SoccerWire is publishing Q&A articles with recently-committed players who have profiles in the SoccerWire Player Directory. The series will allow players to share their stories on the college recruiting process, travel and high school soccer, and their passion for the beautiful game.

In this edition we will showcase Mackenzie Holliday, who has committed to play NCAA Division I soccer in 2024 at Jacksonville. Maldonado plays travel soccer in US Youth Soccer National League P.R.O. for SYC.

SoccerWire: What made you decide to commit to Jacksonville?

Mackenzie Holliday: In all fairness to other colleges, I was working with, deciding was not easy, but I knew that I wanted to go to Jacksonville University (JU) soon after I went to their ID session, but I didn’t want to jinx it for myself. I was already talking to one of the assistant JU coaches before, and the coach gave me a lot of information about JU’s program including about Coach Constable who is working hard to build their WSOC program. The coach and I had check-ins often where I was asked about my training, my school subjects and how my tournaments/games were going. I was nervous on the day of the ID session, and I remembered what the JU assistant coach said: “…just be yourself and show Coach the talent I see in you!” At the session, the JU coaches ran great skills stations, provided good feedback and I learned a lot from the Q&A part.

Ultimately, I really liked their coaching styles! I was glad I got my evaluation directly from Coach Constable within a few days, and a week later when I was playing soccer overseas, I got his offer. I remember how this offer really made me feel over-the-moon happy! I decided to visit JU again to learn more about the academic side and hear what students had to say, so I signed up for the formal two-hour tour and got to say hello to Coach Constable as well as the other coaches. They were very welcoming. The visit confirmed that JU was where I wanted to be. Regardless of the division, the reasons I decided to commit to JU are (not in any order), the JU coaches, the girls I met on the team, wanting to be a part of building a winning team, JU’s great internship program, the majors offered and the class sizes. The teacher to student ratio is good for a big university.

SW: What was the recruiting process like and what did you learn about yourself while going through it?

MH: The recruiting process takes work, time and money. It’s important to have good highlights and to showcase skills at tournaments. At first, I started with a recruiting company, but then figured out I could do it with my parents’ support. I emailed my highlights out, let coaches know who I was and sent coaches my tournament schedules. When I didn’t get responses, I sometimes felt defeated, but I kept emailing, updating my highlights and posting to my social media. When I was able to communicate with coaches on June 15 of my Junior year, I was happy to get coaches responses or phone calls. On the calls I realized that I needed to make sure my personality stood out and to be myself. I also learned a lot about them and their programs on those calls by asking the right questions I had prepared. A lot of the coaches were very nice, and funny too because I think they wanted to make me feel less nervous. At the end of the calls, I appreciated when I got feedback on how I did on the call. It was very helpful, and it prepared me for other calls.

At tournaments when I noticed coaches that I was talking to on the sidelines watching me play (about 10 minutes) I was excited and nervous, and it was great when they would come back at the end of the game so we could formally meet, and they told me how I played. I also went to ID camps, and they were good. At the camps, I learned how I measured up to girls my age and what I needed to improve on. It was very competitive too. I liked going to ID session at the college itself because I got to talk to the girls on the team to see how they personally liked it and another plus was getting the campus tours directly from the girls on the team because then you could interact with them too. I also learned a lot about the coaching styles of the soccer coaches also which is important.

The recruiting process takes a lot of work and not just for me but for coaches too, so I have learned to be gracious to coaches for their time, and to listen carefully to answers to questions especially when they take the time to give me helpful feedback that I can use going forward. One hard lesson was picking myself up if I didn’t ever hear back from a coach again especially if I was interested in their program. It took me a while to learn that other opportunities will come.

SW: What are your favorite subjects in school and what do you think you would like to study in college?

MH: My favorite subjects currently are English and Computer Science. I am interested in studying business and majoring in sports management.

SW: Outside of soccer, what clubs, organizations, and/or jobs are you involved in?

MH: I am involved in the National Honor and Art Society. I also participate in Morgan’s Message, one of my close friends leads it, and it is an important message to share to student athletes. I’m a part of my school’s chapter of DECA as well and it is helpful to prepare me for my business major. I also enjoy volunteering and giving back to the community, so I do community service projects lead by the Key Club. I also play basketball and I am a point guard on the LB high school varsity team.

SW: What has your experience been like playing for SYC? Do you have any favorite memories?

MH: My experience at SYC has been a good one. I started playing soccer when I was 4 and I started at another soccer club and then went to play for SYC. The club is supportive of its players and coaches. I am grateful that I have played with girls on my team that I consider friends and who challenge me to be better. SYC has been like another family to me and one of my favorite memories was when my team won the Virginian because it was the last tournament of our season and winning that capped off our winning all the season tournaments that we entered!

SW: What are your favorite pair of cleats that you have ever owned? My all-time favorite cleats are my white cloud Adidas Predators!

MH: If you could give one piece of advice to a younger player that wants to play soccer at a high level, what would it be? My advice comes from learning from mistakes, and knowing what has worked for me. Everyone is different, but some of the things you hear maybe from parents, coaches or trainers to believe in yourself, put in the extra work, be accountable and give 110% are just a few things that I find to be true. There are still times where I have to remind myself too, but if you love the sport and you want to play at the next level, earn your place and don’t give up.

SW: Is there anyone that you would like to give a shoutout to who has helped you both on and off of the field?

MH: There are many people family and friends that I am grateful for, and that continue to be a part of making me a better person and player. It’s good to have this opportunity to give shout outs, and I am lucky to have basketball and soccer coaches that continue to make a positive difference in my life, but I will focus on soccer:

Coach, Kurt Gordan was my first club coach when I was young, and he taught me a lot about soccer and skills. He challenged me and taught me important things off the field too like accountability, commitment and how to be a good teammate. He would also remind us to eat healthy, hydrate and to drink chocolate milk after practices and games.

My SYC coaches: Coach Sasso who always had a winning spirit and brought humor to the team. Coach Scott who pushed me to be better, believed in me and helped me build my confidence more so and stressed leadership on the field. Coach Sara who taught me to learn from mistakes and keep working hard.

My LB soccer coaches: Coach Weiland, Coach Aerial: They believed in me and made soccer fun. Coach Wickham: He pushes me to be a better player by challenging me and I appreciate his support.

My awesome trainer, Coach Abby. Thank you for pushing me to be a better athlete and for believing in me.

LB and SYC teammates who are there for me on-and-off the field and challenge me. I am very grateful to call them friends.

And of course, my parents! Without them I wouldn’t have been able to get to and from all the practices, training and games when I was younger. They are also both my biggest role models on and off the field, they push me to be the best I can be constantly and have always taught me to earn my place by working hard consistently. And, my younger sister, Bella! She is always there for me through all the ups and downs. We are both competitive and one of MANY good memories with her is when we were little, we would always play co-ed street soccer with all of the neighborhood kids. Everyone played rough, and it was a challenge. Being on a team with her made it so much more fun and competitive. I am very grateful.