SoccerWire is publishing Q&A articles with recently-committed players who have Featured Profiles in the SoccerWire Recruiting Directory. The series allows 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 Kaiya Rickard, who has verbally committed to play NCAA Division I soccer in 2025 at Belmont. Rickard plays travel soccer in the ECNL Girls for KC Athletics.

SoccerWire: What made you decide to verbally commit to Belmont?

Kaiya Rickard: What drew me in initially about Belmont was that they are a part of the Missouri Valley Conference. When my team played at the ECNL Tennessee Showcase this past Fall, we drove through the campus, and I immediately fell in love. After talking with Coach Kesley and Coach Danny, everything started falling into place for me. During my visit, meeting with the coaches, team, and staff, and seeing what their student life was like, I knew that the culture at Belmont fit what I wanted in a school, education, and soccer program. One question I asked myself about every school was, “Could I see myself going to school here if soccer was taken out of the picture?” And Belmont was definitely a yes. For all of these reasons, that is why I decided to verbally commit to Belmont.

SW: How does their style of play fit your skillset?

KR: After watching some games online and a practice live, and listening to Coach Kelsey and Hailey talk about their ideal style of play, I was excited to see where I fit in. They are a very possessive and attacking mindset team. They only play direct when it’s absolutely necessary. This was important to me since my primary position is the 6 (holding mid). Playing in the midfield, and distributing the ball is my job and one of my key attributes. Seeing that their style of play fit with mine helped me know that this opportunity was the right decision.

SW: How has playing for KC Athletics helped you grow as a player and as a person?

KR: Playing for KC Athletics has allowed me the opportunity to play in the ECNL league against the top talent in the Midwest and the nation. KC Athletics practices at some of the best facilities in the KC area, including the KC Current training facility. Their speed and agility partnership with A Greater You allows me to be a complete player.
(see answer to question 9 below for more)

SW: What are you interested in studying at Belmont?

KR: At this point, I am interested in studying biology or chemistry at Belmont. My family and I were able to talk with Dr. Pence, the Dean of the College of Sciences & Mathematics, who also gave us a tour of the school and their different research labs. Hearing the opportunities that were offered, especially related to research, were a big plus to me. For many years, I have been interested in pursuing a degree in science. I’m not exactly sure what my path will be for graduate school, but I’m considering continuing on to medical or pharmacy school.

SW: Outside of soccer, are you involved in any clubs or organizations?

KR: I am currently a junior at Olathe West High School. I was inducted into the National Honor Society at the end of 2023. I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer my time for different organizations and try to give back to my community whenever I can. I am also an Owl Link Leader at my school, which is focused as a student-centered leadership and mentor program, providing support and guidance to freshmen. I currently serve as Co-Vice President of the Asian Student Union. We are a fairly new club, focusing on expanding knowledge about different Asian cultures and celebrating what makes Asian culture unique. It has been a great experience being around people with similar backgrounds and seeing how much we can relate to each other. Finally, I work a part-time job at Overland Park Soccer Complex as an operations attendant. This job has taught me valuable lessons of time management, hard work, responsibility and accountability, and how to work independently. Maintaining balance with my school work, soccer training and games, work, and other extracurricular activities has helped me to be a well-rounded person.

SW: Growing up, who was your favorite soccer player?

KR: Growing up, I always loved watching the U.S. Women’s National Team. I especially loved watching Julie Ertz. Not only is her grit, determination, and love for the game inspiring, but her bond with her team and community are very inspiring to me as well. I play the same position as Julie Ertz, and for me, it’s not just about playing the game but also about watching and learning from it. That’s how I’ve grown both as a player and as a person. What I admire most about Julie is that she’s not all about flashy moves or tricks; she has a never-give-up attitude and is constantly pushing herself to be better. I feel a connection with her because, like her, I believe in doing the little things that might not always get noticed but make a big difference in the game. For these reasons, Julie Ertz is an inspiration to me.

SW: What’s your favorite defensive play that you have ever made?

KR: I don’t think I have one favorite specific defensive play, however, my specialty as a holding midfielder is my precisely timed and well-executed slide tackles. Thinking back to even my earliest years of playing soccer, I remember having this great advantage over many people on defense because of how well I could slide tackle. I’m also pretty fast, so it’s always fun for me to run down attackers and win possession for my team.

SW: Do you have a favorite pair of soccer cleats?

KR: My favorite pair of cleats are by Adidas. Lately, I’ve been liking the Predator collection, but I’ve worn many different types over the years. Since I can remember, I’ve always worn Adidas cleats. I’m a creature of habit and have never worn another brand besides Adidas.

SW: What has been your experience like playing with KC Athletics?

KR: I began playing for KC Athletics the Summer before my 7th grade year. I had goals to challenge myself, improve as a player, and play with and against the best in the country. I felt the ECNL league was the best place to do all this, and KC Athletics was the best club and path for me. I could not be more thankful for the opportunities I’ve had playing for KC Athletics. I had the opportunity to play up with the 2006 ECNL team where we won the 2021 ECNL National Championship. This helped me to become a stronger, more skilled, and versatile player.

KC Athletics has provided supportive coaches, well-rounded training options, opportunities to play up, and some of the most talented players in our area. I’ve played with many of my teammates from Day 1 at the club. I’m excited to see all the amazing commitments from the 2025 class on my team, and I know our 2026s will experience the same success. KC Athletics has allowed me to learn how to adjust to change, getting me out of my comfort zone, and adapting to working with different coaches and players. This has been critical for my development and has helped shape the person I am today. Overall, KC Athletics has been a great club to call home. I’m looking forward to competing at the ECNL Playoffs in Seattle this June and finishing up my final year with Coach Marcus Kelcher leading our team.

SW: What is your favorite pump up music that you like to listen to before a match? Do you have any pre game rituals that you like to do?

KR: My favorite pre-game pump up music is a mix of several artists, including Drake, SZA, and Niki. I don’t really have any pre-game rituals, but I do have a couple of superstitions. I always have to put on my gear on my right side first and then on my left. This includes my socks, shin guards and cleats. I also always have to chew gum in warm ups.

SW: Is there anyone that you would like to give a shoutout to who has helped you in your career?

KR: There have been so many people who have helped me throughout my soccer career, including my teammates and coaches (past & present), trainers, family, and friends. I want to express my gratitude to all of them. They have each played a role in shaping the person and player I am today.

I want to give a special shoutout to two incredible people in my life – my mom and dad, Tonya and Willie. They’ve been my biggest supporters since day one of my soccer journey. From enrolling me in Lil’ Kickers at 18 months old to supporting my dreams of playing college soccer, they’ve been there every step of the way. I can’t thank them enough for the sacrifices they’ve made for me, driving me to late-night practices, allowing me to do extra private trainings, and traveling across the country for games and camps, just to name a few. Their hard work and dedication inspire me every day, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have them in my corner, no matter what. I also want to give a special thank you to my younger sisters, Taylor and Brynley. Despite countless times when I’ve been away for games, camps, or showcases, they continue to pursue their own soccer goals. As the oldest sister, I’m expected to be the role model, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support (each in their own unique ways).

I can’t express how grateful I am to have this community of people backing me up, and I know their continued support will follow me throughout my college career.