Kyle Jameson Kaveny is a 26 year-old American defender who plays for TSG Neustrelitz in the German Oberliga NOFV-Nord. Born into an athletic family (Dad was a javelin thrower, Mom played professional softball and Kyle’s sister played and coached college volleyball), the Cupertino, California native has known success as a member of the 2006 NCAA national champion University of California -Santa Barbara Gauchos, and later as a member of the 2009 PDL champion Ventura County team. Kyle has also experienced adversity, suffering a broken leg right before his senior season that caused him to miss his final collegiate campaign. But through it all, Kyle has had faith in his ability, the loving support of his family and the persistence to go forward.
That persistence has led him to Germany, where he’s playing regularly at center back for Neustrelitz, and scored the last-minute winning goal Sunday in Neustrelitz 2-1 victory over Malchower SV. TSG Neustrelitz are currently fourth in the 16-team Oberliga NOFV-Nord, in the fifth division of German football, and Kyle has been a regular contributor to the team’s winning record, playing over 1600 minutes so far this season and scoring four goals.
In part 1 of our two-part interview, Kyle will share with Bundesliga Fanatic readers his career up to signing with Neustrelitz. In the second part, Kyle will recount his experiences living in Germany and playing in the Oberliga NOFV -Nord.
Fanatic: How did you get interested in soccer as a youngster growing up in California?
Kyle: I grew up with friends who loved the game. Whenever we hung out, we would play. We played everywhere – in the outfield of a baseball stadium, in parking garages, on tennis courts – day or night. Sometimes we would get kicked out, but we would just move on to the next place. And that’s how it all started for me.
Fanatic: You initially attended Duke University before transferring to UC – Santa Barbara? Why the change?
Kyle: I enjoyed the academic environment at Duke, but my role with the team was different from what I expected. Duke had just gotten knocked out in the semi’s of the College Cup by UC-Santa Barbara, and I felt it was time for something new. At UCSB, I found a good fit – a challenging engineering department, an incredible playing atmosphere, and an amazing quality of life.
Fanatic: What was the experience like being on a NCAA Championship team?
Kyle: That was special because no one expected us to win. I remember the pregame speech was about how our finals opponent, UCLA, was preparing a parade for their 100th NCAA title as if history had already been written in their favor. Coach Tim Vom Steeg then talked about the SB community and how important it would be to them to bring home the school’s first soccer national championship.
We were the lowest ranked team to ever go all the way. Actually, we barely qualified for a spot in the tournament. But I think that says something about the Gauchos — give us an inch and we’ll take a mile.
Fanatic: Was it cold enough for you in St. Louis, where the 2005 NCAA Championship finals were played?
Kyle: The big joke about the finals that year was that the two teams competing were from southern California. That was my first experience of playing in the snow. Now, I am at a place where sometimes the whole team shovels snow off the pitch so we can train during the winter.
Fanatic: What was it like experiencing a serious injury right before your senior season?
Kyle: I still remember the exact date and time when it happened. It was the 5th minute of a preseason friendly, and before my senior season had even started it was over. I was lucky that it was simple a bone fracture, but being on crutches for the next 3 months changed my perspective. When I was able to play again, I hadn’t lost any ground and perhaps even improved. Even though I couldn’t walk, I was still playing the game in my head.
Fanatic: What was your experience like playing in PDL with champions Ventura County Fusion?
Kyle: The Fusion was the most professional team I had been with up to that point. Our training kits were laid out before every practice, our sessions were sharp and organized, and everyone from the GM down to the equipment manager was first-rate. Also, the team was made up of guys who had experience in Major League Soccer, USL 1 (the former second division of professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada), and at the international level, and were still hungry.
UC-Santa Barbara was a big step forward from club soccer, and the Fusion was another step with the quality and structure of the club.
Fanatic: How did you get involved with your agent, Marc Rohrer?
Kyle: After my injury, I was off everyone’s radar. While still on crutches I put together a highlight tape that I sent to every (former) USL-1 team. Then I would follow-up by cold-calling the managers. It was a good experience for me, but I didn’t have much success. I knew I had a good product to sell, I just needed a good salesman.
I met Marc through a teammate on the Fusion. He watched our game against Burnley FC after they had earned promotion into the EPL. We lost, but playing in that game helped me to realize that the highest level was within reach.
Fanatic: You signed with SV Drochtersen/Assel and transferred to TSG Neustrelitz a few months later? How did that come about?
Kyle: After a few months of trialing and training with various clubs in Germany, I signed with D/A and played the last 8 games with them. I enjoyed my time there, but it was only meant as a temporary situation.
During that time, I lived with D/A teammate Marcus Storey (who played at UNC while I was still at Duke), a cool guy by the way. Marcus introduced me to his agent, Martin Tuffour, who was open-minded enough to form a partnership with Marc. It’s been said that two cooks can’t work in the same kitchen, but my hat is off to both of them for making it work.
TSG Neustrelitz came as a result of that partnership. The club is professionally minded and is focused on being promoted. I don’t know if many people understand the level of commitment in the German leagues, but we train six times a week and have matches nearly every weekend for 10 months out of the year. It’s been a great place to grow as a player.
The entire Bundesliga Fanatic staff would like to give a big “Thank you” to Kyle for taking time out from his busy schedule to talk about his career and time in Germany. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon. Kyle earned a degree in mechanical engineering while at UC – Santa Barbara and minored in exercise and health science. He also blogs at Play KJK, Play
Photos by Matthias Schutt.