Take one look at Kirsty Yallop’s CV and it’s easy to see the former Football Fern has enjoyed an illustrious sporting career on the world stage.
Yallop played for the Ferns for 13 years, amassing more than 100 caps in the process. These appearances for the national team encompassed three Olympic Games and two FIFA Women’s World Cups, and she’s also captained New Zealand at a FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. Her club career has taken her to all corners of the globe, and she has shone for professional teams in the USA, Australia, Sweden, and Norway.
You’d be forgiven for thinking football was the sole focus of Yallop’s life growing up – but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Balance and variety were always important to Yallop, and growing up in a sport-obsessed family also helped develop her into a well-rounded person.
“My parents were both very active and both played sports. My dad played basketball, rugby, and touch, while my mum played netball, basketball, and touch,” she recalls.
“From a very young age we were encouraged to get involved in different sports.”
It’s not only in the sporting arena where Yallop excelled either. The West Aucklander was educated at both Unitec and Massey University, earning a Master’s degree at Massey.
Throughout her youth, sport offered plenty of wider benefits to Yallop’s overall development.
“Sport is extremely important to me because I love to be competitive and play games with and against others,” she says.
“In team sports, you learn to work together with people from different backgrounds to achieve a common goal. I enjoyed playing sport and staying physically active as it helped me stay healthy, mentally refreshed, and challenged.”
And of course, she gives a shout out to the influential figures that have shaped her sporting journey.
“Growing up, I was fortunate to have really amazing coaches and older players to look up to. I learned a lot from them, not just around technique and understanding of the game, but also discipline, hard work, and how to get the best out of myself as an athlete and as a footballer.”
These positive influences have no doubt all played a part behind her success on the world stage. Yallop says achieving her childhood dream of competing at the Olympics was one of her biggest career highlights. Not only has she played at three consecutive Games, she also scored New Zealand’s first ever goal at the Olympics (at Beijing in 2008).
Now, as a Balance is Better Champion, Yallop is committed to ensuring young New Zealanders can reap the same benefits from sport that she once did as a youngster.
“Sport provides massive value to whoever is participating, through social connection and learning skills such as teamwork and how to deal with the highs and the lows,” Yallop says.
“I hope to pass on my experiences and advice in a way that can reach young people, even if it’s in the smallest way, to live a balanced and successful life, and to help them reach their full potential and to become a whole person – not just an athlete.”
She also has plenty of sage advice for young people currently participating in sport.
“Young people should express themselves through sport and not be afraid to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, it doesn’t matter what level you are playing – learn from them and improve, and keep striving to be better.
“Also, be present and enjoy the moment. While you are playing sport, you should enjoy playing the sport, and when you are hanging with friends or family, enjoy the time you spend with them.”
Sport, friends, and family – just three of the crucial components that contributed to Yallop’s balanced youth and development into a local football hero.