Cindy Kruger will finish 2003 as the number one player on the Women’s Rankings. Based in the Seattle, Washington area, she has won the FPA Worlds Women’s Pairs title three times (1998, 1999, 2003) and the Mixed Pairs title in 2002. Not content to dominate Women’s competitions, Kruger has been a frequent entrant in the Open division with great success. She has flirted with the top 20 in the Open rankings, reaching a high of #21 this year. In early November, she teamed with Lisa Silvey and Mary Lowry to tie for second place at the Arizona States. Shrednow interviews Cindy Kruger about her game, freestyle, Seattle, late night dancing, and her plans for 2004.
Shrednow: How did you discover freestyle?
CK: My first experience with freestyle was in 1985, when I saw Jeff (my husband) and two of his friends jamming, next to a stage where a band was playing. I watched these guys for a good hour or so before the girl I was with introduced me. It was that point in time that I decided that I had to learn this game.
SN: How would you describe your game?
CK: I like to play a power, aggressive and high energy game. Flow and flexibility have never been my best trait, so I rely mostly on my strength and timing, I tend to power through most of my moves.
SN: You seem to approach your moves with a lot of aggressiveness, attacking yet maintaining great form. How did your aggressiveness in freestyle come about?
CK: I’ve always been an aggressive athletic person. Growing up I played a lot of sports, including basketball, softball and volleyball. I never turned down a challenge and still to this day it’s hard. I believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. Form took time, once I became aware of my capabilities as a player, my game just got more fluid.
SN: What is your biggest strength as a freestyler?
CK: My biggest strength as a freestyler would have to be, the love of the game. There’s always something you can get better at and if you enjoy it, it gives you the drive to achieve it.
SN: What is your non-freestyle career?
CK: My current occupation is an Account Executive for a large Wholesale Mortgage Company. Aside from that I also teach fitness classes several times a week at Bally Total Fitness.
SN: Seattle freestyle is known as one of the strongest communities. What makes it special?
CK: Seattle is special, because there is a large core group they play weekly. Besides that, we are all really great friends, we spend a lot of time off the field hanging out and are always helping and encouraging each other to grow.
SN: Where do Seattle jammers play?
CK: Summertime jams usually are held at Greenlake park. The field is good and the wind is about as good as you can get playing inland.
SN: Where do people play when the weather gets (more) rainy?
CK: When the rain comes, we generally move indoors. We have access to a grade school gym, thanks to Mary Lowry. We also found that community centers and health clubs are good sources of space. But when all else fails, we head over to Alki in West Seattle and brave the cold and damp, this field has better drainage and footing than Greenlake when it’s wet.
SN: A few years ago, you were suffering from a back injury. Is that still a problem?
CK: Yes, I still struggle with my lower back issues. I have had to learn to modify my game to prevent further injuries. I also spend a lot of time in the gym strengthening my core muscles. Preventing further injury is my #1 goal. I have learned the hard way, that sometimes it’s ok to drop it, if it means you get to stand back up after the move and continue to play the rest of the day.
SN: You and your husband Jeff were a formidable mixed pairs team for many years. For the past two seasons you have played with Paul Kenny. What brought about that change?
CK: Jeff and I played together for 10+ years. We placed in the top 4 almost every year we competed together. In 2001 we decided that it would be good for both of us to take advantage of other opportunities to play with different partners and expand our games. He has always been my best teacher and without him, I wouldn’t be the player I am today..
SN: How did it feel to became the #1 player on the Women’s Rankings?
CK: Wow, Finally I achieved it! Bragging rights. I’ve been waiting along time for this, and it really does feel great. I know there are a lot of great women athletes in this sport, and I can only feel honored to achieve this title.
SN: You have attended both Paganello and the Worlds in Rimini. How has the Rimini freestyle scene changed since the first time you visited it?
CK: It multiplied. The first time I went to Paganello in 2000, there was a handful of players, maybe 15-20. This year was incredible. There must have been 30-40 new players from Italy alone. I’ve never in my freestyle career seen this much growth and enthusiasm in such a short amount of time.
SN: How’d you like that wind in Rimini on finals day?
CK: I had mixed feelings about the wind conditions during finals. It was definitely stronger than I prefer, but everyone has to play in the same conditions. Strong winds make it more challenging to create a “Show” and forces you to work on your mental game.
SN: You were co-tournament director of the Worlds in Seattle. Are there any plans to bring a big tournament back to Seattle?
CK: Seattle is looking to bid on 2005 World Championships. It’s been 5 years, and we would really like to bring it back.
SN: How did you get involved as Membership Director of the FPA?
CK: As a volunteer for the FPA, I feel that it’s the least I can do for the sport. Maybe, because it’s a small and intimate group, being a part of it is so special. It is so powerful, it changes you. I would recommend it to anyone.
SN: Who should join the FPA?
CK: Anyone who loves to play, watch or just wants to support the cause, should join the FPA. Being a member gives you access to players, jam locations and other tools to help develope new skills and relationships with others that have the same interests.
SN: Your after-hours dancing is legendary. How did you create this legend?
CK: It just happens! It’s all about the love!
SN: What move or part of your freestyle game are you working on right now?
CK: My Counter game needs the most work. I try to take advantage of every counter throw I get. Although sometimes they are hard to come by. I realize that by being good at both spins, I could really open my game up.
SN: Why don’t more women freestyle?
CK: I wish I had an answer to this question, but I don’t.
SN: You, Lisa Silvey and Mary Lowry have played together as a team. Most recently you tied for second place at the Arizona States. It’s clear that the top women are competitive in the Open division. Why don’t we see more women’s teams taking on the guys?
CK: This is a question that we ask ourselves every year. Should we even play in the women’s Division? and we always come back to,” If we don’t , who will?” The 3 of us plan on competing in Open Coop again next year. We would really like to see more women in our sport. So the questions still remains, we have all these new guy’s coming up in the sport, where are all of their girlfriends?
SN: What are your freestyle plans for 2004?
CK: For 2004 I plan on attending as many tournaments as possible , including the FPA World Championships. I will be partnering up with Jake Gauthier in the Mixed pairs division and Lisa Silvey and Mary Lowry for Open Coop.