Alex Cayley

The Interview

The sports world gave me the confidence and self-awareness to be proud of what I look like.

Why pose for the Body Issue?

After seeing past issues, I was amazed at what ESPN The Magazine was doing. It's not only the lean and ripped bodies on display, but also a variety of shapes and sizes in a range of sports. Showing the different shapes and sizes of success.

Have you ever felt self-conscious?

I was 5-foot-8 and about 128 pounds in the sixth grade. I was a giant. Looking back at old soccer videos from second grade, I think, "Who is that next to those little kids?!" I was fortunate, though, because I was naïve and oblivious about my size. It's a testament to the people I had around me -- my parents and friends who didn't treat me differently or make me feel awkward about being so tall. And the sports world gave me the confidence and self-awareness to be proud of what I look like. So I've always felt pretty good about my body.

How did you find your way to the sport?

In a way, hockey found me. My sister and I signed up for figure skating at age 8, but I wasn't the most graceful person in the house and couldn't do any of the moves. I'd see the hockey boys on the other side of the rink playing, and I remember wanting that camaraderie, wanting to be part of something more dynamic and fun. It only took me two months to ditch figure skating and switch to hockey. I like the competitiveness of it. The game is very fast; its two-way action keeps you on your toes, always engaged.

What was it like playing against the boys?

It was a benefit. We started playing hockey, with checking, at 11 or 12 years old. I was the only girl on the team, but keep in mind, I wasn't a peanut of a girl. Occasionally some of it got nasty toward me because I was a girl, but it didn't bother me. I can hold my ground. It actually made me feel better that they were coming hard rather than treating me like I was fragile. For me it was, "Look, I'm here, and I want to compete. Try to knock me down because I assure you, once I get up, I'll be looking to knock you down."

How do hockey players compare to athletes from other sports?

If you look at hockey players as a whole, we have a wide variety of body types that all work for performance. I'm more of a power and lean player, not particularly muscular. We all rely a lot on our core. Rotating and balance is a huge part of our game. So, I'm proud of my abs. I don't often get to show them off, but I'm not shy, I'll wear a bikini at the pool.

-- Interview by Morty Ain

More Athletes

Julie Chu

USA Hockey forward, three-time Olympian
  • Age

    29

  • Body stats

    5-foot-8, 148 pounds

  • Birthplace

    Fairfield, Conn.

  • Career highlight

    At Harvard, Chu became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history.

  • Who knew?

    She had to initially defer her acceptance to Harvard in order to compete in the 2002 Olympics. She went on to graduate with honors.