When Laura Callender found out she was selected to represent Canada at the 2017 Summer Universiade this coming August, she felt a myriad of emotions. While taken aback by the announcement, she was simultaneously thrilled for the exciting challenge.
A chance to don the red and white is a humbling feeling – one she takes pride in, she said.
“It’s really an honour,” Callender continued.
The Gaels’ captain will take the pitch in Taipei City – this year’s tournament hosts from August 19-30 – alongside her new teammates who, like herself, will compete on behalf of Canada for the first time.
In the months leading up to the tournament, Callender described her feelings as very different compared to four years ago.
“When I tore my ACL,” Callender said, remembering back to 2013 after her first year at Queens, “everything changed. It went from playing at [OUA] Nationals for championships to just wondering if I’d ever be able to play soccer again.”
Nearly four years and a restructured knee ligament later, Callender finds it hard to ignore where she came from and why her career has taken the path it has.
She admitted that were if not for an unsolicited invite during her childhood to play soccer — a sport she knew little about — her relationship with the sport may have never materialized.
“I started playing soccer when I was nine, mainly because my best friend was playing, and then I just kind of kept going with it.”
To prepare for Taipei City, Callender’s training has been a blend of fitness and on-the-ball work. For her, it’s imperative to get outside as much as possible because “the weather is pretty hot in Taiwan.”
With the average summer temperature at 30 degrees, the Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire Canadian team gave the athletes a fitness package focussed on sprinting and fitness.
To compliment her cardio regimen, Callender has been keeping up with Queen’s teammates – a handful of whom live in her hometown in Ottawa during the summer – and training with them, honing on more ball-focused, team-oriented work.
As the tournament kicks-off in but a month’s time, Callender recognizes her career has taken an unconventional route.
Considering the stopgaps she’s encountered throughout her career as detours along the road, Callender remains excited at the idea of gracing the Universiade’s opening ceremonies in Taipei City.
Recalling Callender’s arrival on campus, women’s head soccer coach Dave McDowell said the fifth year player has shown potential since she first hit the field at Queen’s. Her ability on the pitch, he continued, was never questioned by her peers.
“We knew coming in we were getting a fantastic player,” McDowell said on the program’s recruitment of Callender, calling her “A player with tremendous physical presence.”
“And I think, slowly but surely over the years, she’s improved a great deal. It really speaks to how hard she’s worked on her game,” he added.
When asked about Callender’s proactive approach to train with her teammates in Ottawa, it was of little surprise to McDowell. He said it shows the kind of a player – and leader – she is.
“She’s a quiet, committed leader, and one that leads by example,” the coach said of Callender. “We always expected and continue to expect, big things from her.”
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