Release Date : 04-Jan-2016 | Name : Carla Hohepa | Category : Rugby
Author : Myak Homberger
Since bursting onto the scene in 2007 Carla has been a wing of vision and speed both in the 15’s and 7’s format of Rugby. Taking time out from Rugby to start a family Carla was back playing four months after the birth of her son. Since 2010 I have watched Carla’s career and gotten to know her. We caught up again recently and I spent some time with her chatting about family and motherhood.
The stand out thing for me was that despite awards and trophies (Player of the Year, World Cup winner, etc.), Carla is very focused on family - both hers and her ‘sistas’ in the team. The conversation always came back to family and to the values it upholds. Wearing the black jersey and representing New Zealand is a huge honour but to her it is the family support behind her - not just at home, but practically as well when she is away that she values, because it allows her to do what she loves so dearly. “I have a great family, they are so supportive, I couldn’t do it without them,” she says.
To Carla motherhood has enhanced both her and her game. She wants to make her boy proud - and to the observer she is, if anything, a better player now than she was five years ago. She sees it as a natural thing to have played at such a high level, stepped out to start a family and then to step back in again and be better for it. This is so refreshing to hear from a world class athlete - first, because there is zero drama attached to her. There is no ‘I have had to change this and sacrifice that, if only people knew’. To her it’s no different to any other job or any other mother around the world.
The second thing is that she is a great advert for women being able to get back to playing at an international level after having children. That’s one of the things that makes her so lovely to spend time with - she doesn’t see it as something to shout about or advertise; she had a child, trained and got back to where she was, end of: it’s what you do as an athlete and as a woman. Carla has everything you would want in a mother with the extreme talent of an international athlete who is completely grounded in both life and family. For Carla women don’t need to give up sport to become mothers, they can do both - and as such she is a shining example. Her advice to athletes wanting to balance family and sport is “...if you love it and it’s a passion, anything is possible.”
Just listening to Carla you can tell the passion for her country, family and her ‘sistas’. They are so intertwined and it’s hard to separate them. When I try to get her to explain the difference to these three strands of her life she says, “..when I talk about the black jersey and my family and sistas it makes me emotional....oh...you are making me cry!” We never really get to the bottom of the difference, it’s all too close. Her family are everything, her son is her world, playing for her country and wearing the black jersey is the result of hard work and is very dear to her. All of this clearly has a depth of emotion for her. “The girls I play with are my family away from home”, she explains.
The thing that I like and that is hard not to warm to, is Carla’s openness in sharing about herself and her feelings about motherhood and family in the broadest sense. Passion and emotion are blended for her and so despite being a remarkable athlete she is also humble, family focused and truly grateful to be doing what she loves surrounded by her ‘family’.
Carla’s lack of fuss, value of family and ability to step out, have a family and step back into the most successful international team says a lot about her but also of the example it sets for other women in sport. To show that careers don’t need to be given up or desires for having a family shelved in order to be an international athlete. A great advertisement for motherhood and sport!