Kyle Venter is an American professional soccer player, currently signed to the Richmond Kickers of USL League One. A Colorado native, Venter attended the University of New Mexico, a place where he would become one of the school's all time great soccer players. His exceptional play in college, which saw UNM reach the semi finals of the College Cup led Venter to being drafted with the 23rd pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the LA Galaxy. In his rookie year with the Galaxy, he was a part of the squad that won the MLS Cup. From there, the versatile center back has enjoyed successful tenures with the Tulsa Roughnecks, the Ottawa Fury, FC Tucson, and currently, the Richmond Kickers. A strong center back, Kyle has tons of talent and is a true leader.
The Kyle Venter Interview
1. Growing up in Colorado, what was your youth career like?
Growing up in Colorado, I couldn’t have asked for much more as far as my youth career went. I played a number of sports growing up but soccer was always the one that stuck and I seemed to have the largest passion and drive for. Growing up in Aurora, I played with one of the local clubs until I was about 16yrs old; that’s when the US Developmental Academy started and I switched over to REAL Colorado. We had a really good team at REAL CO and finished 4th at the DA Nationals in 2008 and 2009
2. How were you initially recruited by the University of New Mexico?
So, I was recruited pretty late in the process by UNM. I had received some interest from some smaller schools but my coaches at REAL we’re convinced that I was far too good to settle for those smaller schools. So they had me shoot off around 50 emails to my top choices of schools before we went to the DA Winter Showcase in Lancaster, CA in December of 2008. So that’s what I did, UNM was one of those schools that came to watch my games, they liked what they saw and things moved pretty quickly after that. They brought me down for a visit in mid/late January and I committed on my drive home from the visit the day I left. It was a place I wanted to be.
3. As a freshman, you were redshirted. What did you learn as a player in your freshman season?
Redshirting during my freshman year was tough, and I think it is tough for anyone. You go from being one of the best players on your HS team or club team and established, to having to start from the bottom again and earn everything you get. Most of my roommates and fellow freshmen were playing minutes and I wasn’t; they were traveling on road trips and I wasn’t. It is easy to fall into the trap of getting that feeling that you aren’t “really part of the team.” Which of course is not true but it is easy to fall into that mindset. You get through it the best you can and try to keep the most positive mindset you can. What I learned from that experience is a few things; first, your mindset and perspective on things is everything.
A quote I love is, “Never let success compromise your head, and never let setbacks/struggles compromise your heart.” And then second, and this one I got as I became an older player and more of a leader, is how important every single player in the squad is. Some people believe it is a cliche, but it isn’t. You need every single person on a team to accomplish big things; because it’s like a domino effect if people stop giving their best and the team’s overall performance suffers. Let’s take college for example: if the younger guys/redshirts stop giving it their all every day because they don’t “see the point” or because they aren’t going to play, then three things happen; they stop maximizing what they’re capable of, they officially take themselves out of any chance to play anyways, and the guy playing in front of them stops trying as hard because there is no threat to his playtime because those guys gave up. Hence the domino effect.
4. In your following years at the University of New Mexico, you became a star. Playing nearly every minute of the season, and became the first player in NMU’s history to be named a three-time small American. What was your time in New Mexico? What do these awards mean to you as a player?
The success we/I had a UNM didn’t come by accident. I can say without a doubt that we might have been the hardest working team in college soccer, especially when it came to our off-season (that’s a whole other topic I could elaborate on). When you do what we did at UNM day in and day out you take a lot of pride in the accomplishments because you know what went into it. Those personal accomplishments are a direct correlation to our overall team success, and although I know how hard I worked to garner those, I also know that there is no way I would have received any of those without my teammates and the supporting staff/resources. I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff and the work they put into things because I think they recruited the right kind of student-athletes that would buy into what we did. I wouldn’t trade my time at UNM for anything, both on the field and off of it.
5. What’s your most memorable college experience?
I think it would be easy for me to say that my most memorable college experience would be my last year when we made it to the College Cup, but I think that falls in second place for me. My top experience is in 2011 in our NCAA 2nd Round tournament game vs Duke in Albuquerque. We had gone undefeated that year and had received the #10 seed and got to host the second round at home. Albuquerque is an amazing community that supported us unconditionally and boy did they come out and show it. The stadium was sold out, they had to stop letting people in for “fire safety” reasons. That didn’t stop the fans; they started standing on cars outside the stadium and tore down the windscreens on the fences so they could see the game. It was unbelievable. We needed to win that game 2-1 in OT and it was pandemonium and chaos when we scored to win the game in OT. Unforgettable
6. While in college, you also played for the Real Colorado Foxes of the PDL. How was your tenure in the PDL?
I only played one year in the PDL and that was in 2011. It was a pretty easy decision for me seeing as my youth club (REAL CO) ran the PDL team so I got to be at home and do that in the summer. I also used that PDL season to get sharp heading into the 2012 college season. I missed the 2011 spring season at UNM because I had to get shoulder surgery which sidelined me for the training and the games you play in the off-season. So that was all a win-win and was enjoyable
7. In 2014, you were drafted to the LA Galaxy with the 23rd pick in the MLS SuperDraft. What were you feeling after being drafted by the Galaxy?
Getting drafted by the LA Galaxy in 2014 was 90% an incredible feeling. I had the opportunity to do something that such a small percentage of athletes ever get to do. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little frustrated at the same time. The other 10% of me was frustrated and a little angry; I felt like that because I believed I should’ve been taken higher in that draft. That isn’t a knock on any of the other players, that is just how confident I am in my abilities and what I believe I can bring to a team. Regardless, I went to an absolute first-class organization with a history and expectation of success. It was a little bit of a rollercoaster of a year (similar to a redshirt in college) but it all culminated in our team winning the 2014 MLS Cup. Something an even smaller percentage of athletes get to experience.
8. You mentioned winning the MLS Cup with the Galaxy in 2014. Describe the scenes that took place after winning the cup.
Having the opportunity to be a part of an organization that wins a championship is pretty surreal. That game went back and forth but I remember standing in the sidelines with my teammates waiting for the final whistle from the ref; and when that happened, it was chaos running on the field to celebrate. One of the best feelings there is when you achieve something special with a team.
9. The following season, you left the Galaxy and signed with the Tulsa Roughnecks. How did this opportunity come about?
There’s a lot that goes on with teams in the MLS every year, but that’s especially true when expansion teams are coming in. Ultimately LA ended up not bringing me back so I went on a couple of trials through the preseason months with San Antonio and Jacksonville (when they were NASL) but ultimately ended up in Tulsa through my network of relationships and the fact that they were looking for a CB. I got there two days before the season opener, so it was a bit of a whirlwind.
10. In your season with the Roughnecks, you appeared in 24 games and scored 3 goals. How was your experience in Tulsa?
Tulsa was an expansion team so there were a lot of firsts that year. But overall I had another opportunity to be a part of a great group of guys. It is a wonderful city.
11. Following a session in Tulsa, you went to the Ottawa Fury. How was the move from Tulsa to Ottawa?
Big difference moving from the city of LA to Tulsa, and another big change moving from the city of Tulsa to Ottawa. But I really fell in love with the city of Ottawa and everything there pretty quickly. It was a great two years there.
12. In Ottawa, you played under a very successful coach and player in Paul Daglish, who was the GM of Ottawa at the time. What did you learn when playing under Daglish?
I try to learn from every coach I get to play under and Paul was no different. Paul was such a good coach in so many ways, be it tactical, mindset, insight on what it takes to be professional given his pro career in the UK, etc. I really enjoyed playing under him.
13. What did you take out of your two years in Ottawa?
There was so much to take away from my Ottawa experience. I didn’t want to leave but as I’ve learned in this profession, you don’t always get what you want.
I took away experience and perspective on dealing with the process of rehabbing a significant knee injury in my first year, relationships with my teammates, relationships with the community, community coaching experience, more playing experience, you name it. I know I am a better person and player after my time in Ottawa.
14. After your time in Ottawa came to a close, you signed with Penn FC in what would be the club's final year. How did you react when the club said it would go on hiatus after the 2018 season?
I was very blessed to be given another opportunity to play by the Penn FC organization, and I’m forever grateful. That being said, there were a lot of problems the club was fighting so I wasn’t that surprised when they said they were going to cease operations in an attempt to sort some things out.
There was so much going on with operating a fully professional team, while at the same time garnering a partnership with the youth club Rush Soccer Club and Capelli Sports. Ultimately I’m just not sure the club had the infrastructure and people in place to successfully achieve the lofty goals they envisioned, and therefore sadly things suffered.
15. You mentioned your knee injury while in Ottawa. Take us through your injury and the recovery to get make on the field.
No injury is “easy” to come back from; tearing my ACL is one of those things that is always a fear in the back of athletes’ minds but at the same time never holds us back. I think the biggest hurdle to clear is the initial mental struggle knowing you’re going to be out for a while and how do you want to handle it? Are you going to feel sorry for yourself or are you going to attack the rehab and recovery and get back to your sport as quickly and as safely as you can? It took honestly until I had the actual surgery until mentally I chose the latter and it helps so much. The mentality is everything in life and that rehabilitation process was no different. My doctors and athletic physio were the absolute best and were instrumental as well. But it starts and ends with you as the person going through it.
16. Once your time in Penn came to a close, you signed with FC Tucson and captioned them in their first professional season. What does it mean to you to wear the captains armband?
I have had the pleasure to wear a few captains armbands in my soccer career and they are all special in their own way because every situation is different. It is always a humbling reminder for me personally. I consider myself a high achiever as it is but those armbands are always a reminder that you always need to strive for more and never let your level of performance drop. Now, I don’t need an armband to reinforce because of my personal nature; but whether athletes want it or not, when people see those armbands or C’s on your jersey, they look at you differently and expect more.
17. Overall, how was your lone season with FC Tucson?
I absolutely loved my season with FC Tucson for a myriad of reasons. Being closer to family, the facilities setup for the club, the staff, my teammates, coaching opportunities in the community; I can go on and on honestly. Most important were the relationships you develop on and off the field because that’s what makes everything even better and you can take that past just that experience.
18. Just this month you signed with the Richmond Kickers. How were you feeling after signing with Richmond?
I couldn’t be more excited to be in Richmond with such a historic soccer club here in the US. The decision to sign here was made pretty easy when my head coach from Tucson took the head job here and wanted to bring me with him. I respect and enjoy playing for Darren Sawatzky and am looking forward to the year in Richmond.
19. What are your goals for the upcoming season?
My goals for the 2020 season are and are always team goals. Obviously, I want to play well and contribute in whatever way I can to make this team the best it can be day in and day out. That being said, team goals and selflessness are what I’m about. I want to WIN.
20. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
These questions are never easy haha. The best answer that I can come up with is that I was somewhat of a late bloomer as far as soccer goes. I was never one of those high-level ODP guys growing up in youth soccer. I started to hit my stride and came into myself when I was about 17-18 years old.
21. What’s your biggest advice for players working to become a professional?
Again this could be a long list haha. My number one is that the pathway to professional soccer is not a straight path for most guys, nor is it the same for everyone. So don’t get locked into trying to make it work one particular. Have a growth mindset and be adaptable to the pathway. But with that, be relentless in your work and the standards you hold for yourself. You can live a “professional lifestyle” and have that mindset far before you are actually a professional. You do that with the decisions you make, the things you sacrifice, how you take care of yourself, etc.
22. Any last words for the readers?
My last words would be this, and honestly, some of this probably came out in my answers:
One of the scariest things in life is to fully 100% put yourself out there for something and for it to not work out. It terrifies people. So naturally, most people put a lot in but not everything because it doesn’t work out then they will have an excuse to fall back on to make themselves feel better about it all. It’s a self-preservation mechanism. But extraordinary and greatness don’t live there.
So my challenge is to absolutely go ALL IN on whatever it is you believe you want to achieve. Leave no doubts, leave no regrets. And you know, if things don’t work out, be mentally strong enough and tough enough to get back up. Learn from the experience, tweak your approach and GO AGAIN. The world is full of people that don’t get back or feel sorry for themselves, don’t be that. Control your controllable and go for it.
Huge thanks to Kyle for the amazing interview. Great player on the field and even better person off of it! Best of luck next season!