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

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.”


Colour commentary: Right thing to vote ‘no’ on Calgary Olympics

Hosting an Olympic Games leaves too much debt

On Nov. 13, the citizens of Calgary voted 56 per cent in favour of not bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics in a vote. On Nov. 19, the city council unanimously voted in favour of ending its push to host the Games.

Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, and citizens simply didn’t want to go through the ordeal again. And good for them. It’s time people start to realize just how expensive it is to host the Olympics, all for some athletes, fans, and media to raid a city for two weeks and forget about it after.

According to Forbes, the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, originally had an estimated cost of USD $12.9 billion. The 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, had a total cost of USD $51 billion, according to The Guardian. It’s a good thing Calgarians don’t want that kind of debt.

What is really disappointing is how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) reacted to the results. A spokesperson for the IOC said: “It is disappointing that the arguments about the sporting, social and long-term benefits of hosting the Olympics did not sway the vote.”

Tricia Smith, president of the COC also said this: “Sport in a positive sense really brings a country together.”

Did the IOC and COC seriously just play the “but the Olympics bring people together” card? What’s ridiculous is how they don’t even seem to realize how much they cripple an economy for a sporting event. According to the CBC, after Montreal hosted the Games in 1976, they had a debt of $1.5 billion, which they paid off in 2006—40 years after hosting. That doesn’t seem like the long-term benefit the IOC was talking about. If hosting the Olympics didn’t come with so much debt, sure it would have been great to see Calgary host, but—newsflash—it does.

My favourite headline from this comes from Sportsnet: “Calgary’s ‘No’ vote a squandered opportunity for a city in need.” I didn’t realize Calgary needed billions of dollars of debt.

People who were for hosting the games used the argument that it would have allowed facilities to be built. Many athletic complexes were built in 1988 and need renovating, so they think the only way to do so is by hosting the Olympics. You can upgrade athletic facilities without hosting the Olympics.

More people and cities around the world should realize that hosting the Olympics isn’t all fun and games.


A gothic birthday party, UNzipped

Photo : Andrew McNeill

With the band’s biggest festival appearance yet just days away, UN’s Kara Keith was fretting over footwear before set lists.
“It’s all about the outfits, right?” reasoned Keith.
UN, a gothic rock/electro-pop duo featuring Concordia grad Jen Reimer on drums with Keith on vocals and piano, is jetting off to Austin, Texas to play POP Montreal’s showcase at the SXSW Music Festival.
Over 2,000 acts from all over the world flock to SXSW every year to mingle with music industry professionals, debut new material and wrestle for exposure. Buzzing reviews at this festival can change an artist’s life overnight. Just one year after her SXSW debut, former McGill student and electronic musician Grimes has gone from virtually unknown to posing for Vogue.
“I haven’t gone to SXSW before, but I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life,” said Keith. “It’s just another five-day-long party where I don’t have a home to go to at night.”
Keith and Reimer have been playing together in bands for over five years, but they first collaborated as UN in 2010 and have just released their debut album, Nu. Keith’s confidence on stage is magnetic, her voice deep, dark and borderline satanic. Backed by snappy synth, piano and Reimer’s fierce animalistic drumming, this is something you must dance to, entranced in your own world.
UN’s sound and stage presence has the ability to whisk the crowd away to a subterranean gothic birthday party, providing an escape from the mundane.
“It’s cathartic for me,” explained Keith. “That’s why it ends up being cathartic for other people.
All the melodies, lyrics and ideas are from my singular experience. I walk about with those songs all the time.”
Reimer and Keith left their families behind in Alberta before becoming Mile End inhabitants. They attended separate classical music conservatories in Edmonton and Calgary, but met at an artist residency program at the Banff Centre in 2007.
“We started jamming together in these little huts in the woods, spending night upon night playing music,” revealed Keith. “We instantly connected.”
At the time, Keith studied piano, while Reimer was perfecting the French horn. Reimer picked up the drums as recently as two years ago for UN’s first performance in New York City, though she had only been practising for three weeks.
“[Reimer] already had so much skill in her body from being a very accomplished classical musician,” explained Keith.
Keith found Alberta hostile to artists, as rent was skyrocketing and it was difficult to find space to practise or play.
“It wasn’t a very nurturing community, and we felt like outsiders,” said Keith. “There were no other women doing anything [like us].”
The pair clicked with producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work on Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004), while at The Banff Centre. Keith wrote a record while in Alberta, but flew to Montreal in 2008 to record with Reimer, Bilerman and a band of 10 other people.
“That was our foray into Montreal. We were just going to come for two weeks and make a record,” said Keith, “but that record took six months.
“We quickly evolved, realized it was an amazing city, and now we are very happy here.”
Though the songstress was unhappy in Alberta, the record she wrote while living there is curiously upbeat, and became quite popular. Keith’s indie-pop single, “Kick this City,” caught fire in 2008 and was picked up by CBC for radio play.
Since moving to Montreal and forming UN, Keith’s songwriting has turned to gloom.
“What’s funny is that as I’ve gotten my life more organized, been happier, got really good friends, moved to a great new city, and started taking care of myself, I started writing really dark music,” said Keith.
Despite the drastic change in her musical tone, Keith insisted that it’s completely unintentional. She challenged herself to depart from her more complicated classical roots and produce music that was simple, strong and straight from the gut.
“I’m not trying to do anything, I don’t listen to music, and I don’t know what our ‘sound’ is,” said Keith. “Neither does Jen.”

UN debuts at SXSW on March 16 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas.

To download their new album visit their bandcamp:

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