RVC's McKenna Finds Success Through LIJSL Programs
January 29, 2015 | by Ken Ilchuk
It was this past Thanksgiving that Sarah McKenna noticed a real change in her son Jack. Once a quiet, shy high-schooler struggling to build self-esteem, he had come home from Thomas College in Maine with four friends in tow for the holiday. He was also doing well in school, and had just finished a successful soccer season. That last piece was the spark for Jack. His mother, and Pat Grecco, who as the LIJSL College Bound Director had helped direct him to Thomas College, were sure of it.
“I am so proud of my son,” Sarah said recently in a letter to Pat. “His coach called him the other day to congratulate him on his hard work, and my Christmas present was him passing math!”
“When I first began talking with Jack he didn't have a strong GPA or strong SAT scores, had little self-confidence and was struggling with his self-esteem,” said Grecco. “But soccer was the one positive thing he had going for him. So once we started developing his recruiting process and coaches began to contact him, I noticed his voice got stronger, as did his grades and self esteem.”
To say soccer was a positive might be an understatement. After two years with the Hempstead Soccer Club, where his team made it to the State Cup semi-finals, he moved to Rockville Centre Soccer Club where his U17 Red Devils team was playing in the Northeast Regional Premier League (NERP) under the guidance of former college and professional coach Tim Bradbury. He also spent three years in the LIJSL PDP Program, playing in the UCONN training program under the direction of Ray Reid and top tournaments like the Score at the Shore and Pocono Cup. He played his high school ball at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, where he was a two-year starter and earned all-conference honors, scoring nine goals and three assists while leading his team to the Nassau County finals both years.
“I had the pleasure of getting to know Jack over a few years,” said South Side coach Fred Paul, who played collegiately at Boston College. “Jack started every game as a senior. He fully understands that his success will come as a result of his hard work and dedication. On the soccer field he has tremendous instincts and finishing ability around the goal. I knew that if given the opportunity, Jack would seize the moment and shine.”
At least eight colleges were pursuing McKenna during the recruiting process, but for he and his mom, financial aid and academic support were critical factors in the final decision. Small Thomas College in Waterville, ME, and coach Christopher Parsons made good on a promise of both.
“Money was an issue for Sarah and Coach Parsons made it happen for her and Jack,” Grecco explained. “Jack hit it off with Coach, and he and his mom were assured that he would be given strong academic support and coach would be leading and guiding him not just on the pitch but also in the classroom.”
So with his first math class in the rearview mirror, and his academics in order, things started looking up on the field as well. The Terriers advanced to the NAC Conference Championship Game in November, and McKenna was a key contributor, playing 15 games, with one start, and contributing two goals and two assists.
From the fields of the LIJSL, to growth in the PDP program, to collegiate success on and off the field – that’s a story of change that we can get behind.