By Holly Shan
Olivia McDonald, a 17-year-old soccer player from Whitianga, will set to embark on a 16-day soccer trip to the United States on 27 March. She will play as a striker for the New Zealand Secondary Schools Girls Football team in her first international tournament. “It’s my first international tournament and of the eighteen going, I am the only one from Waikato. So, I'm really excited to see what the competition is like and how football is played outside New Zealand. I have only ever played in New Zealand against New Zealanders. I'm looking forward to experiencing different styles of football, “said Olivia.
Olivia had a Zoom call with other team members to introduce themselves to each other, and she finds it fascinating that they come from all over the country. As the only one from Waikato, Olivia is eager to meet her new teammates in person when they arrive in the US. To help the team know one another and be able to play as a team, they will have some training games with local college teams before the tournament.
Although Olivia's trip to the USA was partially funded, there were still considerable funds to be found. She saved some pocket money and worked as a surf lifeguard the last two years of her summer holidays, “I earned quite a lot”, she said proudly. In addition, her parents have contributed to the cost of the trip. Olivia was also grateful to receive financial assistance from the Op-shop of St Andrews by the Sea and the Whitianga Lions Club. To secure the funding, Olivia wrote email letters to Mrs Preece, the Secretary of the church, and then to Jeanette Russell from Whitianga Lions Club, explaining her situation and her goals and asking for their help. She was extremely grateful to receive a generous donation from both organizations and the financial assistance has been significant in helping make her trip possible. She has a little way to go yet but believes it will all work out.
Olivia has been a Mercury Bay Area School student and was a member of the school's football team. Last year, she received a scholarship to St Peters School Cambridge, where she plays soccer for the school's first XI and the Hamilton Wanderers Women's team. “I have had the dream of wanting to be a professional football player and that dream became a possibility for me when I came to boarding school. That’s when I had more opportunities to do training and hard competition. Mum was driving me to Hamilton from Whitianga for training every week and then again for games.”
She wants to thank Geoff Horton and Shane Comber of Whitianga who played important roles in her success. Geoff Horton was her coach at Mercury Bay, and she says he gave her a solid foundation in football and taught her a lot. ‘Shane has helped me get into the Hamilton club from the Mercury Bay Club and played a key role in getting me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of Geoff and Shane.”
Olivia hopes this trip will be the first step toward attending a college in the United States and reaching her goal of playing for an American team while studying. “This tournament will definitely increase my chance of getting into a USA college,” says Olivia. “There will be scouts observing and that will help get my name out there more.” You need to have footage of yourself playing football, otherwise you won’t even be considered, and the tournament will help me with that footage. There’s a company that helps you communicate with the colleges and with putting your name forward.
Football is so big in America and there are lot of opportunities available for women’s football.”
While she hasn't made a final decision, Olivia is eager to go as far as she can in football, see where it takes her, and then make decisions about her future.
Caption: Olivia is playing at the NZ secondary schools tournament in Taupo last year for St Peter’s first XI.