Skillful. Hilarious. Tattoos. Fearless. Dancer. Hawaiian. Sick.
Just a few words usually thrown in when people describe Sky Blue FC and U.S. Women's National Team forward Natasha Kai.
Kai's fans have been missing her in recent National Team camps and trips. Because of this, I asked Sky Blue's Director of Communications John Archibald if he could set up an interview where I could have some sort of offseason catch up with the woman known as "TK." The speedy worker that he is, Archibald fixed something up right away...last month.
I know, I suck. After finally fixing the audio problems I've been having at the first half of the interview, I got to transcribe everything. It only took me a month, right?
KG: As a member of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, you had the option to choose the top three cities in the Women's Professional Soccer league (WPS) you wanted to play for. What made you pick the New Jersey-New York area?
TK: Well, (Sky Blue captain) Christie Rampone had a big influence on me. She said it was a nice place, there's great people there, and she said if I didn't play for New Jersey, then her 4-year-old daughter (Rylie) wouldn't be my friend anymore. So she got me with that. She used Rylie in this, this bargain. Which worked. So it's all good.
KG: So was New Jersey your top choice?
TK: Yeah, New Jersey was my top choice, and then I think LA, and then... I don't remember my last choice.
KG: Were you sure you were going to get picked for the New Jersey-New York team?
TK: I had no idea where I was going until the day of the allocation. That's when we found out. Or the day before. I don't remember.
KG: When you found out that you were on that team and that your teammates were Christie Rampone and Heather O'Reilly (a.k.a. HAO), how did you react?
TK: I was excited. I'm so used to playing with those two. Our chemistry is great on and off the field. I knew Christie and probably HAO were gonna get picked, but I wasn't sure where I was going. But, when I got picked, I was excited, kind of laughed in my head. It all turned out great.
KG: Now let's talk about playing for Sky Blue. Is it fair to say that the whole season was like a roller-coaster ride for your team?
TK: I think that's probably the best way to describe it. We went through two coaches, finally got a third coach who knew what she was talking about. She put the team before herself. And it ended up finally being the right move, and we ended up winning the whole league.
KG: I remember somebody saying WPS couldn't have written a better script for its inaugural season; the underdogs won. How did you and your teammates conquer all of the adversities with the coaching changes, with being at the bottom of the standings, to beating the regular season champs and winning the championship?
TK: Through all the stuff that happened, we knew that if we had each other's backs, if we played for each other, nothing would break us. Everyday before a game in the locker room, we tell each other that we play for each other, and we have each other's backs. We know that if we continue playing for each other no one will stop us no matter who we play, where we play.
It showed throughout all the stuff that we went through. We knew as soon as we made the playoffs that we were the fourth team. We probably shouldn't have been there first of all because of the first half of the season that we had. But fate took its toll. We had to play three games in a week and a half. Three games in eight days. All on our opponents' home turf. We had nothing to lose.
We knew that the pressure wasn't on our shoulders. We knew that if we just play 90 minutes and all 18 of us, the players that come off the bench, would be a big part of our success. We did that one game at a time.
At the end of the day we were at the championship game. We were like 'Look, we got this far. We might as well just win the whole thing.' Did we think we were gonna win it? No. But you know what, we did. And it was an awesome feeling when nobody believed in us except for ourselves and that's all that matters-our fans and all the girls in our team. That's what happens when you don't give up on yourself.
KG: After you won the championship and you were celebrating in the locker room, Christie Rampone announces that she's actually pregnant. What was your reaction to that?
TK: I actually knew for awhile 'cause I live with Christie Rampone. I'm really close to her and her family. She kept saying 'I don't feel good.' I'm like, 'Dude, you're pregnant!' I have a little sister who has three kids, and my mom had six kids. I'm around pregnant women my whole life. I was like 'Dude, you're pregnant!' She's like, 'There's no way I'm pregnant. There's just no way.' I'm like, 'Dude. You're pregnant.' She's like, 'No, I'm not.'
So, one day before we left for a road trip, I'm like, 'Here, let's go to the store, and we'll buy a pregnancy test.' And she's like, 'Why? I'm not pregnant.' I'm like, 'Let's just, let's just do it.' And she tested it out and she's like, 'Oh my gosh! I'm pregnant!' And I was like, 'I told you!' And she's like 'Maybe I did it wrong.' And she took three more [tests], and they all said positive, and we were just laughing about it.
I was excited. I mean, her family wanted another kid. Rylie wanted another sibling. It was awesome. I think it's awesome. And for her to be playing pregnant and stopping the number one player in the world, which is Marta, I think Christie is a freakin' beast. No words could describe it. She took the job as a head coach being pregnant, and a player. She still conquered everything. I think she's one person that everybody should look up to. She's somebody I look up to, and I will always look up to, being a player and one of my really good friends.
KG: How's the shoulder by the way?
TK: It's alright. I had surgery again on Thursday.
KG: Is it the left shoulder or the right shoulder? Or both?
TK: I actually had surgery on my right shoulder in September, and then on my left last Thursday. So I got them both done.
KG: Is that what you've been doing in the offseason, rehabbing your shoulders?
KG: What was it like playing with those injuries? I bet it was hard at the latter part of the season.
TK: Yeah. I mean, every game I had, every time I fell, it popped out, so I had to pop it back in or have my teammates pop it back in. At first, it was my right shoulder. Then I hurt my left shoulder in June. And I would just have to get a shot before a game. It took a toll on my shoulders, but I knew as soon as the season was done I was gonna get them both fixed. So I knew I was just gonna push out until August.
KG: When did this injury start? Was it in one of the WPS games?
TK: My right shoulder was [injured] during preseason and my left shoulder was [injured] during a game against St. Louis.
KG: Oh that far back, during preseason? Was it in the preseason game against DC?
TK: It was before that. It was actually during preseason before we started any games, in North Carolina.
KG: What else have you been doing in the offseason?
TK: Nothing much. In New Jersey, doing rehab, Monday, Wednesday [and] Friday. Actually today, I will start my lesson in piano. So I'm kind of excited.
KG: Oh, you're going to take piano lessons?
KG: I saw a video of you playing an instrument...
TK: Oh, the ukulele? My dad made it for me.
KG: Oh wow! Do you play chords with that? Do you know a lot of chords?
TK: I don't know a lot of chords. I just teach myself. My dad's really good at it though, but I don't really have the patience to learn something. I kind of tend to do something for a couple of months, then I get over it. Hopefully, this piano lesson sticks with me.
KG: Are you starting from scratch in this piano lesson, or do you know a little bit?
TK: No, I'm starting from scratch. I actually have someone teaching me.
KG: You mentioned that you're in New Jersey. Have you gone back to your hometown since the WPS season ended?
TK: Yeah, I went home after the season for like two weeks, and then I came back and had that photoshoot for ESPN [The] Magazine, and then I had surgery right after that. And I've been here ever since. Well, actually, I went to Florida. My family flew up from Hawaii, and we went to Disney World for like two weeks. My nephews and my niece and my brothers and sisters all came out. So it was fun.
KG: Let's change the topic a bit. The National Team have several videos by U.S. Soccer, and you're in a lot of those. Especially the funny ones. Are the videos a good reflection of what you guys do in your downtime when you're at camp, or when you're in a tournament, or in the Olympics or something?
TK: Yeah, we have a lot of downtime, and sometimes we get a little bored. So we just try to have a fun time. We have a lot of jokes that are entertaining, with me probably being the ringleader of it all. Just trying to play practical jokes on everyone. We have a video person there, and she records everything. It's good fun.
KG: You even bought a dancing cow...
TK: Yeah, exactly. Stupid things like that, that amuse us. That's how bored we are.
KG: Do you play a lot of games too, like cards or video games...
TK: Yeah, we play a lot of that. We have mahjong. I don't know if you know [what] that [is] but it's a Chinese game, and we actually have it on tiles instead of the computer. I taught the girls how to play mahjong, and it was awesome. We were in China one time in like a four-hour layover in an airport, and we busted out the mahjong and all the Chinese people there were like freaking out 'cause we knew how to play. It was awesome.
For the second part of the interview, I asked her if she was up to answering a couple of random questions. The fun-loving forward naturally obliged.
KG: What's your favorite Nickelodeon show?
TK: SpongeBob SquarePants.
KG: If you could have a superpower, what would you want to do?
KG: Would you use this superpower to fight crime or conquer the world?
TK: Conquer the world... no, fight crime! Fight crime.
KG: If you were a police officer, who would you want as your partner?
TK: Christie Rampone
KG: What's the best thing anybody has ever said about you?
TK: That I have a good heart.
KG: Even after using 600 rocks, why do you think the forwards lost at the sand castle competition in Portugal?
TK: Because the judges were cheaters. They were cheating.
KG: If you were asked to present in the middle of a busy street in China, and you can only choose between hula dancing and doing a cheer from back in elementary school, which would you choose?
TK: A cheer. I will not dance hula ever again. I used to dance hula when I was younger and I did not like it. At all.
KG: Growing up, was your room always messy or always neat?
TK: I think a mixture. My room gets to a point where I know I need to clean it, and I'll clean it. But for the most part it's messy. But now I'm a clean freak, so it's funny.
KG: What's it like to chill with Natasha Kai?
TK: I'm pretty relaxed and laid back. If you want to have a good time and laugh a lot, that's what I'm all about. I love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh. I don't really do much. A perfect day for me is pretty much sitting out in my house, hanging out, watching TV. Nothing crazy.
KG: Why did you and Hope Solo lose at the U.S. WNT 2007 Doubles Ping Pong Tournament, when Hope claimed that you were the favorite pair to win because you had matching outfits?
TK: Jo Lohman is actually a really good ping pong player and nobody knew until she started playing. After a little bragging about how good we are, we realized, holy crap, she's really good.
KG: What about her ping pong doubles partner Lindsay Tarpley?
TK: Tarp just occupied the space, you know?
To see TK and her Sky Blue FC teammates defend their title in 2010, visit their website for tickets. Their home opener will be against the Chicago Red Stars on April 11, 2010 at Yurcak Field. This game will also be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.
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