Katharine “Kitt” Richards admits that she was wary of taking multiple trips a week to Milwaukee to play soccer.
But she also knows that sacrifices and inconveniences are necessary as she attempts to reach her dream of playing soccer collegiately.
Richards is a junior reserve for the Appleton North girls’ soccer team, but when she’s not suiting up for the Lightning, she’s busy doing everything she can to get noticed by college coaches and that means plenty of trips to Milwaukee for most of the year to compete for the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) FC Wisconsin Eclipse U17 team.
FC Wisconsin Eclipse is one of 73 teams divided into regional conferences that compete in the ECNL. The season runs from August to the end of December and there are regular practices during the week capped by games on the weekends all over the Midwest.
ECNL also hosts several “showcases” throughout the season that attract coaches from all over the nation.
Richards said that she makes the trip to Milwaukee at least three to four times a week during the official season. Her parents carpool with other area players on the team, including North’s Gabby Kiefer and Oshkosh natives Maddie Pung and Allegra Godfrey.
“Honestly, I thought I would get sick (of the trips),” Richards said. “But I got used to the two-hour ride. I would get to Oshkosh and get in another car and do homework until we exited in Milwaukee. Then I had to get myself ready because in my subconscious I knew that I had to play soccer.”
“The (long drives) didn’t really bother me. There were times where I didn’t want to go and I was glad that I did.”
Richards also gave up playing tennis at North so that she could concentrate on soccer. Add in the additional five or six hours in terms of travel and practice and free time is almost nonexistent for Richards.
And that includes school-sponsored events that are important moments in every teen’s life.
“I didn’t get to go to homecoming or the homecoming game because I had a tournament in Phoenix,” she said. “On some weekends, I’d have a game in St. Louis or Minneapolis and then when I got home on Sunday, I was doing homework.”
But with up to 200 collegiate coaches at some of these showcases, the chances are amplified that someone might like what they see with Richards and her soccer ability.
A conversation with a Big Ten soccer coach got the ball rolling for Richards.
“I was actually talking with the Northwestern soccer coach and asking him what I could to get on the radar and he told me to look into the ECNL,” Richards said. “He said the Wisconsin team is coached by Christian Lavers and that would help me get on his radar. So I looked into and tried out for the team.”
While securing a soccer scholarship is something paramount on the mind of Richards, she does plan on returning to the tennis court next fall for her senior year.
“It’s my senior year and I’d like to play tennis again,” she said. “I had fun with the girls I played with and it was a fun sport and I was pretty good at it. (Not going out her senior year) was something I would regret.”
Appleton North and Kimberly boys’ track and field: Wednesday, 7 p.m. Alexander Rink (Kimberly) and Max Edwards (Appleton North) visit us on the big show to talk about their season and everything track at postcrescent.com.
Kelly Conn, St. Mary Central girls’ soccer: Thursday’s edition in print and online. Kelly talks about her standing as one of the top girls’ soccer players in the area, along with her favorites from athletes to the entertainment world.
Tweets of the week
“Good thing its snowing. I don’t wanna play softball anyways #sarcasm #ugh.” — Hortonville softball player Olivia Baehman, @mugsybaehman
“Two things a girl wants: 1, lose weight; 2, Eat … all the time.” Neenah girls’ soccer player Liz Darkow, @LizDarkow3
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCRicardo