Have you been wondering just what one of the toughest players in the WPS has been up to? If your answer is yes, then we’re both talking about Tasha Kai. Sometimes known as the “bad girl” of soccer, Kai has become a striker for the Philadelphia Independence after having spent the past two seasons playing for Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.
Kai took time out of the busy pre-season training to answer some questions about being a part of the Independence and the path that got her there.
About the pre-season:
Nell Enriquez: How have your first few weeks of being part of the Independence been?
Tasha Kai: I feel really great here. I mean the whole squad is great. I had two rough years and I can love soccer again. I feel great as a player and as a person.
NE: How do you feel about the team being called the “cheesesteaks”?
TK: I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t really like cheesesteaks but I guess that’s just our team name. We have a fan base called the cheesesteaks. It’s just fun you know, to our fans. You know they wear cheesesteak hats!
NE: Tell us a little bit about preseason. What is going on out on the field that you’re really enjoying? How has it affected you?
TK: I think preseason is going great. We have two sessions a day. Tuesdays and Thursday we have lifting sessions in the morning and training in the afternoon. We do a lot of ball work and technical stuff. A lot of small group playing. We are working on possession. I just think it’s going great. Our team is bonding really well together. We are learning the ins and outs of playing with each other. And I think once April comes around we are going to know each other so well and how each other plays that it’s really going to be sexy soccer. It’s going to be fun to watch and great to play. For me just being here for a couple of weeks I’ve become a better player. I don’t know if it’s because I’m happy. Someone told me once, when you’re happy soccer just develops and becomes fun. I think the last couple of years I hated soccer. I didn’t want to play anymore. I hated to wake up and come to practice. Here I can’t wait to wake up to come to practice. I love my teammates. They’re like my second family. We’re like sisters. And hopefully we’ll bring home the championship this year.
NE: Who are you looking forward to taking on out on the field?
TK: Personally I can’t wait to play Sky Blue. I have history with them. To be back on their home field playing against some of my old teammates there is going to be a lot of mixed emotions. I think Boston is strong. (Western) New York is going to be very strong. And I feel like with Bay Area closing that there are so many great players with a lot of talent out there that it has spread amongst the teams. I think the teams over all are going to be very, very strong with a lot of weapons that we don’t know well about and it’s going to be a matter of who’s going to connect well with each other at the opening games. But yeah, our first match up on April 10th with Sky Blue is something that I’m looking forward to a lot! I have a lot of old friends and family that live there. It’s going to be very emotional and I’m very excited to play.
A bit about how you got to here:
NE: I heard that when you were younger you hurt your foot so bad that you were told you may not be able to play. Is that true?
TK: Oh yeah, it was when I was five. My family and I went to the beach. Me and my family were running on the sand and playing tag or what not and I stepped on a broken glass beer bottle and it clipped my heel off my foot. Cut all the veins, arteries – everything. I was in a boot for like nine months and the doctors said I wouldn’t be able to walk straight again. I have a scar on my foot still. But you know it didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I just continued being me and being active and stuff.
NE: I also heard that you wanted to be a surfer and not really a soccer player. Is that right?
TK: After high school I sat out a year and a half. I didn’t really feel like I wanted to play soccer or go to college after high school. I didn’t think there was anything out there for me. So I just wanted to stay home be with my family. Work and surf. Just be a beach bum. After high school I got a job – nine to five job, working at a cafeteria at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. I cooked, washed dishes, worked in the bakery, whipped tables. On my free time I surfed with my friends and sisters. I kinda did a little soul searching for a year and a half and finally one day I woke up and pulled my head out of my butt and I was like ok, I’m ready to play soccer again. Went to college for four years and I’m here today talking to you about it.
NE: Is there anyone you’ve played with or against on the field that really pushes your game?
NK: Christie Rampone. She’s one of my closest friends and someone I look up to, not only as a player but as a friend. She’s a great person. But here I have to say everyone. Everyone definitely brings something to this team and that’s what makes us work. You have all this talent and when you put it together it’s just magic. I love playing up top with Lianne Sanderson. We connect so well. The two of us are so comfortable playing with each other. She pushes me to become a better player.
NE: Between the Olympics, the World Cup and your other successes, what is your most memorable moment?
TK: I think my most memorable moment would be the end of the 2008 Olympics. I had a rough year in 2008 – almost getting cut from the national team, having disagreements with the head coach. I went home fought through that non-sense and basically proved her wrong. I turned myself around. Wouldn’t let her stop me from accomplishing what I had dreamt about since I was five. Being able to stand on the podium, with the gold medal around my neck and sing the national anthem was just the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Having my family to witness me accomplish my dream and for them to accomplish that with me is something I’ll never forget.
Some for fun:
NE: What did you major in when you were in college?
TK: I majored in sociology.
NE: Do you think you might start a blog or sign up for a social media site like Twitter?
TK: Number one I don’t know how twitter works. I don’t do Facebook. I don’t know how to use Facebook. It’s kinda bad. I don’t know. It’s not really my thing. It’s too crazy for me I guess. I don’t really think about blogging. I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt try I guess. Maybe I’ll start one or the other. But I can’t guarantee any of the fans that I will.
NE: Did you spend any time in Hawaii during the off season?
TK: Yeah actually I spent the whole off season in Hawaii. There is a huge weather change from Hawaii to here.
NE: Is 46 an accurate number for the tattoos?
TK: 46 is still an accurate number and I count the sleeve as one tattoo.
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