Striker Racheal Quigley is a known quantity back home in the W-League thanks to five years with Adelaide United and there has been a meeting of shared ambitions as the 22-year-old became part of the opening chapter of the exciting and rapidly progressive Women’s Premier Soccer League team, the Kansas City Shock.
The WPSL runs in the US during the summer and has five conferences and over 70 participating teams. The league’s players include high school, college, post-college and overseas talents, and with her time in the W-League Racheal is arguably the WPSL’s most well-established example in the case of the latter. She has spent her time since May with the Kansas City Shock, one of the new teams in the league this year and one with an intriguing story, backed up by a sense of forward momentum that is pretty much impossible not to admire.
Innovation is central to what the Shock are doing and how they came about, and so too is social media. We will hear from CEO Shawn Daugherty on the ideals he believes in and the incredible reaction that his vision for the program has had in its relatively young life to date. Racheal, who won the W-League Goal of the Year in 2011/12 for her overhead kick against Perth Glory, takes up the story of how her Shock adventure in the Great Plains originated.
“It all started with Twitter! Last year, right before my Adelaide United season started, my mum (Beverley Quigley) was connected with the Shock owner (Shawn Daugherty) when he put out his very first idea of the Shock in a tweet.
“Mum responded briefly questioning if Shawn was interested in recruiting overseas players, as she knew it was always a dream of mine to travel with soccer. We stayed in contact all through my W-League season and at the end I was asked to put a highlights video together of my previous season.
“I emailed the link of my YouTube video to the coach of the Shock on a Monday night and received an email the next morning congratulating me on my selection into the team. From that point it went from being a distant dream to a reality.
“There were a lot of issues that needed to be looked at, the main being money. I had just been bankrupted from the dentist and I have a car loan with weekly payments!
“Fortunately, I have some really amazing parents, they are definitely not rich but when it comes to their kids they will do anything to make my brother and myself happy. I am so grateful to have the parents I do and I will repay them…one day!”
Adelaide-born Racheal was a five-year-old when she started playing but had to be on the boys’ teams until she was 12. State competitions then followed and she has played alongside Australian international forwards and two previous interviewees on this site, the Boston Breakers’ Kyah Simon and Samantha Kerr of Western New York Flash. Racheal harbours a very strong desire to represent her country at senior level, having been part of the Young Matildas after finishing as top scorer in the Under-17 national competition in 2008.
The focus around a community and a sub-culture has been huge in attracting people to the Shock and it was something Racheal was eager to play her part in. Nevertheless, it was an obstacle initially to venture into new territory but the dynamics of the group once she arrived, plus some local cuisine, soon allayed any potential difficulties!
“It was very scary to start with as it is the first time I’ve travelled alone. Besides the hiccup of my flight to America being cancelled it was a pretty smooth trip over.
“The biggest thing to blow my mind is driving on the right side of the road. Going to the car from the airport I honestly thought my housemate was going to make me drive when she headed to the left side of the car!
“The things I love most here are definitely the people and the barbecue. Everyone is so friendly and within the first week I had already made best friends and the family I live with honestly do make me feel like part of the family.
“Now the barbecue, tastes so freaking good! My favourite place in KC is definitely Blanc Burgers, they look after us KC Shock girls and every Monday after our home games they treat us to the best burgers I have ever had.”
A big part of the stories on here is to show how music comes in to the feelings and life experiences of the interview subject. Racheal certainly finds a place for it when her preparations for a game are being made and one of the numerous memories to take away from this time with the Shock, whether there is another stay with them to come or not, centres on her teammates’ song choices.
“Music is important to me in general but even more so come game day. Before a game I want to be happy and pumped, Paramore has quite a lot of songs that get me fired up for games such as ‘Looking Up’ and ‘Where The Lines Overlap’.
“Before I’m getting ready to go out to the field I need to have some kind of killer beat, which comes in some Calvin Harris and Avicii! I honestly listen to all kinds of music except country, I’ve gone through stages of different genres growing up, from Usher and Chris Brown, down to some punk rock/screamo music such as Cartel, The Used and Emarosa.
“My all-time favourite band is Paramore, I fell in love with their music when I was 14/15. They helped me get through my teenage years and I get hooked on every single one of their albums.
“I reckon I would’ve been about 7 to 8 when I bought my first CD, which was a Backstreet Boys album along with a Spice Girls album! They were definitely my favourite groups growing up!
“OK so I am 22 and I am putting it out there that I am a proud Belieber! Since the very beginning from watching Justin Bieber on YouTube I was in love, his songs just get me going and they are constantly in my head!
“My Shock girls really did shock me! I’m not gonna lie, I thought they were gonna be into country music!
“They like the complete opposite though, the majority of girls in the team love r&b and rap. All the girls are so gangster when it comes down to rapping!”
Racheal has been in the W-League with Adelaide United since its beginning and she won the Lady Reds’ Most Valuable Player award in 2009. One of her defensive teammates at the club is someone who means more than most to her, and when discussing the role of choosing the team’s pre-match playlist Racheal also described one of the ways they have kept in contact during this time apart.
“Back home my best mate Cassie Tsoumbris and myself would usually take over the DJ job, we both have the same taste in music and have ever since we have grown up together. Even now being miles away from each other we still share sick beats together through a phone app called WhatsApp.”
Earlier this month, Western New York Flash’s Sam Kerr discussed her own music love on here and mentioned the guitar and vocal capabilities of Sydney FC goalkeeper Sian McLaren. Racheal is very much in agreement and she also reveals that a singer now in the male/female duo Escapades after TV fame was a fellow footballer once upon a time.
“So many of my friends back home have great voices and love to jam out together around a guitar. Growing up and playing in state teams alongside Sian McLaren was awesome, she is such a talented girl and being around her when she sang made me so happy!
“I also got the privilege to play alongside Kiki Courtidis. Kiki kicked off her career being in the top 10 singers on a popular television show called ‘Popstars’ in 2004.
“She has continued to build her music career ever since and still had time to come kick the round ball with me back home! She is a very inspirational person and I think many people should get behind this amazing girl.”
This has undoubtedly been an extremely memorable first season for the Shock and the reasons for that extend far beyond the results on the pitch, but the way they have competed has been very commendable too. Under head coach Wendy Louque the team has played against sides from Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio in the Midwest Conference, reaching the Midwest Play-offs. The Shock’s season came to an end on July 13th after a 4-2 defeat to Fire and Ice S.C. despite goals from Allie Hemmen and Mika Mihajlovic.
The Shock as a program is built upon the foundations of what the people want to see and being inclusive is of such importance. Racheal offers her perspective of what this was like to be in the middle of and also on the playing side in relation to what she has been used to in Australia.
“Like a lot of the teams I’ve been in, this team has so much character. Being the first year the Shock has been together, it’s new for everyone and from the start we all clicked on and off the field.
“Our team is built up of so many different types of people, we have players from all over the States and a bunch of internationals from Scotland, Jamaica, Serbia and even Mexico. So most funny stories are based around the different accents and slang from each place – everyone struggles with the Aussie accent that’s for sure!
“From the very first training session I have loved every minute of play. The style of play isn’t much different to back home but the conditions are – it gets so humid here!
“Also playing on turf is new to me, I only ever played on it twice in Australia so it has taken a lot to get used to, especially in such hot conditions! The team itself is so passionate and hard-working, it breathes new life into me and I love it!”
Kansas City as a place has a lot of unique characteristics and the aim behind the Shock is to do justice to these qualities. The reasoning behind the decision to start out as a WPSL team was to ensure that it was not only financially viable but also for there to be the freedom to be creative. Shawn Daugherty is the CEO in his official title but the Shock is the idea he conjured up and what he and some absolutely invaluable others have come together to create.
Putting the idea of a women’s team in the area out to people on Twitter, Shawn received a terrific level of interest and the Shock’s Twitter account was where the whole project was emanating from. He wanted to get a community on board so there could be a soccer team in its back yard for them to support and switch off from their worries for a couple of hours each week to watch and be involved with. Ultimately, the Shock will go as far as the people will determine but the early signs are as encouraging as could be, and Shawn describes his feelings at this stage of the story.
“It’s been a whirlwind, the organisation as a whole is easily the thing I’m most proud of. The staff, players, and coaches, the day that they stepped onto the field in May of this year was when the critics were silenced and we became real to the world.
“Additionally, it’s worth noting how insanely supportive the startup community of Kansas City has been. It’s thrilling to know that one of our first missions has already been accomplished; we’re not seen as a charity, we’re not seen as the extension of a youth club, we are a living, breathing for-profit business.
“I think that’s something women’s soccer has drastically missed in its identity over the years.”
Sport unifies people and contains the most astounding sub-plots at times. Tales of personal ambition, heartache, ironic and downright cruel twists of fate, and of course triumph. The emotion comes from feeling within you that you are part of something, whether you are out there in the action, watching from the sideline, or feeling every bit of joy and pain as a supporter. It can often take an incredibly testing moment for good to be the end result and when you hear Shawn’s story and how it has led him to this fantastic venture it is surely possible for anyone to appreciate that sentiment.
“I had been divorced, I was homeless, and I had lost everything. I needed sanctuary, a safe haven to restart my life.
“That was only two years ago. I was kicked out of my home church when I moved back home with my parents in 2011; I was very alone.
“However, one small group of people, with nothing to their name, in a small church in the middle of nowhere showed me compassion in ways that I can’t describe in words. I just want to repeat the process in soccer.
“There’s gifts in each person, everyone has the ability to be great, but only when given the opportunity to do so. The legacy of a program won’t always be in the dollars grabbed, but also in the ways that it reaches out and touches all people of a community.
“The players have had a massive role in this area – we were represented by seven different countries, and from every walk of life. There are stories of these players that would break your heart.
“Parents giving everything they had, parents not even being in their lives, abuse, heartache, being told they’re not even worth trying out for specific programs. I heard everything from all of them.
“If you want my drive, that’s it. Finding the diamonds in the rough, finding the ones that have been forgotten because of things off the field, not necessarily their play on the field.
“It’s a challenging stance to have, but it’s one that’s always worth taking.”
Followers of the Shock will by now be familiar with the ‘#shocktheworld’ hashtag and motto that has caught on and also ‘#project813’ that is for now under wraps but will be highly significant in pushing the program on to the next level and then some. Shawn’s endeavour is infectious in the extreme and for those who have embraced the Shock so far as fans and for those who will do so in the future, he has this message.
“When you dare to be different, and expect to shock the world, be careful. You’ll wind up getting exactly that.”
As one of the players and personalities who will go down as being in Kansas City Shock’s very first group, Racheal is wholly thankful for the opportunity she has had. At 22, she has a significant amount of experience but there is so much more to come and her personal story can go in almost any direction from here. Plans are already being made for the Shock’s 2014 season and this is certainly one of the possibilities Racheal would consider when the time comes around.
“This experience has honestly been amazing, it has really made me appreciate the game so much. Just to have had this opportunity with the Shock has been a blessing and it’s really kicked me up the butt to work hard towards everything I’ve always wanted.
“I feel like I’ve gained a whole lot of confidence as a player and a person. The next part of my journey is playing in the W-League for my sixth season, in which I will also be reaching my 50th cap in the league.
“At the moment I am training towards playing for Adelaide United again but I am open to other opportunities. After the W-League I will definitely be looking to travel overseas again, whether I get another opportunity with the Shock or another team, I will be keeping my options open.”
In 2008, Racheal scored five goals in the AFC Under-20 qualifiers for her country and with the continued dedication she puts into her career and the vast benefits she has gained from her US journey there is no reason why she cannot make the move she wants more than any other – to be a full international player.
“All these steps are hopefully leading me in the right direction to my dream of playing for the Matildas. I’ve wanted it since I was a young girl and I’ve had ups and downs through my fight to get there, but I feel that I’ve taken a real positive step and I’m closer to reaching my goal.
“Honestly, my whole life I have lived and breathed soccer. I’m 22 and still have a long life ahead of me, but I’m keeping my eyes open on other careers I would like.
“Nothing is impossible and anything can happen, maybe one day I can get a breakthrough singing or acting! For now I’m living my dream.”
Choices that are made don’t always work out as planned for all kinds of reasons, but sometimes you just get it right, and it truly works. Racheal’s time with the Shock may just be a brief association but the connection is there for good now. This chapter in her career and in the life of KC Shock was when dreams came together – a young player with talent and ambition, and a women’s team that could be around for years to come. The real fulfilment of some of those dreams may still be some way in the distance but in this little spell of time those paths were as one.
It could be remarkable to witness how Racheal and the Shock’s stories play out from here but for the journey we have gone through in this interview at least, Racheal gets the last word. She gets to add her 5-a-side team to the others chosen on this site and for anyone who is reading it for the first time the rule is she has to pick her four best career teammates so far to play alongside her. This is where she took it with her response!
“Keeper, Sian McLaren – I grew up with Macca throughout my teenage state comp years and I’ve seen this girl do some crazy stuff! There isn’t anybody else I trust back there more than her.
“Defender, Di Alagich – Di has been my inspiration since I was a young’un! She has been my all-time favourite Matilda and in the very first W-League season I had the honour of playing alongside her for our hometown team Adelaide United.
“Midfielder, Ruth Wallace – fellow Adelaide United player that I have seen grow as a player and a person. Ruthie and myself combine good together on and off the field, we feed off each other’s enthusiasm and together we not only play well but have so much fun!
“Striker, Kyah Simon – played alongside this girl in the young Matildas in 2008 and there is no doubt she is crazy talented! I loved every chance I got to play beside her and I hope I get the opportunity again.”