Baller Since Day One – Karla Borger
How everything began
My mum has been really influential to me with playing beach volleyball. Often during holidays or on the weekends, my mum took my two brothers and me to her tournaments. We loved that. It was a massive playground to us. No matter if at the beach or in the city we always had a great time. We were probably a pain in the side for some of those players cause we always wanted to throw the ball back and forth with them. Regardless, this time left its indelible mark on us three. My mum always let us do different kinds of sports, which was very important to her. That’s why I did swimming for a long time, played table tennis, tried track and field and a bunch of other sports before I started my career in volleyball. Indoors I captained the youth national team in many international tournaments, got promoted with three different clubs, and got honored as the best defensive player of the All-Star-Team. At the age of 16 I already played in the 1. Bundesliga (first division in Germany). In total, I collected five years in the Bundesliga. My original dream was to play an important role on the national team, but due to some unpleasant behavior of the association, I shifted my focus and goal. I decided to move over to the sand and make it to the Olympics
Chess at 200 km/h
Beach volleyball is played in the open-air and I just love to play. 2,3,4,5… players, depending on the quality you can build your team variability. This variety is awesome when playing just for fun.
My partner and I can’t sub ourselves if someone doesn’t have the best of days. We have to go through that together and have to find solutions on the court. That’s a value I cherish and take into my daily life. There’s always a solution to every problem and as a famous German coach said once: “beach volleyball is like chess at 200 km/h in the sand.” Doesn’t that sound like a sick sport?
Blood, sweat, tears to the dream
One of my top memories is the qualification for the 2016 Olympics. My partner at that time, Britta Büthe, and I had qualified at the very last tournament before the deadline for qualifiers. We had time to qualify for two years but I had to take a break of more than 6 months due to surgery on my disc. At that point in time, we were doing all right internationally (top 15 of the world) but just two teams per nation are allowed to take part in the Olympics. Of course, our German competitors moved passed us during that injury period, so at that point our chances to make it to the Olympics were slim. There were not many tournaments left to qualify. Therefore we switched into an all-in mode and focused just on us. We didn’t check any results of the competing teams. Our games and our actions were the only focus. During this time I created my own playlist of 300 songs, which I played on repeat to escape the stress and pressure. Finally game day, our last chance to for qualifications. We both ran on adrenalin knowing that today everything will be decided. The stressful time will end no matter the outcome. We won our first games, the same as our competitors. While the first games of the knockout stage were already being played and we were following through our pre-match routine, my partner, against our agreement, was checking the live score of our competitor’s game. It was too exciting and both of us were following the score while finishing off our match preparation. If our competitors lose their game our dream of the Olympics comes true. After so many years of sacrifices, pains, defeats, wins, highs and lows…The game was over, and our dream had come true. Just in this very moment, my playlist switches to the song “The Girl From Ipanema” to top off the moment. We started crying and hugging each other. Rio we are coming.
The mental part of the game
When I’m in the flow, I almost feel no pressure at all. Then I’m happy to have control over the result. In tight games, I talk a lot to myself. I say things like “this is what fun is” or “so sick, it’s up to me now”. My mental game has definitely developed throughout my career and now I know more what helps and what doesn’t. I would say, it is a mix of experience, intuitive behavior, and learned techniques. We have team rituals and some code words on the court. We worked out those together with our psychologist to strengthen our mental and physical game. If really all systems report an error, I try to focus on basics and to pull everything into the positive. A lot of communication and body language are super important in those moments. By now we know each other quite well and know how one another reacts.
The commentating was a lot of fun and I could see myself in this area. A coaching career would be an option too. But to be honest, I see myself on the sand for the next few years.
A piece of advice for the rookies
Tackle nutrition at a young age. Talk to experienced athletes. Go your own path but still be pliable and willing to learn.
If I would’ve known how beneficial a vegan diet is, I would have started earlier. Also taking considered breaks and relaxation sessions, as I do now, could have helped me back in the days.
Listen to the body
Regarding my body, I wish I would’ve retrospectively to looked closer and listened earlier to signs and to trust my instinct more. On the flipside exactly this has left its mark on me and caused the development of how I treat my body now (breaks, nutrition, etc.).
Social media – a blessing and a curse
During a competition, I don’t have access to my social media accounts or rather delete those apps. That just distracts me and I only want to focus on my performance. Some people think that’s crazy, but it works for me really well. Meanwhile, I don’t notice every single comment anymore. I would lie if I say that a malicious comment doesn’t bother me. I’m vulnerable too. As I said it’s difficult to notice everything on every single platform. I’m active on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn and I have my own website. Most of those channels get taken care of by my management. As a professional athlete, you can’t and you shouldn’t be doing it on your own.
- 2010: WUC World Champion
- 2011: Adh Sportswoman of the year
- 2013: World Championships – 2nd place
- 2014: German Champion
FIVB Best-Server of the year
- 2015: Open Luzern – 1st place
- 2016: Olympic Games – 9th place
European Championships – 3rd place
World Ranking – 4th place
- 2019: German Champion
- Martin Steinthaler
- Tom Bloch