Pro Soccer Player Kayla Adamek: Learning about Life with a Ball at My Feet

By: Kayla Adamek, pro soccer player with UDG Tenerife and Athlete Ally Ambassador

My name is Kayla Adamek, and I am a professional soccer player playing in La Liga for UDG Tenerife in Spain. I am someone who has had a series of setbacks throughout their career, probably more so than successes. But it was because of every setback that I have experienced true resiliency. I believe that these experiences have shaped who I am today and I would not change anything, because I am truly thankful for the opportunities to grow.

My teenage years represented my first and biggest mountain to climb. Coming out in a time and place where I felt alone was confusing at such a young age. I felt like an outsider even with supportive family and friends around me. While I was figuring out my identity, I suffered a serious injury that sidelined me from soccer. I never truly felt like I was a part of anything unless there was a ball at my feet, and without soccer, I felt lost. I fully realized then how much it hurt to be away from the sport I love. Soccer was (and still is) my escape and my safe place. While I lost my safe place for a period during my injury, the experience made me that much more grateful and driven in achieving my goals.

After high school, I only truly began to find myself when I packed my cleats and moved to Orlando to play under Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Tiff instilled a team culture that emphasized us being a family, united as one, that would step on the pitch everyday to grind it out for one another, and that we did. My teammates understood me and I had never felt more accepted in my life. It was like our own little bubble of people “like me.” Sport was my safe place again, and that is how it should be for everyone.

A few years into my time in Orlando the Pulse shooting happened, which reminded me that there is still hate in the world even though it wasn’t apparent in my sports world at the time. While I have been fortunate enough to explore the world playing the game I love, I have encountered places where being myself wasn’t necessarily safe for me.

I now have enough confidence in myself to no longer be phased by hate. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me anymore, because I know who I am and no one can tell me otherwise. Not only have I accepted who I am, but I am incredibly proud to be gay and I want others like me to feel that way about themselves too. I want to be a living example of the person I needed when I was younger and thought I was “the only one.”

There is no reason or excuse for people to discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, or simply because someone is different from themselves. It is truly unacceptable, especially in sport. Sport was there for me when I wasn’t there for myself, and now I want to be there for those who feel they are the only one, like I once did. I am incredibly thankful for soccer, as it has picked me up at my lowest point and it inspires me to think about what the future holds.

Looking back, pursuing this dream has created a journey I will forever be grateful for, no matter what happens in the end. I have a “fight like hell” mentality to never give up on my goal of making and thriving on the Canadian women’s national team. I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQI+ community, and proud to join Athlete Ally today as an Ambassador.

Photos courtesy of Kayla Adamek
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