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How Resilience Shaped My Endgame

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Team Girls is dedicated to fostering and promoting girls’ participation in sport. It’s about girls supporting girls, building up their confidence, and knowing they’re stronger when they stand together – on and off the court.

Team sport has the ability to empower young girls, provide them with opportunities to thrive, develop resilience, and forge long lasting connections. We sat down with celebrated former Australian professional soccer player Tal Karp, whose remarkable journey shows how the transformative power of being part of a team shaped her endgame.

When asked where it all started, Tal said she attributes her interest in soccer to her older brother. At age 7, she was “kicking balls up and down the sidelines, and asking my brother’s coach every weekend if I could play in his team.”

Despite facing discouragement early on as her brother’s coach “didn’t think it was a game that girls should be playing”, she was never deterred. “There was something I loved about the game, and I wasn’t ready to take no for an answer. There is also something about being told you are not allowed, that makes you want to break those sorts of boundaries down.”

Her persistence paid off. One day her brother’s team didn’t have enough players, so Tal was invited to play. That day she scored the winning goal, which turned out to be one of many in life.

Tal went on to represent Australia at the 2003 World Cup and the 2004 Athens Olympics. “I remember walking out onto the field for my first World Cup game… I saw my grandparents in the stands, my grandmother holding a sign she had sewn with ‘Go Tal’ on it... I remember feeling quite emotional in that moment, thinking about all the ups and downs that had led up to that point, and all of the help I had from my family and friends along the way.”

Tal speaks fondly of the values she has learned from the game, and draws from them to this day. “Sport is such a team effort. Success is never about one person … it requires your team-mates, your coaches, your family, and your friends. On the field it’s about working together, knowing how to get the best out of the people around you – understanding their strengths, but also where the opportunities to improve are.”

Now a lawyer, Tal is also the CEO of Y Australia (formerly the YMCA), where she is all about enabling and empowering young people regardless of their background to thrive in body, mind, and spirit through access to sport and recreation. With 17 million+ participants a year and more than 6,500 young staff members across Australia, they are well on their way to succeeding.

When it comes to sport in her personal life today, Tal is seeing a positive change. “I was invited back to my childhood football club a few weeks ago. Back then I was the only girl, and now there are a hundred girls playing.”

That determined 7-year-old who didn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t play has probably had a lot more to do with that change than she realises. Every girl’s endgame is different; looking back, a world with more girls in sport was always hers.

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