Cayla George Co-Captain of The Deakin Melbourne Boomers, alongside Maddie Garrick, has led the team into a red-hot 2019 season. Standing at 6 ft 4, Cayla is a formidable centre for the Boomers. Her decorated career has seen her represent Australia in several competitions globally including the Rio Olympics.
Pesel & Carr are Cayla’s player sponsor for the 19/20 season and we interviewed her to get to know her a little better. We also spoke with Managing Director Barbara Pesel to get her thoughts on the sponsorship.
As an admired female athlete, who are some of your biggest female inspirations in sport?
When I was growing up, I loved Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor; both, highly-respected basketballers and Australian Opals. I even had photos of Olympic team members on my schoolbooks, and it was crazy because I eventually got to play with a few of them, including Lauren and Penny.
But right now, my biggest idol is Serena Williams. She’s amazing; her comeback after having a baby and continuing to play at the high level. It’s a massive dream of mine to be able to do that.
Working with a close-knit team like the Boomers must be very special for you. What are some of the things you’ve learnt from the team and people behind the scenes?
I’m really loving my role alongside Maddie Garrick (Co-Captain). Being captain, you need to really understand the relationships you’ve got with each player and how best to approach them. Not everyone is the same when it comes to how they react to negative or positive feedback. Everyone needs to feel they are in a safe space.
I think the most important part is to remember at some point things are going to go wrong. We may lose, but it’s about bouncing back quickly.
When we see women doing well or in positions of power words like “empowerment” and “inspiring” are often used. What do you think women and girls should take away from the example you set?
As female athletes, we are very much compared to the males. We’ve had to accept subpar standards. I want the kids coming through the next generation to see that we’re relishing in the moment regardless of what’s being thrown at us, and that we need to continue to do that. Hopefully by the time they are where we are, the path we’ve started will have changed.
Between the growing popularity of the WAFL and the success of women’s basketball, do you feel the playing field is balancing out between female and male athletes? What needs to change?
No. I feel like there is a “huff and bluff” around equality and the fact things are starting to get better. But there is such a long way to go.
I think female athletes need to be celebrated more. We work just as hard as the men. We’re still athletes, we’re just not male athletes. More people need to witness what we’ve got to offer before forming opinions because when they do, they enjoy our games and its great entertainment.
Good communication skills are key for you as a co-captain. How does communication help you and your team on and off the court?
I’m a big talker anyway, but as a captain you’ve got to make sure your team is ready to go. Essentially your role is to keep the team accountable for what the coach is wanting you to do on court.
I think communication off court is key because it helps build and maintain relationships with your teammates. You want to make sure everyone has bought into the same vision, that culturally you’re all sound and everyone is on the same page.
We know you’re a Husky lover with two pups of your own. Can you tell us if these Husky facts are true for Coco and Caesar?
1. Huskies are born to run
My boy Caesar, yeah. He loves to get out into the open paddocks or dog park and go nuts.
2. They’re not great watch dogs
No they’re not. Sometimes when they come to training, they’re pretty chill because they know they have to be, but they want to be a part of everything. After training they just love to have a run around.
3. They don’t get fatigued
They’re super high energy, but Coco has a super chilled temperament.
4. You need to watch them closely because they’re known escape artists
They ARE known escape artists! Ours are such divas, they’re inside with us all the time. I live in an apartment, so unless they’re jumping off the third story balcony, they’re not going anywhere.
5. High maintenance
I don’t think they’re high maintenance as much as I think they’re needy. Their fur ends up everywhere, but I brush them all the time to make sure their coats look great. And they shed at all times of the year.
Why do you enjoy working so closely with the Boomers?
For our team it’s great to be involved with something as fast paced and fun as the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). It’s exciting and frustrating when games don’t go your way. Every game has its own highlights and there’s a lot of different opportunities to get the Boomers’ messages out there and maximise awareness. It also helps to further the message of women in sport.
How does the sponsorship align with Pesel & Carr’s work or values and do you think it’s valuable?
I love working with sport because it’s all about teamwork. As a player you need to rely on other people. Even if it’s a solo sport, for example golf. You still have a coach; you still have people around you and that encourages you to be the best you can possibly be. Equally in business it’s about building a team and getting them to work together and deliver the best outcomes they possibly can.
One of the things we like about Cayla is her positive outlook, her comradery and her willingness to be there for her teammates. That’s something I really love about her, and where I feel we closely align.
How do you feel women in sport can be better recognised?
I like to see everyone kick goals and believe everyone has an opportunity to do well. Where public perception falls is the value of women in sport and the excitement of the game is underestimated.
Cayla and her teammates are great role models. They certainly come with a lot less issues than some of their male sporting counterparts, and if you’ve been to a Boomers game you’ll agree, they’re highly entertaining!