CARY, N.C. -- The apples, as they say, didn’t fall far from the Kallman family tree.
Rich and Laura Kallman have six children – Brian, Brad, Krystle, Kylie, Brent and Kassey – and of those six, five have played soccer at the NCAA Division I level. Kassey, their youngest and a Florida State senior defender, concludes her collegiate career here this week as the Seminoles compete in the College Cup national championship tournament.
Two of their sons, Brian and Brent, now play professional soccer in the North American Soccer League for Minnesota United. Another daughter, Krystle, played virtually every minute of every game for three years at West Virginia but then transferred to Minnesota where she is now an assistant coach.To have one child play at this elite level is special, but five? That’s an absolutely extraordinary accomplishment, and there’s not much doubt in this family that it starts with the parents. Both were athletes in high school, and while there’s something to be said for talent, their competitive fire is off the charts.
Rich and Laura used to play canasta as partners – canasta, for crying out loud – but no more. He tried to fix what he saw as her mistakes between hands, which led to arguments. And that, of course, led to them no longer teaming up while playing cards.
Cards … soccer … bowling … board games … grades … it doesn’t matter. Winning is the name of the game in the Kallman family.
“That’s kind of the joke around all our friends – how competitive we are,” Kassey said. “We love to have family game nights, and it usually ends with a blow-out fight and yelling. We’re extremely competitive.”
The Kallmans? Extremely competitive? That’s kind of like calling Everest a pretty big mountain.
“It’s like that for everything, whether we’re playing cards, bowling or board games,” Rich admitted. “They’re actually a riot. They’re spirited.”
Over the years, coaches have asked Rich where it all came from, whether or not his family’s fire could be taught. He believes so.
“I kind of have a theory that I think more that it’s taught,” he said. “I read an interview that Kassey did where she said that I’m always there waiting after every game to tell her what she did wrong and every once in a while something she did right.
“I’m like that. I do appreciate everything that they do well, but I always want them to be the best that they can be. To be honest with you, I’ve never had one of my kids that doesn’t want to be the best they can be. For the most part, they listen. Sometimes, they disagree, but they listen and you move on.”
By the time Kassey was born, sports were already firmly entrenched as a way of life in her clan. She tagged along to more games than any of her brothers, sister or parents could ever begin to count. Other organized sports fell by the wayside one by one, but not soccer.
Never, ever soccer.
Load ‘em up and move ‘em out. There’s another tryout, another practice, another game to play. It’s the Kallman way.
“When we were young, we just played a ton of sports,” Kassey said. “I don’t know why, but soccer stuck from my first sibling that is eight years older than me down to me. Their success in soccer has paved the way for me, because I grew up going every weekend to their games and being able to watch.
“That’s why I’m where I am today. I have a good knowledge about the game, and I think that’s because I’m always surrounded by it and I have been since a very young age.”
The family members can be tough on each other at times, always critiquing, challenging, and pushing to go farther, faster and better. This, though, is another part of what makes the Kallmans tick.
Kassey narrowed her choice of schools to Minnesota, within shouting distance of their home in Woodbury, and Florida State as an incoming freshman. It must have seemed like another planet, and when she seemed to hesitate, Rich stepped in.
He told her to forget about the 1,338 miles that separated home from school. He would be there to see her play as much as humanly possible, and so would the rest of the family. He’d been a road warrior for the rest of his kids, and she would be no different.
“My family is very, very close,” Kassey said. “Thinking about leaving for four years was very difficult for me. But my siblings and my family encouraged me and pushed me to go to FSU.
“My dad told me, ‘It doesn’t matter where you go in the country, I will be at all your games. I will find a way to get there. Don’t let that be a factor, because we’ll be there for you no matter what.’”
The end result for Rich and others in the family has been what Kassey calls some “crazy, crazy trips.” At one point, Rich and Laura had three kids playing in different parts of the country.
“I really want them to know that the entire reason that I’m where I am today is because of them, because of the sacrifices they’ve made, because of the money they’ve put into the sport for me and all of my siblings,” Kassey said. “We’re very hard on ourselves. Coming off a game, I go back and talk to my family and it’s not all, ‘Oh, you did great, Hon.’
“It’s very critiquing, but that’s why I’ve gotten to the stage I’m in today. I’m very blessed that I have that. I’m happy that I don’t really have family that just tells me how great I am. I’m very lucky that I have a family who pushes me to get better every day. They’re definitely the reason I am the soccer player that I am today.”
Though this weekend’s College Cup is her collegiate swan song, soccer is likely not over for Kassey Kallman. One of 15 finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in the sport, she plans to enter the draft for the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Rich, Laura and the rest of their kids will be right there as much as possible, watching and taking notes.