Mackenzie Bellows kicks off our #MinorSoccerWeek edition of From the Sidelines
“The confidence that you can develop through sports is something that every girl should experience.”
A trailblazer for female soccer, CMSA alumni Mackenzie Schissel (formerly Mackenzie Bellows) has proven herself at every step of her journey. “I believe the biggest misconception is that female athletes need to be treated and trained differently than male athletes,” says Schissel. “The desire for athletic excellence within a player is the same across the board. Whatever you put into it, you are going to get out and that’s true for male and female athletes.” Fittingly, Mackenzie’s own athletic excellence can hardly be ignored. Following her graduation from Henry Wise Wood High School in 2013, Schissel accepted a scholarship to play midfielder at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. More recently, though, Mackenzie was named head coach of Quincy University’s women’s soccer team, becoming the first female head coach in the program’s history.
Mackenzie is quick to trace success back to her CMSA days. “The very first team I played on was The White Polarbears, a U6 coed team,” says the current QU Hawks women’s soccer coach. “We were a new family to the neighbourhood and my parents wanted me to meet other kids, and I think they also wanted to make friends." Following her time as a White Polarbear, Mackenzie continued her player career, playing with both the SWU and Blizzard programs. Today, Mackenzie credits her past experiences for her current achievements. “My time with CMSA developed my love for the game. I was able to play for two great clubs over my youth career and make countless connections and friendships,” she says. “Most importantly, it kick started my coaching career.”
In her current role, Mackenzie acknowledges the special position she holds. "There’s something different about having a female leader,” she says. “I am in that position right now, being the first female head coach at Quincy University, leading a group where many of these players have never had a female coach.” Mackenzie’s message is as true in Canada as in Illinois where she currently resides—soccer needs more female coaches. “We need more female coaches in the game. There aren’t enough of us, and female soccer desperately needs strong female leaders in our own game.”
Yet, Mackenzie is optimistic, reminding female coaches—and players—there is a lot to look forward to. “Since my days at CMSA, the female game has grown immensely and it will continue to grow,” says Schissel. “The Pro-Am leagues and teams that have been developed on the women’s side of the game have been incredible to see. There are so many more opportunities for female athletes to play past the college level and those opportunities are increasing in Canada.”
Mackenzie remains confident in female soccer development, quickly pointing to the role sports can play in a girl’s life away from the game too. “Sports teaches you so many things. How to work well with others, time management, organizational skills, leadership skills just to name a few. It also gives you confidence outside of the sport as well. The confidence that you can develop through sports is something that every girl should experience,” she says. “Being a soccer player was part of my identity, but I am so much more than just that. I am a leader, I am a great teammate and friend, I am a daughter and a sister, I am ambitious and determined and I am strong enough to get through the hard times.”
Thank you Mackenzie for everything you have done, and continue to do, to grow our sport. Wishing you best as you progress with your career in soccer. Go Hawks!