More than the scars: Beyond Football with Kyah Simon
Kyah Simon’s history of injuries is well-documented.
It’s an aspect of her career which arguably is given more attention than the feats she’s achieved in between. Broken leg in 2007. ACL in 2013. Double shoulder reconstruction in 2017. Ankle reconstruction in 2019. Several frustrating minor injuries which sidelined her for brief periods in between.
It’s been a tough path for Simon, but it’s hardly pity that she’s after:
“That’s the path I had to go on to get to this point,” the 28-year-old says, “I’d love to sit here and in hindsight say I wish I didn’t have any injuries but when you do become a professional athlete you have to be prepared to have setbacks and challenges.
“That’s a part of sport, that’s a part of life.”
That’s all the attention those periods of her career are getting here, however, because it’s on the pitch where the Matilda has shone and off the pitch where she’s grown:
“When I’m back on the football pitch, I forget about everything else. I can just get back out there and do what I love.
“Everything else is just history and a part of my story.”
Simon’s always been very close with her family and they play an integral part in her life which is constantly split between NWSL commitments in the United States and her W-League commitments in Australia.
Having family and close friends outside of football is something she describes as being “really refreshing” because they have a “completely different outlook on things” and help her to enjoy life away from the game as just another ordinary human being.
The NWSL move was a big one for Simon, who’d been lighting up the 2011 World Cup in Germany just a handful of months prior as a teenager.
“That was the first time I actually was a complete professional footballer and didn’t have to work another job or find another source of income and I think as female footballers that’s something that we’ve been striving for for so long.”
As someone who’d had to balance part-time (and once even full-time) employment with her hefty training schedule, Simon recognises the importance of the growing professionalisation of the women's game for younger females who are on the precipice of making the leap themselves.
“Times have definitely changed where young females can aspire to just be a professional footballer and (only have to) worry about working maybe after their football career.”
Life after football is something Simon spoke about throughout the conversation, alluding to coaching as a possible avenue for her in the future, with the 28-year-old already having experience with her own youth football clinics for females.
“I do enjoy the aspect of helping someone become better at what they’re doing and what they’re passionate about.”
Alternatively, punditry was proposed as a possible avenue for her post-football career, with the Matilda taking up an opportunity to become a guest presenter for Optus Sport throughout the most recent World Cup, which she was forced to miss through injury.
“It’s much easier to speak about a game that you’re seeing from the outside rather than being in it and playing,” she says of the experience, but ultimately concedes, “I think I might just let nature take its course and see what I fall into at the end of my career.”
For now though, the end of Simon’s career seems a long way off with the striker still a mainstay in Australian squads as our women's national team prepares to qualify for this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 2016 Rio Olympic Games is something that Simon immediately reels off as potentially the biggest personal highlight of her career, alongside that breakout World Cup in 2011.
Whilst she notes some differences between the two tournaments – particularly the difference in fan mentality and media attention, given that one is a tournament entirely dedicated to football whilst the other is an amalgamation of a variety of sports and their respective elite participants – Simon also notes similarities, especially in the structure of their games.
Whilst the majority of athletes resided in the Olympic Village from the beginning, the Matildas played all their group games in different cities, as Simon summarises, “The first component felt very much like just a football tournament and then as we moved into the Olympic village (after elimination from the competition) it felt like the Olympic Games.”
Finally reunited with their compatriots back at the Village, Simon explains that some of the most incredible experiences of the event came long after the Matildas had been knocked out, “To be rubbing shoulders with all the best athletes in the world in the one city was pretty crazy.
“You could look at the schedule and see what other sports are on and you can just pop down to the arena and go watch.”
Still just 28 and enduring as one of Australia’s premier strikers, Simon’s career appears to have a long way to go yet, and the mercurial talent refuses to allow her injury-plagued past impact her ambitions for the future, instead learning from the setbacks to become a stronger person:
“I definitely don’t think I’d be as mentally strong as I am today if I didn’t have those tough times.
“I love football for what it’s made of and all the highs and lows that come with it.”