Kailen Sheridan has been part of the national program since 2010. She was just 15 when she was first called into camp. Since then, she has won a silver medal at the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship and proudly wore the maple leaf in Azerbaijan during the 2012 U-17 Women’s World Cup, where she was Canada’s starting goalkeeper.
When Canada opens the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Toronto on August 5th against Ghana, suiting up in front of a big crowd likely won’t be an issue. In 2012, she and her teammates played in a packed Tofiq Bahramov Stadium at the U-17 Women’s World Cup against Nigeria, with over 30,000 spectators on hand.
The Ontario-native is currently studying at Clemson University in South Carolina, where she recently wrapped up her freshman year. In her first year as a member of the Tigers, Kailen earned plenty of hardware. She was co-recipient of the team’s Defensive Most Valuable Player award, earned the team’s Newcomer of the Year award, was a member of the ACC All-Freshman Team and was named to Soccer America’s All-Freshman Second Team.
The Road to Canada 2014 interview series begins with Kailen Sheridan:
What’s it like working with U-20 head coach Andrew Olivieri and his staff?
Andrew is great. He knows what he’s talking about and he’s a very open coach. He’s always there if you need to come to him with questions or concerns. He’s so supportive that way. He always says ‘come to me if you have questions’ and when you do have questions, he usually has answers for us. If he doesn’t, he’ll direct us to a coach that will. Our coaching staff is very diverse.
What do you guys like to do during your downtime during camp?
It varies from camp to camp, but we try to mix it up. We head downtown. Other times we go shopping. Sometimes, we go out on our own to experience the place where we are and what city we are in, especially because we travel often. It’s just a little break to take your mind off of everything that’s happening. Then you come back and you have a fresh mind.
Many people out there have the opinion that goalkeepers are a unique breed and that you have your own frame of mind. How would you describe the way you play and the way you prepare?
I definitely agree. Everyone thinks we have our own frame of mind. Everyone here calls us weirdos! But that’s okay, because we get over it and we accept it. I think preparation and game time is different, but it’s also very similar. In terms of prep, it’s personal. Everyone does something different. Personally, like most, I’ve got my playlist on the bus. Then we get into the change room and talk things over before the game. We make sure everyone is okay with the game plan and make sure we know what we are supposed to go out there and do.
Do you ever feel extra pressure as a goalkeeper?
Sometimes, but that’s what we live for. It’s all about that pressure. In your position, you’re the last person there. I know that I’m important on the field and that means if there’s anybody who needs to be ready, it’s me. It’s about making sure that I’m ready to do what I need to do. I remind myself that I do know what I’m supposed to be doing and that’s why I’m here. I remind myself that he chose me for a reason and make sure that I’m confident to be on the field.
Canada is hosting the U-20 Women’s World Cup. What’s it going to be like hearing the anthem on home soil, in your home province, and seeing all of the red and white in the stands?
It’s going to be crazy and so great. We’ve luckily had the experience at U-17s to hear that anthem and to be wearing the red jersey. Now though, like you said, it’s on home soil and it’s going to be that extra patriotism going through our minds, our emotions and just really wanting to lay it on the line in front of friends, family and the country.
You mention the U-17s. What’s it like being on this journey with a lot of teammates whom you suited up with at the U-17 Women’s World Cup back in 2012?
It’s awesome. It’s just been amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better group to be doing this with to be honest with you. We are so close. Basically, we live together because we are at these camps so often and we can’t wait to catch up the first day. Then, it’s like we’ve been together the whole year. Being together with this core group of girls is amazing because it’s great to have someone to share this with. When you go back home, you can still talk to them. We’re always in contact and talking about ‘I learned this at school’ or ‘I learned this at home with my team’. We have a lot of cool conversations like that. Even non-soccer, it’s cool to have these people I can go to if I need to get away. We are always there for one another.
It sounds like you guys have strong camaraderie and that’s fantastic to hear because you’ll obviously go to war for one another on the pitch.
Exactly. We have so much respect for one another. It’s incredible. I think we’re one of the most connected countries out there, both off and on the field. And we’re working on it too.
Do you have a mental coach as well?
We do. He comes in and helps us both individually and in groups to focus and see what we have to do to be better on and off the field. We agree it helps. We then have a meeting about it and we can take it all back when we are on our own. We can think about that kind of thing. When we have our off days, we can stay connected and grow off each other. I think that helps us off the field, to be that connected, and then have chemistry on the field.
How do you think your game has grown since 2012?
I think I’ve grown in confidence and awareness. I’d say in two years, you can do a lot of changing. I think my technical game has obviously grown, but more obvious to me as a player is more of a growth in leadership in the back. I’ve taken in a lot of information. I’m going to school and I’m learning from there. Having come into a new U-20 environment, you have to completely start from scratch in a sense that you need to learn new players and new coaches. I think I was able to learn from that and develop a way where I could communicate, organize and be better with my tactical game, as well have a better understanding of the game.
A big thank you to Kailen for her time. You can follow her on Twitter.
About the author:
Sandra Prusina is a journalist and broadcaster based out of Calgary, Canada. She has covered women’s soccer since 2010. She’s also a segment reporter for Olympic Broadcast Services, traveling to Vancouver, London and Sochi to work for the host broadcaster.