As Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team (CANWNT) suits up for the 2023 FIFA World Cup Australia & New Zealand this summer, Ontario Soccer is highlighting the 15 players on the roster that were born and/or raised in the province we call home. Our “Made in Ontario” campaign aims to celebrate youth clubs across the province and inspire current players in the Ontario Soccer system to dream big.
In this special World Cup-inspired Q&A article, Ontario Soccer sat down with Kadeisha Buchanan who debuted for the CANWNT in 2013. This iconic defender was the FIFA Women’s World Cup Best Young Player in 2015. Buchanan was also named Canadian Player of the Year in 2015, 2017 and 2020. Last year, ESPN had her ranked as the 26th best women’s soccer player in the world.
We also sat down with Kadeisha’s former coach, Cyprian McFarlane, who worked with a number of CANWNT stars in their youth and currently works as an Athletic Scholarships and Recruiting Expert. Find out McFarlane’s number one tip for players who want to take their career to the next level:
Thank you so much for joining us today. To start off, why don't you give us a little bit of an introduction? How did you get into soccer - did you play when you were younger? Then a little bit about how you got into your coaching career?
Well, I played when I was younger and then I went a little bit of a different route when I was 19. One summer I decided, OK, I wanted to coach. Then I coached House League, and then the House League team became All Star and then All Star became Rep. I coached boys for the first five years of my career and then I moved over to coaching girls in 1995, and then the rest, they say is history. From coaching anywhere from mini soccer players, all the way up to university.
As a coach, when you have a player in their youth career, can you tell at that level that a player is going to make it as far as the World Cup? I know you've coached Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan, Quinn... With those players, and any other high-level soccer players that you've had over the years, is that something that you can see from a really young age or is it something that they grow into as they play?
Well, as you said, I had the pleasure of coaching Ashley and Keisha when they were very young players. I was the mini soccer technical director at Brams United when they were 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, in that bracket there. It's been a while now, you know, over 30 years.
To answer your question in terms of that group or that pool of players born in that age bracket – yeah. There are some times when you can just tell that kids are just cut from a different cloth. They're just different in terms of, you know, their game intelligence, their technical ability, technical awareness at that young age where you can see that that they've definitely got something. You don't have a crystal ball to know. You don’t know if they're going to be representing Canada at some point. But you know, like I said, I've been blessed in my career to coach some kids that are just heads and shoulders up above other kids.
I want to get into your time working with Kadeisha Buchanan specifically, how old was she? I know it was a while back, but how old was she when you first started coaching her? Tell us a little bit about the time you spent with her as an athlete.
Well, it was two separate occasions. The first occasion was when I was at Brams United when they were mini soccer players - we called them ‘mini soccer players,’ but the rules have changed now. When they were that young, or that age or stage, they played on the full field, actually. They didn't play ‘mini soccer.’
So, my first interaction, if you want to call it, with [Kadeisha] was at the U10 age group because she came in a year after I started in that mini soccer role, so it was the U10. I guess my first memory of her was that she hadn't played organized soccer before. She just played sort of in the backyard with her family and friends. And yeah, I remember her as we were training in the gym at Cardinal Leger in Brampton. And, you know, she was just running around. At that time, we had them a little bit more disciplined in terms of understanding, you know, how to stay in their spot or stay in their position. But yeah, I definitely remember her coming in and then just being, you know, a real little spark plug there, right? And yeah, that that was my first memory that she was just all over the place.
Before I let you go, I know that while serving as a soccer coach, you've also had a career as an athletic scholarships and recruiting expert. There’s lot of young athletes in our community with dreams and goals outside of the Ontario soccer system - whether it be a collegiate scholarship or to play in the World Cup like these ladies we’ve been talking about.
So, with all of your experience as a coach and a recruiting expert, what would be the one piece of advice that you give to every young athlete who has aspirations in their career beyond the amateur level?
Ohh boy. One piece of advice is: Don't strive to blend in. Strive to stand out. In my experience coaching, sometimes coaching females or whatnot, right, they're afraid to step outside and just, if you want to call it, be a better version of themselves, or be the best versions of themselves, right? And, you know, a collegiate friend of mine said, you come to a game and a blind man should be able to see who the best player is on the field.
It's OK for a male to show some bravado, to show some swagger, right? To show some self-confidence, right? And sometimes I think we condition our females to sort of, you know, not to be like that, don't brag, or don't have that self-confidence. So, my big piece of advice is look to stand out and look to be better. Anytime that they're competing - whether you're a midfielder, whether you're playing in the youth environment, a pay-to-play environment - strive to be the best you can at your position and always look to compete. You're going to go from an environment where you're the best player on your team, but you go to other environments where everybody was the best player on their team, right? And then now you have to find a way to stand out and then be the best of the best.
That's great advice, and I think that's a great note for us to end on. So, thank you so much Cyprian for being with us here today. Congratulations on all of your coaching success stories.
Next, we had a chance to speak directly with Kadeisha Buchanan about her time playing youth soccer in Ontario all the way to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Kadeisha Buchanan, welcome to the show. How are things going in Australia as you prepare for the Women's World Cup?
Things are going great. The weather has been amazing to play in and just to chill. We're pretty close to the beach. It's nice to get a walk down by the water. It's been pretty intense, but also pretty calm at the same time, so we're getting a good balance.
Well, thank you so much for joining us on the Made in Ontario podcast today. We want to talk to you a little bit about your upbringing in the Ontario Soccer system. So, to start us off today, how about you tell us a little bit about growing up in Ontario and when soccer became a part of your life?
I was born in Toronto, then I lived there about 5 years. I mainly grew up in Brampton and I did live in Mississauga for quite some time, so yeah. I know a little bit about Ontario, been around the block a few times. But yeah, I think it's fun. My family's there. I think Ontario is definitely like a football province. There's a lot of great teams, a lot of great soccer teams that play. I remember growing up, there's a lot of great teams like Wexford, Oakville Soccer, Erin Mills. Obviously, Brampton was the number one! I just remember just waking up early for soccer, travelling for hours and hours to play, having tournaments, just all the fun things that you know you do when you play soccer.
Absolutely. So, you mentioned your family briefly. From what I’ve read it seems like you come from quite a large family. I wanted to ask you, is soccer something that runs in your family? Or is it something that you chose individually?
Yeah, definitely have a large family and soccer does run - I think we say it ‘runs in our blood.’ Lots of my cousins, uncles, brothers, sisters, we all played soccer at one point in our lives. So, my earliest memories would be of my father. He's just a local football player, but he's well known because he played in, like almost every single league. He’ll play in the Spanish League, he'll play in the Scarborough League, he'll play in a Brampton league. He played everywhere. I just remember him just packing five, six jerseys a day on the weekend and we'll just travel around to every football field, every soccer field. Then we'll just be there for hours and hours and hours.
Kadeisha Buchanan as a youth soccer player // @keishaballa on Instagram
Kadeisha Buchanan as a youth soccer player // @keishaballa on Instagram
What a great memory to have. Speaking of memories, I want to talk a little bit about your time in youth soccer in Ontario. So, at eight-years-old, you joined Brams United Soccer Club in Brampton. As you mentioned, that's where you grew up. So, can you tell us what you remember best about your time with that club? And if there are any coaches, or maybe some other athletes there who have had any kind of impact on you?
Yeah. So. I started playing soccer at eight-years-old at Brams United Soccer Club. I remember playing basically like one full season of indoor, so House League. We played at the Brampton fairgrounds down by Mayfield. And so, I had one indoor season playing for House League and then that summer, when summer came around, I think it was Cyprian McFarlane. I think Ashley [Lawrence]’s mother saw me playing at the Brampton Fairgrounds and she suggested that I should try out for the All Star select team. And I think by that summer, I made the Rep team. So,
I think it was a pretty fast transition from going from House League to playing Rep in about maybe half-a-season. And I think that's because of me training with my father, me just running up and down, playing with other kids while their parents played football. So, I think I was pretty advanced. I mean I didn't know what a position was, like I was just running all over the field. But when I got to Rep, I learned like what is a striker, what is a winger and I got little more studied in that position
OK, and then from your time at Brams United, we know that you moved on to Erin Mills SC for a little while. Can you tell us about any highlights of your time with that club? And any again coaches or athletes there that had an impact on you?
Oh yeah. So, when I was at Brams United, Ashley Lawrence was at Brms United as well, so I met Ashley U9 and played with her ever since. I think Brams United dominated the Ontario Soccer league for many, many years - we had a powerhouse team up until maybe 15-years-old. 15-years-old is when I switched to play for Erin Mills. So, I played for Erin Mills starting at U16, and that team was also stacked. Ashley was on that team, Quinn was on that team, and just many other players that played on the provincial team at that time. So, it was a pretty stacked team leading up into going into college.
From your days in the Ontario Soccer system, we know you went on to have an incredibly successful collegiate run at West Virginia University, and you went pro shortly after that. Nowadays you're playing for one of the world's biggest clubs in Chelsea and of course, Team Canada.
So, Kadeisha, you made your debut for the senior national team back in 2013. That's just about 10 years ago now. Looking back, out of the long list of things you've accomplished in that time, what are some of the things you’re most proud of?
Kadeisha Buchanan suits up for West Virginia University // @keishaballa on Instagram
Yeah, I mean, 10 years is a long, long time. All that couldn’t happen if the women’s team didn’t win bronze. I feel like that was such an inspiring moment for me in my career. Then I end up meeting them maybe six months later, having my first call up for the national team. From then I think my career elevated just because I was playing with the world's best and one of the best soccer players in the world. I think that elevated my game to go on and create probably one of my proudest moments of winning the gold medal at these past Olympic Games. I think that is my most memorable, proudest moment of my career so far.
Kadeisha Buchanan, Nichelle Prince, and Ashley Buchanan celebrate Canada's Olympic bronze in 2016 // @keishaballa on Instagram
Kadeisha Buchanan brings her Olympic gold medal home from Tokyo 2020 // @keishaballa on Instagram
Another proud memory was after the U15 Women's World Cup in Vancouver, after the finals – USA-Japan, crazy game - I was awarded the Young Soccer Player Award in the tournament and my mom was in the stands, so that was also very memorable moment that I will never ever forget.
Club wise, it’s obviously winning Champions League a few times, just winning league titles, just creating memories with friends, long lasting friends, and teammates.
Thank you. Another similar question, looking back at your career, what made it possible for you to take your soccer career from the grassroots level to playing at the absolute highest level possible? What did it take - whether it be mentally or physically or socially - to get you where you are today?
A lot of it is practice. I remember every practice - my teammates can attest - like yes, I joked around a lot, but also, I was serious when needed to be. I think everyone will say that I am pretty light and fun, but when I need to be serious, I'm very serious. So, it's just finding the balance of having fun, enjoying the moment while making sure you are obviously working hard and improving to be better. So, I think those two key things I've always had with me and from when I was young till now.
Well, Kadeisha, the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup is just around the corner, and we know this isn't your first rodeo at the tournament. So, what has the lead up to this tournament been like versus prior years, with the team coming off that gold medal finish at the Olympics?
Probably the biggest difference in this lead up is the amount of games Canada had leading up to the World Cup and the different type of opposition that we have been playing. I think in the past few years a lot of times we might have missed the FIFA window and not done something. Maybe just a camp just to play intersquad. But Bev is a crazy thinker, and she thinks of all the things that can make us better. She planned an international game in every international break, which is key for preparation and just facing different teams. This year we played Nigeria and Australia, and now they're in our group, so I think it's a little bit of coincidence, but it's also a bit of preparation that obviously we knew we're going to face certain type of teams and we've managed to book them in and making sure that we're having a good preparation and have the best knowledge and the confidence I'm going into this FIFA Women's World Cup.
There’s another thing I wanted to ask you about. Obviously, it's a very exciting time for women in soccer, and as you're probably aware, a few months ago, Project 8, led by former Canadian international Diana Matheson, announced the founding of a women's professional soccer league in Canada that's currently slated to launch in 2025. Why do you think this is important for women's soccer in Canada? And how do you think it will change things for future generations?
I'm definitely for Diana Matheson and I think myself and all my teammates are all for Project8 and we want that to happen as soon as possible. I think a league in Canada is obviously important just in terms of foundation, keeping the sport alive, and Canada Soccer in terms of future development. I feel like a lot of the times when you are a young footballer, you want to see women’s football on TV in your country. So, I think that would help inspire a lot of grassroots to stay in Canada. I wish I would have stayed in Canada, I want to stay in Canada, but the opportunity wasn't there. I think Diana Matheson is trying so hard to make that happen and hopefully it will happen. But yeah, I think it's just so important for Canada to have a women’s league.
So, it's obviously way too early to ask, but can your fans ever expect to see you suit up for a Canadian team one day?
Yeah, most definitely. I mean, hopefully my career is long enough to last to when the league is up and running. But yeah, I feel like I’d always want to retire at home. I think there’s probably no better feeling.
Well, thank you again Kadeisha for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us today. You're a Made in Ontario athlete that many soccer players aspire to be like, and I'm sure viewers enjoyed getting to know you a little bit better on today's podcast. I know I did. The Ontario Soccer community wishes you the best of luck in the Women's World Cup. We are rooting for you every step of the way. Thank you so much.
Yes, thank you, Rebecca. Yeah, I really appreciate the talk. Thank you.