From sumo suits to goalie gloves: Kaylie Collins is USC Soccer’s spark

first_imgCollins said she would love to be a role model for the younger girls in her family who play soccer; she enjoys seeing her little cousins at her games and has her 10-year-old sister Kelsey time her when she works out back home. McAlpine could hardly think of specific memories because Collins has always brought the same playful exuberance from the moment she arrived at USC. Kaylie Collins didn’t know that her sumo suit was wildly inappropriate given the situation. It was Halloween 2017 and the USC women’s soccer team had arrived at McAlister Field for practice. None of the players knew that head coach Keidane McAlpine was angry at the team. Collins, possibly weighed down by her costume, got on the field just after her teammates — by then, it was too late. Although Collins is obviously a vocal presence on the team, Plumptre said her goalkeeper consistently leads by example, turning her position into a lifestyle. Though Collins may not be satisfied with her performance, McAlpine said he was proud of the work she has put in the last three years. The goalkeeper position is difficult, and McAlpine emphasized that it takes a lot of reps and film study to build the muscle memory and understanding of the position necessary to succeed at the college level. However, with Collins, it’s only so long before things get goofy. Plumptre remembers when she, Collins, Petredes and redshirt junior forward/defender Samantha Bruder drove to a random parking lot to shoot impromptu music videos last semester. For example, in another Halloween episode the next year, Collins and senior midfielder Daria Petredes dressed up as McAlpine and associate head coach Jason Lockhart. She was unfazed by the previous year’s debacle and her bravery paid off, earning McAlpine’s seal of approval for the costumes. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2016, Collins was named the team’s culture committee leader in 2017, a role she still holds today. Her job is to create an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone on the team, with special attention placed on making new players feel welcome. It says a lot about Collins’ enthusiastic personality that a redshirt freshman was put in charge of team chemistry, and McAlpine said it was a perfect fit from the beginning. Despite her poor timing, Collins’ friendliness and energy was well-received by the team. Kaylie Collins “We were just talking to her the other day about how sharp she looks, how you can tell it’s making sense mentally,” he said. “The game has slowed down for her so she’s in the right places, her communication is better. She’s way more dialed in and explosive.” Senior midfielder Ashleigh Plumptre joined the program at the same time as Collins and is also part of the culture committee. She said she and Collins made an effort to ensure there was no age-based hierarchy on the team. The duo tries to schedule social events where players can experience Los Angeles together. From ice cream outings to beach days, Collins and Plumptre work hard so that teammates know each other as people rather than just as players. “Family is huge, and it’s the same thing as having a teammate come out and time you,” Collins said. “I think everyone on this team has that switch in their brain where they’ve come from tight-knit families, they get on this team and they treat it like one.” “[Collins is] easy to talk to, very welcoming, great energy, super friendly… so it lends itself well for those younger players and new players coming into the team to have an upperclassman, in particular one who has excelled and done so well on the field, to have that person be the one to welcome you and give you that much attention. It puts them at ease and helps them start off the right way.” Head coach Keidane McAlpine In fact, it’s one of the unifying forces on a Trojan squad that has been one of the best in the nation since she arrived in 2016. The redshirt junior goalkeeper is already accomplished on the field — she was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team in 2017 and was the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year last season — but perhaps her biggest impact has come from her role as a supportive teammate and leader. “We would play this song and everyone had their own move, so we made a dance video with the car in the background,” Plumptre said. “And we would be on the car. It was like our prop, and we’d make different music videos.” Redshirt junior Kaylie Collins implements mindfulness into her pre-game and practice routines, a habit that has helped her build confidence and improve her performance between the goalposts. (Kevin Fohrer | Daily Trojan) “She’s easy to talk to, very welcoming, great energy, super friendly,” McAlpine said. “So it lends itself well for those younger players and new players coming into the team to have an upperclassman, in particular one who has excelled and done so well on the field, to have that person be the one to welcome you and give you that much attention. It puts them at ease and helps them start off the right way.” “It’s good to keep having that model I can look back to and mirror,” Collins said of Prudhomme. “That redshirt year was everything for me, and I’m so glad that I get to stay another two seasons because I don’t feel like I’ve reached [my peak] yet.” “Last year I thought I could’ve been so much cleaner, and I take responsibility for that,” she said. “I think coming up this year I’m ready to prove to myself that I do deserve those awards at some point. I feel ready.” Collins is going above and beyond; she has become a proponent of the mindfulness movement in her pregame routine. It’s important for her to visualize positive results so she can not only improve but also stay calm through mistakes and move onto the next play. She credits the new approach as a reason for her continued success. Collins remembers sitting out with an ankle injury in the past and watching her fellow goalkeepers’ reps. Evaluating the position from afar was just as impactful as her participation in drills. McAlpine believes that Collins’ ability to galvanize her teammates comes from her experience growing up in a tight-knit family. Though Collins is from a small town in Northern California called Clayton, she welcomes plenty of fans at every game since she holds close relationships with her extended family in Southern California. “She has to communicate well as a goalkeeper, but she looks after herself well off the field. She’s always the one in the training room, she’s always doing extra recovery,” Plumptre said. “She’s super healthy, eats right and is always checking in with our nutritionist.” Collins cited her redshirt season as a crucial step in her development. She had the chance to learn under senior goalkeeper and future professional Sammy Jo Prudhomme in a season in which Prudhomme was named 2016 Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year. Most importantly, the Trojans won the national championship that season, an invaluable experience for Collins. “I run out in my sumo suit and everyone is looking at me like ‘Kaylie, no,’” Collins said, laughing. “And I’m like ‘Guys, it’s Halloween!’ I’m jumping up and down in my sumo suit, and then we all get in a circle two minutes later and we find out we’re just going to run the whole practice.” “It’s hard to encapsulate in words. You walk in and she’s just like a firecracker,” he said. “On game day she’s bouncing around, dancing, really energetic, and I think that’s contagious. Any time you get that type of energy from one of your leaders it’s hard to feel down.” It’s not all laughs and jokes with Collins, though. Her mix of talent and dedication has made her one of the more decorated goalkeepers in the nation even with two remaining seasons of eligibility, but her drive to get better means she is more frustrated by the accolades than proud of them. “I’m at the point right now where I feel like I can get to a game, sit on the sidelines, go through the warmup in my head and feel ready to go,” she said. “That’s what I want to be able to do, is have that much power of doing it in my own head and being a controller of my thoughts … For a goalkeeper, it’s so important.” Collins’ experiences on and off the field have always been defined by confidence: the confidence to be outgoing, the confidence that unlocks her top performance in goal. Her confidence is at an all-time high, and, heading into a season where the Trojans have national title hopes, that’s exactly where it needs to be.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *