
 

If you want to follow Kyla’s journey, check her out on the following platforms:

Instagram: @kylarichey

Website: www.kylarichey.com

Twitter: @kylarichey

Facebook: Kyla Richey Volleyball

Share:

1 Comment

  • jasonworksout June 1, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Hi, Sarah!

    That was an insightful interview, thanks! You were able to ask the questions that we as readers and “regular” folks have in our minds.

    From Kyla’s story, it’s evident that getting started early is important. It is also good to expose kids to as many sports or activities as possible. From there, the decision is up to them.

    I also liked how she recounted her fondest sports memories. I can almost feel the euphoria!

    Reply

Leave a Comment