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Kara Radeke's 20-year journey from tournament volunteer to USA CUP director

07/19/2012, 2:20pm CDT
By Madeline Greene

Schwan’s USA CUP, presented by PUMA has fostered the growth of soccer players for the last three decades. The tournament has been home to thousands of players and fans. But when a 13- year old Kara Johnson first played in the tournament in 1992 as a U13 player for the Centennial Soccer Club, she could never have imagined it  was the beginning of a lifelong journey.

Now Kara Radeke, and 33 years old, she has held a series of roles and responsibilities that have lead her to be one of the most seasoned USA CUP staff members.

As a long time player with the Centennial Club, in nearby Circle Pines, Minn., her then coach, Mike Evans, was one of the most influential coaches in her life. Her family participated in the USA CUP Homestay Program where they hosted the San Francisco Vikings for the length of the tournament. In high school, she started volunteering for various events at the National Sports Center (NSC), including USA CUP. She eventually moved up the ladder, getting paid for some event work, until she landed a series of internships working on various events at the NSC. While she also worked hockey events, USA CUP was her home.

A full-time job offer landed her in the National Sports Center office specializing in the dorms and registration. She then continued on to another series of jobs including Tournament Director of some the other soccer tournaments held on our campus, including NSC Cup in May and the All-American Girls' Tournament in June.

Radeke took an outside position in retail for nearly a year, but fate brought her back to the NSC in a new position in the finance department, just in time for next year's USA CUP. Radeke has a perfect USA CUP attendance record, never missing a tournament, even when she was on maternity leave. After the 2011 tournament, Radeke was promoted to USA CUP Director.

“The reason I came back to the National Sports Center and love working here is because of the people I work with,” said Radeke. “We are like one big family. We all work really hard and we all have such a great time together.”

Radeke has really grown with the tournament, in her professional and personal life. She met her now husband, Brandon, on this campus. Brandon proposed to Kara on this campus and now they have two children, Teagan and Bryce who have grown up right here on campus.

Her passion for the sport as well as her passion for the tournament has allowed her to become one of the most dedicated individuals when it comes to USA CUP.

“I feel like it has been a 20-year training process to getting here, working in all the areas and getting to know all the people, volunteers, international agents and staff,” said Radeke. “I’m overly passionate about it and I think that is why I have been here so long. It is a big part of my life and that is why Opening Ceremonies gets to me every year.”

Kelli Goodrich, a Sport Administration intern working on USA CUP for the first time, explains why working with Radeke has been a beneficial experience for her.

“One of the things I like about working with Kara is that she has been here for so long that she has had so many different roles so she really understands all of our responsibilities. She can lead people from all different departments because she has the experience and knows the tournament so well.”

Working with Radeke over the years has been a great experience for returning staff member Tony Vroman.

“Kara's innovative ideas and detailed-oriented thinking really helps separate this tournament from the others,” said Vroman. “She is constantly working to get better, she just wants to improve the entire tournament overall. She is never just satisfied with where we are at, she always wants it to grow.”

“I really think that Kara is the glue that holds the tournament together,” said Goodrich. “She supports everyone and is really motivating. I feel like everyone wants to work hard for her and make this a good tournament because this isn’t only a reflection of us but it is also a reflection of her. She puts so much time and effort into this tournament. Kara and Brandon are kind of like the parents to the interns at the NSC and they make it a very family-oriented atmosphere and they want us to have fun.”

After all of the years that Radeke has spent at USA CUP, she had some advice for players.

“Enjoy it for the experience, participate in as much as you can and have a great time,” said Radeke.

After twenty years at USA CUP, Radeke has helped make this tournament what it is today.

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Tag(s): July 19, 2012