Player's Own Voice

Transcript: Rhian Wilkinson on Player's Own Voice podcast

Former Canadian National team member, current coach of Portland Thorns, Rhian Wilkinson goes into detail about clubhouse culture, and building competitors now and for the future

episode airs April 26 2022

Transcript:  Rhian Wilkinson on POV podcast

Anastasia: Here's some inside baseball for you. Usually we produce about 24 episodes and call it a season, but when two Olympic Games play out in less than one year, all bets are off. So it just so happens that your little P.O.V. podcast team never found the right moment to down tools.

Until now.

So here it is. Our last new episode for this double length season. Rhian Wilkinson is a leader amongst leaders in Canadian soccer. Her national team play made her a lock for induction to the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. As coach of the Portland Thorns, she brings strategy, compassion and a deep international resume to the club. If any listeners are thinking about coaching at any level, sharpen your pencils. You'll be glad you took notes today.

It's player's own voice. I'm Anastasia Bucsis.


 I'm a little bit nervous for this interview because it's been living in my head for a million years. It's great to see you, my friend.

Rhian Wilkinson: You too. I don't know why you're nervous.

Anastasia: Oh because you're such a good interviewee that I feel like I've got to up my game. Actually, we do have a historic moment on POV. We've got our first time call- in question and it comes from Diana M… she says: 'Rhian, you work in women's sports and yet you own a house in North Vancouver and drive a Tesla. How did you get so rich?'

Rhian Wilkinson: I took her advice early on!. See, it helps to have a roommate at 18 who was doing economics at Princeton and who guilted you every time you bought a coffee as a young person. So save, save, save.   And the Tesla is currently being driven by my sister because it's back in Canada, and I own a home with my sister and brother in law, and even then, I'm holding on with my fingertips. So not as good as it sounds.

Anastasia: I've had the privilege of being your, well, I guess, co-pilot in that Tesla and those things go eh? I feel like a roller coaster.

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, that's more how subtle  I am with the brakes, probably when you when it feels like a roller coaster…

Anastasia: Head coach of the Portland Thorns? Congratulations. Let's start with an easy one. How's that going?

Rhian Wilkinson: Good. We actually have our third Challenge Cup game tonight against In Your City. So I think my team was very excited with the possibility of Natalie Portman being in town or Serena Williams, who are owners of that organisation. So it's a really good time to be in the league. It's year 10 of the league. It's been a rough few years with a lot going on in sport in general and in the NWSL, for sure. But seeing the growth of the game and the opportunity and potential for keeping it going and keeping these opportunities alive for young girls coming up who dream of being professional athletes.

Anastasia: I don't want to get into it too specifically. But you inherited a club,  right? With a huge coaching scandal, with Paul Riley being released for abusive behaviour. How did that change your prep, with coming in kind of fresh as a head coach? Do you have to go, Wow, I really have to focus on culture, you know, rights and wrongs that have happened in the past. What did that do to your preparation with this club?

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah. Well, first I actually took over from Mark Parsons. So Paul Riley had left a number of years before, and it was the way he left. That was that was a big issue. It was also the culture. The toxic culture around the league was everywhere. It was a league wide issue and the thorns have historically and continue to be a very big club, really well supported, phenomenal fan base who  really held them to the fire in a way that in a lot of ways I was proud of. And that was one reason I  wanted the job and it came up in the interview. It's I. I want to be held accountable. I want to push the standards. I've worked in a lot of other countries and it's everywhere.

I mean, people pointing the finger at the U.S. and holding this league accountable is something that should happen. But if you don't think it's in your backyard and if you don't think it's in every sport, regardless of gender, you're really naive. So for me, I did definitely double down on culture, but I was always going to do that. I think it's something that's really important, especially for any new coach coming in. But this was already a winning team under Mark Parsons and Mark, you know, was a well-liked coach who really got on well with the players and with the community. And so for me, that was something that I'm always careful about because he did do a great job and there were so many people who didn't and he was associated with the club that was on it and has been and continues to be in the news a bit for that. So it's separate from Mark, who I think did do a wonderful job when he was here.

Anastasia: Culture can be kind of an abstract concept, though, like what does that actually mean from your perspective?

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, it's a throwaway term. It really is, I think, resilience, grit. Thank you, Angela Duckworth. A lot of these terms become part of the vernacular very quickly, and they mean a lot if you've been educated in it and what it means because for one team, it means something. For someone else, it means something else. A culture will look different, whatever organisation. And it doesn't always mean positive. There are many, many toxic cultures in organisations. What I mean by cultures is exactly that, is setting the standards and the club connections what we wanted to connect on, what we didn't want to be, what we did want to be, what how we were going to help hold one another accountable. What the communication lines were going to be.

Like it's actually even commonality of language, we're still working through that. I see things all the time that are part of how I grew up playing soccer and also coaching soccer, and they have never heard of it. Well, maybe Christine Sinclair has, but because,  you know, but she and I have had similar sort of coaching us or soccer experiences and none of the other team has. So I'll say a term. I said, you got to texture that pass in. Which means the weight of the pass. It means passing to the correct foot. It means when there's pressure on, it's a different kind of pass you're putting in. So for me, that made a lot of sense. And then finally, someone's like, What are you meaning? Are we painting?  like, you know, it was a really great moment. We all had a good laugh about it. But it is that simple that when there's someone new comes in as leadership, the basic language needs to be understood. So you're really building something from from scratch and in a lot of ways. And that's what I mean by setting the team culture is trying my best to think of how they needed stability as quickly as possible so we could build on it and what that entailed and what they needed from me.

Anastasia: I've been trying to texture my passes, actually, so it's great that you brought that up. So, yeah, I was going to say like, like what the confusion is between you calling it a toque  and Americans thinking it's a beanie?

Rhian Wilkinson: But that would be culture. That's a great example. Like that would be a Canadian saying that people always make fun of is 'aboot' from your neck of the woods Anastasia. I mean, these are things that are culturally different between Canada and the U.S., and I'm not saying my soccer language is different. It was different when I was in the U.K. I mean, they were always laughing at things I was saying there. So it's a simple thing that that just highlights differences unless we really focus on it and give it the time it needs because it's so easily skipped over and just be like: Well, you adapt. Meanwhile, the players are like, you are one, we're 26. How about you adapt? So it can become very quickly a bit of an issue, but I think I'm glad we've made it a joke more than a problem.

Anastasia: So what's the game plan going into this season?

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, the game plan. Well, right now…

Anastasia: that's a million dollar question. Break it down for me.

Rhian Wilkinson: Well, we have a game today. So that was why I was like, Well, we have a slightly different game plan today than we did last game. But this is the real ambition for this season is to really focus on laying down my foundation that's on the field and off the field. It's my coaching philosophy and I speak a little bit about philosophies because I've just done a women and coaching seminar, and we were talking about the stress around. When you become a coach, everyone says you've got to you've got to know your own philosophy. And I think that's so unfair because when you retire and you do want to go into coaching, it's the first thing people ask you will like, Well, what do you what you're going to be your philosophy and you don't know yet. You haven't got enough experience, but you do know what it isn't. I think it's a better question. I know what I don't want. I'm very clear now after years of working in this game, what it is I like to see on the field. So it's bedding down what I what my players to feel comfortable trying on the field, how I want them to look when they're on the ball, how hard I want them to work, when they're off of it. So for me, this season will be a success. I hope very much that we have a winning season that we do well, but also that we have a team that's working together that enjoys being together and growing and learning and pushing their own standards. And that what I like to see on the field, owning the ball, moving the ball, being dangerous, that sort of expansive game, I call it, using the whole field starts to happen naturally so that that would be a real success for me at the end of the year.

Anastasia: When you played, what was the coaching style that worked best for you?

Rhian Wilkinson: I had a lot of different coaches, and I think that I'm really lucky in that all of them taught me something that has added to. There are some really hard coaches, and I'm sure you heard a lot of the stories and you do, when I'm over visiting, I think they're there. That's everyone's story. There's some awful, awful coaching experiences out there, and I never had those. I had coaches that really challenged me that made me have to step up and even one of the worst experiences I had under a coach. I learnt my most important thing about myself, which is I'm really quick to blame others. 

Anastasia:  Really? I would never for a million dollars think that about you!

Rhian Wilkinson:  Yeah, I was. And maybe it wasn't always external, but internally I would give myself. I would let myself get away with things by just being like, Well, if that person had done something different, you know, instead of taking a lot of ownership. And so I think if I talk about the coaches that taught me the most John Herdman, who I fight with regularly, obviously a huge moment for him right now. He left me the sweetest voicemail last night that left me in tears in his greatest moment. This man should be given the Order of Canada, I mean, incredible what he's done. He thought of me and reached out and left a voice note like, that's the kind of guy he is.

But I also fought with him all the time, just constantly challenging him and him challenging me. And he's the one who was the first to point it out. He's like, You let yourself off the hook pretty easily, don't you? You know, like pretty harsh feedback. And he was right and it took me a second. And that's one of those that you hear that. And you have to absorb it for a while and put your ego aside. And that's really helped me. And I think at the end of my career, because, you know, in the last few years, I wasn't a regular starter anymore and that was hard. But also there was no blame around it. That was just me getting older, and I think I became a better person as well as a better leader because I ended up having to really support the team through my leadership off the field and giving confidence to the young ones who were essentially taking my place, which is how it should be.

And that sort of learning that he prompted me to go through that sort of self self-absorption moment was critical, I think, to the end of my career and my second bronze medal, which was won for me by our young talent that's gone on to win the gold and then help me become a better coach because I hope I'm better at looking at things that don't go well in a more rounded way, instead of sort of more directed towards people or an event instead of the full preparation and game. Sorry, that was very long winded.

Anastasia: No, it was brilliant. You've got like Julie Chu,  Caroline Ouellette energy. And I say that in the highest regard because I think that those two are two of the most wonderful people I've ever met. Have you ever met with them?

Rhian Wilkinson: No, but I think I want to meet their children. It would be that good combination. I  met them a few times. Amazing. We're so lucky in Canada. I have to say that some of our biggest sports stars are so well-spoken. So Julie Chu, Christine Sinclair, Alphonso Davies, just the way he carries himself on the men's team, like some of our sporting heroes. I think we're very fortunate that in general, our sporting icons are very articulate. We're very considered and very people-centred. I love that  about who were. We're bringing up and highlighting in our culture in Canada.

Anastasia: Well, Julie is Chu from Connecticut, but she's an honorary Canadian. we've absorbed her. Sure. Now,  Karina LeBlanc. How is that going? Do you have to like, divide and conquer areas of leadership between the two of you? Obviously, she's the GM.

Rhian Wilkinson: She's my boss. It's her birthday today, actually. 

Anastasia: I know. I need to text her.

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, Karina, I think a lot of people thought it was a very brave move, her hiring me and I have to say it is. I was in an interview process for a couple of months before she was hired, and she let me know that she was going to be hired as the GM and I was so happy for her. But I was also devastated because I thought, Oh, there's no chance, it looks so bad. And you know, that's a testament to who Karina is that in the face of like this group, this amazing hiring that in her own career, she was brave enough to go with me, even though it was going to straight from the start, put her at a disadvantage because it looks like nepotism, it looks like you're hiring your friend. Whereas, yeah, I think a lot of lesser characters would have taken the easier route. I would imagine.

Yeah, she's incredible. Incredible woman. I think she it's always a challenge when you hire a friend because that line of like when you can say what's really on your mind and when you can't, I'm having to learn. She's way better at it than me, and she's very patient with like, yeah, she puts me in my place when I when I need it and I have needed it, when I'm really emotional about something that like, you know, OK, let's calm down. And then she's very good at like, this is our friendship time, which is really important that we don't lose that in a stressful job that we're in, especially at the beginning of our first seasons together. And when it's work, you know, she's a she's amazing and she's learning every day because she really got thrown into a heck of a situation in this league and with this team. And yeah, it's great to see her out there and representing women so well in the  boardroom and in the administration. I love it.


Anastasia: You were, of course, with Team GB for Tokyo 2020. Canada wins a gold medal. What was that like and what was the standout moment for you in that game?

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, well, I mean, obviously, I was coaching the opposition, we played them in the round robin. I think it was a weird, surreal moment. I had to leave Canada. I think it was important for my development as a coach and I've been so lucky with the opportunities I've been given there. I'm really proud of the bravery I showed in actually leaving during such a hard time and I really loved my experience there and coaching against Canada was hard.

And then I thought that the team, the Great Britain team was really good and that we should have gone further in the tournament. So there was a lot of disappointment when we went out to Australia in the quarters. As soon as we went out, though, I got to be a Canada fan again and that was cool. And actually I watched the semi-finals in the finals with Diana on face time. We watched it together, which was pretty cool. I watched the semi-finals from my home in the UK and in northern England and she was back home in Canada and that was such a special moment. Just being a fan like I wasn't associated with the Team Diana was obviously right there, with injuries, couldn't make the team because of it. So watching watching these, these young women and friends of ours go on then to win the gold was was really powerful.

And I'd say also watching yes, like our men qualify for the World Cup was powerful as well because, you know, we know that staff John Herdman,  Simon Eaddy, Cesar Meylan, Robyn Gayle, like all those staff for the men, were our team-mates or our staff for the Canadian team. And watching, I would say these coaches create these moments in Canadian sporting history against all odds, and I speak about it openly and like Canada's, not resourcing our young people with a league. So I hope so much that these are the moments that spur on huge change and no excuse. Now our men have qualified. There shouldn't ever be a budget issue for the next little while, but yeah, it's been a powerful year and a bit and in sport and especially for the coaches and the staff who against all odds have achieved these, these moments of absolute life changing culture for soccer in Canada. I'm so proud just there.

Anastasia: Let's jump off quickly. You know;  yourself, Karina, Carmen Moscato, Robyn Gayle, Melissa Tancredi. So many amazing former players sticking around working in soccer. Why is that?

Rhian Wilkinson: I look back to the 2012 team and, you know, Kaylyn Kyle. Candace Chapman, Martina Franko, she wasn't there but, Andy Neil, like, there is a bunch of women that have come before that have dedicated what they've done after they've retired to growing the game to stay involved. And in that way, I look at the 2012 team and for so long, the conversation on the team was: What are you going to do when your real life begins? And that's quote. And  I can almost guarantee anastasia. You've heard it as well in the winter, athletes and people who have who are in the sporting world completely committed. But it's almost acceptable that you say when my real life begins, which is when retirement happens and you get "a real job".

And I think it took to the 2012 team and again, the influence of John Herdman, who started talking about legacy and like, What are we trying to achieve? Do I want to, you know, leave the game? And you know, my answer is yes, I did. I was like, I can't stay in this anymore. I've given so much. I want it to be a teacher. I wanted to be a physio. At one point, I actually applied to become a physio. I just didn't get in anywhere. I honestly, and that's the only reason I stayed in sport. After 2012, I kind of half retired and I stayed in it, and then I look at that group and ... We just love the game. We loved each other, really, really close sisterhood of women, and you see the benefits of that Now!

I look at I think there was I think there was 21 of us and only two aren't in sport anymore. Like even Chelsea Stewart is now the manager for the women's hockey team. So she didn't stay in soccer, but she's still in high performance and giving back. And you know, Christina Julien I think it's still in sport somewhere. I mean, even then, all this all looks differently. But you know, Melissa Tancredi is the chiropractor for the women's national team, slash coach. You know, she does!  She went on to get her chiropractor. Even in the booth. You know, Clare Rustad, who's a doctor and a part time broadcaster Diana Matheson, part time broadcaster is gone now, she's doing her FIFA this, her executive, and all these things like Watch out world, she's coming.

These women now feel like once they retire, there's a place for them, whatever it is. Medical field administration Robyn Gayle, they made up a title for her. She's the cultural expert. John has been on record saying that the 2016 bronze medal was because of her. He brought her with him to the men's team. I mean, I think you can just watch how close that team is. That is a direct influence of John Herdman and Robyn Gayle. I saw her on the field after they won, organizing people. It was one of my favourite moments. Go look that way, turn around!  It's like she's organising them. And, you know, they made up that role for her. There is a place in sport after you retire and it doesn't have to follow the regular. I feel I followed the easiest path. The coaching path, it's right there. It's laid out. But most of the other women have taken much harder parts. They'd gone into youth sport where they've had to get their elbows out and try and find space to do things the right way again. Try and help o many of our brilliant coaches in Canada who are under-resourced. They can bring their name and their renown to something maybe and help build. You see that everywhere. Martina Franko is a great example who has just been honoured in the Hall of Fame recently. So yeah, it's an exciting time.

Anastasia: Yeah, I mean, it is. It is unique, though, because at least and I'll I guess I'll pick on winter sports. I don't know any other sport that has done what soccer has been able to achieve and retain so many alumni in significant positions of power.

Rhian Wilkinson: if it's not happening in soccer, you can't expect it in speedskating. And I mean that so respectfully, I'm a huge fan of all sports, like I grew up swimming, playing rugby (still recovering from that) and tennis. You know, I was a huge ice hockey rink player. I love sport. At this time in the world, soccer has a position other sports don't, and it's got more resources than other sports. So we've got to start really appreciating that when we create pathways for our athletes in soccer to go into another field in sport, it's showing other sports as well.

I mean, you're a wonderful example, like how many of our athletes just don't find anywhere to live after - as in live in a job world after they retire - and then have to go back to school? Or they're told their resume has big gaps in it. You're like, Oh, sorry, I was at the Olympics or at the World Championship, or you know, who's going to tell Mikael Kingsbury, you're like, Yeah, you're a great skier. Now what? Yeah.

So like these are these are real, real issues we get from our athletes. And we wonder why there's so much depression after retirement, like we don't we don't mentor our athletes, we just are like: Hey, thanks for the great careers it was a good party. And then they're like, Well, good luck. Yeah, think we're starting. We're starting.

Anastasia: I got a lot of a lot of respect and gratitude for what soccer has shown so many people that can happen after, you know, a playing career.


Talking about playing, let's jump to the boys real quick, men just qualified. They're definitely contributing, of course, to Canada's international success. But is that all good for the women's game? Like, what do you see that having an effect on the women's game?

Rhian Wilkinson: It's really easy to look at it as like: them versus us. And I think there's been a really wonderful movement in the last few years, and I hope you've seen when the women have had their success, the men have been very active on social media and their support and the same thing during their run. That is a social issue where people pit one side against the other. This is a soccer culture we're building. Not a women's or a men's. I think it gets really touchy when money is involved and now money will be involved because of FIFA. And that is for our levelheaded and intelligent administration in Soccer Canada to recognise that, you know, there's just an inequity and inequality of money that is distributed. That's a bigger issue, but that there are two successful teams in Canada can't be debated and it has to be encouraged and supported. And it's been an excuse for a long time that there just isn't the resources in Canada like there are in other countries. And that's arguable. But now it's not. So that doesn't come from the teams. I want to make that clear, like that is something that's outside the soccer teams that sort of, oh, now it's all going to be, you know, resources for the men, what should be weighted towards them leading up to the World Cup? But then it will be the women who are in their World Cup.

Anastasia: So put on your athlete hat for a second, please. You've played in Canada, the USA, Norway, England, Wales. Did I forget anything?

Rhian Wilkinson: No, I think that's probably got more than I would have.

Anastasia:  I did my research. What is the single biggest difference between the women's game in Canada in those nations?

Rhian Wilkinson: Well, Canada and the U.S. are very similar in that it is expected as a young girl that you play sport, whether it's baseball or softball, soccer, touch football, whatever it is, there's an expectation that our young girls play sport. I think that's similar in Norway as well, Scandinavian countries. It is coming in the UK, in Wales and England. That's still not the norm. When it is, look out world because the resources they have there are out of this world. And right now it's still abnormal in some countries that young girls are are interested in sport.

And there's a lot of discouragement for them to stay in it if they do. And I say that from personal experience, you know a bit of my story, but we emigrated back to Wales. I was already playing soccer in Canada, my parents, my father was English and my mother was Welsh and they moved us back. And there was not even gym class for girls. There just wasn't, you know, I joined a boys team and they just wouldn't pass me the ball. And it was, yeah… I mean, I'm now looking back on, I put emotions on me as a young kid. I don't remember being really upset about it, but I do remember being like, What the heck? It's just weird.

And my mum fought the school board. You know, that's what I remember. Watching and change that. But they did move us back to Canada. And I knew it wasn't just because of me, but I do know that they felt that they would have more opportunity for both their daughters. I have a sister, but also my brother and for themselves in Canada, so I think that the similarities in Canada and the U.S. were almost more opportunity at that time. I'm not saying it's like that now. That was a different experience in the 90s. But yeah, I just think how comfortable we are with our young girls being who they are as sports lovers,  whatever they want to be, I think it's more acceptable in North America than it  has been my experience in Europe, discounting Scandinavia, which I think is quite different. And then the UK and Mainland Europe.

Anastasia: Women in sports leadership, what does that look like from your perspective right now? 

Rhian Wilkinson: Growing. I think we have a number of token women in some some big roles who are doing a good job, and it's now it's making sure we support them and back them instead of critique them, when sometimes they're being put in positions that they're being thrown in to tick a box. And we've seen this throughout history, and it's the same with when we look at how many BIPOC members we've got on boards and administration. I mean, we are still at a time where we do need quotas. It's not OK and we're still growing things. But we have these incredible icons like I think, is it Tricia Smith, the head of the COC? There are some women who are getting phenomenal jobs, and Karina is another example of what you can achieve. But it's how we support these women do and help them through the challenges that is being thrown into a position to be like, See, we hired one and almost setting a lot of them up to fail.

I think we're still seeing a lot of token hirings and then sort of like waiting for them to fail. But it's coming and it's growing. And I love this movement of maybe more women supporting women in all different types of jobs and being available and, you know, showing up for each other. That's what I like the most, and I think it's getting bigger because it used to be pretty selfish. I would imagine of like, this is my piece of the pie. I've got to keep it because there weren't many pieces, and I really like the atmosphere that it's been happening around women and in higher positions recently.

Anastasia: How does it make you feel when someone says that you're a female leader in sport?

Rhian Wilkinson: I mean, that's a perception, right, I don't feel like a female leader I work for, as we just said, Karina LeBlanc, I worked for some incredible women who I use as mentors. I'd like to think that I help people along the way and that my leadership is inclusive and that people feel like I can help them or I can support them in some way. But yeah, I don't know. It doesn't sit so well yet because I guess I still have to work on what that means for me.

Anastasia: I get embarrassed when people give me compliments sometimes or shy away from it, I'm trying not to do that as much.

Rhian Wilkinson: I don't think you're alone. I think I think that response must be … I'm saying the same thing. That's really. Yeah, it's tough to be like, Oh yeah, of course. Of course I am.

Anastasia: Your voice is getting a bit raspy, my friend. Have you been living hard?

Rhian Wilkinson: I've been yelling and I have three games in eight days, and this is something no one warned me about being a coach as a female when I project. There's a lot of strain on my vocal cords, so I I use my assistant coaches quite a bit to do the yelling. Not that my team needs much yelling. It's more just encouragement. "Keep doing what you're doing!". But yeah, I lose my voice. I really rarely have a voice anymore.

Anastasia: What about megaphone? That could be..

Rhian Wilkinson:  I thought about that!. I'm not sure the league would be encouraging of it, but it might actually make me be a better coach because the players don't care when I yell anyway.

Anastasia: If you could give advice to an up and coming coach, what three things would you tell them?

Rhian Wilkinson: In general say yes to things. I think connections, who you know in terms of getting opportunities is really important, and I don't mean hiring opportunities. I just mean, say yes to like going out and watching a session, say yes to taking a licence that's probably below where you think you are, but you'll meet people there that will have an impact on your career. I am sitting here as a coach because I said yes to a mentorship programme that did not sound great on paper, and it included a year of me, not getting too much in the bank, but travelling the whole country and learning about all aspects of the game from grassroots all the way through to national experiences. And that was a made up sort of job that someone put together for me and Carm Moscato, actually, and it changed both our career paths. So I would say say yes to as many things as you can -within reason.

I think it just brings so many interesting people into your life and job opportunities come from anywhere. You just, you know, in the soccer world, it's pretty fickle and it's fast moving and you need to have the right people to call and just ask me, like, Hey, anything, come up? And these things turn into jobs.

The second one is probably, maintain your friendships. I think the working world is already busy. The sporting one is insane. It's not human hours. It's really hard, long, long days. And it's your friendships that give you the balance or your family. And if you have one who who just allow you to disconnect a little and then it gives you different ideas of how to be a better coach, otherwise you're in the rat race. I don't just mean coaching, I just mean in work in general when it takes up so much of your life.

And then have probably have a hobby. Make sure you have a hobby so that you're not a singular person in terms of what you focus on every day. There's other things that you like to do, and I think that brings different people into your life as well.

Anastasia: What's your hobby?

Rhian Wilkinson: Oh, I've got a few. I love hiking. I'm a big hiker, and so I'm starting to learn a lot of the Portland areas, which has been fun to get to know the hiking community here. I'm also a knitter. I have not been knitting very much. You probably see a bit in the background, but I've started. Crystal Dunn, one of my players is about to have a baby, so I made her some mittens for the baby the other day. So I got back into it a little bit just for that, and it reminded me it helps me disconnect from just that busy mind. What am I going to training tomorrow? I should try this, and I just like now, just watch some TV and knit and just a nice way to spend the evening.

Anastasia: That's perfect. I could use some some socks if you got some extra time.

Rhian Wilkinson: oh, I can't turn a heel, I can only make two things a hat and gloves, so you got to be really specific.

Anastasia: OK, well, just some leg warmers, then that's perfect.

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah. No. Heel perfect.

Anastasia: Oh, thank you so much for taking the time, Ryan. It's a pleasure to connect. And after those three pieces of advice, I think I could become a coach too. you got me fired up. Say yes. Maintain your friendships….

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, and family and have hobbies,

Anastasia: Have hobbies, I don't have any hobbies, that's my problem. I got to look for one.

Rhian Wilkinson: I've seen you playing soccer the other day in a video. That's a hobby.

Anastasia: No, it's terrible. My body is so useless. I tried to kick the ball and now my shin is just like, no, no more.

Rhian Wilkinson: So do you kick it with your shin? Is that what happened?

Anastasia: I kicked it with my foot, but I've been told that I have a weak ankle. Robyn Gayle was the first one to tell me that. She said my ankles were too floppy.

Rhian Wilkinson: That's what Robyn said.

Anastasia: Oh yeah. So you know, it's true.

Rhian Wilkinson: Well, you'll find one.  You don't have to be good at your hobby. If you've seen the mittens, I made for Crystal Dunn's baby were actually adult mittens. I was too stressed when I made them. They're too small for adults. They're going to the baby.

Anastasia: See, OK, well, baby, enjoy, enjoy and enjoy the mittens for when you're six years old.

Rhian Wilkinson: I would say Crystal is a great example. I think this is the exciting part of women's sport now. And how many how many sports teams have we been on,when someone chooses to be a mother, their career is done. And I get to be a coach that,  she's still training with us every day at seven and a half months pregnant. I mean, obviously she's not in full training, but she's out here every day. And then, you know, she's got her plan of when she's going to come back. I think I'm the one who's going to be reining her in, and there's no way her schedule is going to actually be the one that works.

But I mean, I love that. And then they'll be a baby in the locker room, which I've just been asked like, Oh, what kind of distraction will that be? I was like, What? This is what it's about. What do you mean? Like, it's the greatest piece. Like Karina brings her daughter in sometimes to work and you're like, this is what we're doing. That's who we're playing for, right? Ourselves, but also for the next generation. I love it. I think it's so cool.

Anastasia: Paris is also like the most emotionally intelligent baby I've ever met in my entire life.

Rhian Wilkinson: Yeah, she just turned two. And if Karina continues to call that baby a newborn, we're going to have issues. I said, Yeah, yeah, I corrected her the other day, and she's like, Well, she's still newborn me! I say that's a totally different thing. People are expecting a newborn baby and your talking two year old is coming up, walking up to them.

Anastasia: Oh man. Thank you. Peace.

Rhian Wilkinson: My pleasure.

Anastasia: Peace.

I can't think of a better guest to close out the season for us. Rhian was in Portland, Oregon. I recorded my end here in Toronto.

We're going to go sip some iced tea in the shade, enjoy the summer and we'll be back in conversation with some movers and shakers from the sports world very soon.

Player's Own Voice podcast is a CBC Sports production.

We're available on CBC Listen and everywhere else you get your podcasts.

Social media # playersownvoice. My handle is Anastasure. Olivia Pasquarelli edits our audio. Adam Blinov wrote our theme music. David Giddens is the best producer. Thanks for listening!