Kiley Williams could hear her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter cheering her on from the sideline. It was the last game of the inaugural season for the Tampa Bay United’s USL W League, the first team she’d been a part of since college. Though the 32-year-old forward had triumphed during her unexpected return to the game, she knew this might be her last hoorah.
“I’m the oldest on the team by at least six years, so I’m not 100% sure that I’m going to be with the W League team in a playing capacity next summer,” Williams says. “So entering the game, I’m like, ‘Ok this is probably the last game I’ll be playing with the W League,’ so that was tough.”
Months later, Williams looks back on the season with gratitude for second chances and a supportive spouse (Former Tampa Bay Rowdies player Kyle Clinton) who encouraged her to pursue a passion she had put on hold after having children.
TBPM: Why did you decide to get back in the game now after so long?
Kiley Williams: I had a feeling that there was, in a sense, unfinished business for me. The professional league folded my senior year of college and the only opportunities to go pro at that time were in Europe. I decided to move to Florida and never really thought about playing again after that. And then I got pregnant with my son and 18 months later, I got pregnant with my daughter, and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m only ever really going to play like co-ed rec soccer locally.” And then after my daughter was born, a friend of mine told me to go out and play in a co-ed rec league and obviously your body hurts after having kids, but I noticed that my touch didn’t get away from me. I felt very comfortable on the ball and mentally, I thought if I just work on all of this enough on my own and put in enough time and energy into becoming better, though I am approaching my 30s, I could probably still get after this and have fun.
TBPM: So you tried out and made the team. How was it being back?
Kiley Williams: Well, I was the oldest person on the team, so I thought, ‘I’m not as fast, I’m not as strong’… but it felt very good. When I walk into practice or into a game after having dealt with my kids all day… something switches in your head where nothing really matters anymore except for the game ahead and you just forget about everything, and you just start having fun again.
TBPM: Will it be important for you and your husband to raise your kids to play sports?
Kiley Williams: I think that he and I being millennials, our parents vicariously lived their lives through us, and though I’m forever grateful that my parents got me into soccer and that they pushed me as hard as they did, I’m never going to put that type of stress on my kids. I’m going to ask them what they want to do and whether they’re good at it or not, I’m going to support them until they tell me that they don’t want to do it.
TBPM: If there’s a lesson that you hope other moms will take from your story, what do you hope it is?
Kiley Williams: I’m actually a pre- and post-natal exercise specialist and I hear a lot of moms say, ‘I’ve lost a part of myself. I lost my body. I lost my livelihood.’ And it’s like, ‘You didn’t. You never lost it. Maybe you don’t have the same body that you had pre-kids and maybe your life is very different from what it was, but that doesn’t mean you’ve actually lost a part of yourself. You just need to rediscover what lights you up as a person.’
For me, that was always soccer. And I decided to train really hard at this because it’s what I love and I’m going to be an example for my kids especially, but hopefully for other moms that when you really care about something and something was part of your identity in the past, you can get after it again.
Photos provided by Kiley Williams. | Originally published in November 2022 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.