Co-captains to coaches: Chloe Ricciardi’s and Madeleine McKenzie’s soccer journeys

Chloe Ricciardi (left) and Madeleine McKenzie (right) at the Concordia Stadium, 2022. MARIA BOUABDO/ The Concordian

The former Concordia Stingers’ women’s soccer co-captains are now assistant coaches on the team

Chloe Ricciardi and Madeleine McKenzie have had pretty different paths leading them to the Concordia Stingers’ soccer program, but they ended up being co-captains in 2020 and 2021 and were both named assistant coaches in the summer of 2022.

While Ricciardi was starting her bachelor’s degree at the University of Detroit Mercy in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, McKenzie was in her last year of high school in Calgary playing for the Calgary South West United Soccer Club.

A year later, McKenzie moved to Montreal to start her bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology at Concordia, graduating in May 2021.

“My mom’s family is actually from Montreal, so I would visit every summer and I just knew I liked it a lot here,” McKenzie said about her decision to come to Concordia to study. “And my parents encouraged me to go away for school just to become more independent.”

On the other hand, Montreal native Ricciardi had always wanted to play in the U.S. growing up, but that dream seemed less and less possible when she felt a little lost in her studies in social sciences at John Abbott College.

However, shortly after that, things started turning around for Ricciardi.

“I did a showcase tournament in Las Vegas with a few of my friends, and then that’s where the school that I went to saw me play,” she explained. “I got home, they called me immediately and offered me a scholarship, and I was like, ‘okay, I guess we’re going to the States.’”

Ricciardi remembers it happening really fast, which is mostly because she got signed later than most people.

“I was a late sign because normally in the States, they sign people in their second-to-last year of high school,” she added.

Ricciardi got her bachelor’s degree in social work at Detroit Mercy, and came back to Montreal afterwards, which is when she joined Concordia’s soccer team. She originally started a master’s degree in child studies, but switched to a graduate diploma in business after a year. She finished her diploma in the fall of 2021.

McKenzie, who still had a year of eligibility left after earning her bachelor’s degree in May 2021, decided to start another undergraduate degree the following fall semester, majoring in exercise science. She’s now in the second and last year of her major while coaching.

McKenzie and Ricciardi didn’t join Concordia’s soccer program at the same point in their careers, with McKenzie coming in straight out of high school as opposed to Ricciardi having an undergraduate degree already. However, Stingers’ head coach Greg Sutton said it was clear from the moment they joined the team that they were both natural leaders.

“[McKenzie] was able to communicate with everyone in different ways. […] She was very level-headed and understood how to have the right conversations and the right wording no matter what the situation was with the group, whether we were struggling or having success,” Sutton said. 

“As a coach, I felt comfortable that she was going to be able to help lead the group in that way from her perspective as a student-athlete, a well-rounded student-athlete of course, as well as an academically smart person.”

McKenzie and Ricciardi were co-captains from the winter of 2020 until the fall of 2021, when Ricciardi graduated. McKenzie remained captain until her graduation in May 2022.

“[For] Chloe it was a little different because she came in after spending a few years in the States,” Sutton said. “She basically came in as a graduate student. So she had a little bit more maturity under her belt.”

“She received respect right away from the girls just because of the quality of player she was,” Sutton added, also mentioning her ability to say the right things and help the team during tough times.

Ricciardi found that being captain helped her settle into her role as a coach.

“You still have to be somewhat of a leader, I guess,” Ricciardi said. “I think the biggest part was just figuring out what I think I could have done better, and then doing it better now.”

McKenzie, however, saw more differences than similarities. She said that as captains, they were leading a lot of the conversations, and encouraging the team, but as coaches, they have to let the girls in the leadership roles do it.

“You still need to guide. […] But I think it needs to come from them because they’re the ones on the field, they’re the ones doing the work,” McKenzie explained.

The Calgary native still plays in her hometown during summers for the Alberta Major Soccer League. She started in 2017 and plans to keep playing there.

But the future remains uncertain for her in coaching and academia, as she hopes to get into medical school next year.

“It kind of depends on what happens with that,” McKenzie said. “Because obviously, if I get in I’m not going to reject an admission letter. But if I don’t get in, I still have to figure out what I would do. But if I’m here and available, I would definitely like to keep coaching.”

Ricciardi also plays during summers in the Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ), a semi-professional league. She played for Pierrefonds FC in the summer of 2021, and for FC Laval this past summer. Ricciardi wants to keep coaching at Concordia, as well as playing semi-pro for a few more years “up until [her] body can’t handle it anymore.”

Just like McKenzie, Ricciardi isn’t sure what the future holds for her. Getting licensed to coach at a higher level could be an option, but so is almost anything else.

“I’m not sure if I want to follow that path, we’ll see when the time comes,” Ricciardi said. “But for sure at Concordia, I’d like to be here for a while.”

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