The long, arduous college recruiting process is not for everyone.
Untold hours of practices and games. Traveling across the country to showcases and ID camps. Countless conversations with coaches. Fickle interest from schools.
But the end result is worth it, particularly for Kyle Healy.
The senior has committed to the University of Cincinnati, accepting a scholarship offer to play soccer for the Bearcats while continuing his academic career, likely majoring in business.
"Cincinnati is a great academic and athletic fit," Healy said. "It's close to home, too. It's a great school with great student life. I know some kids going to Cincinnati, and I'm excited to make new friends and fit in with the community, particularly through service and soccer."
The journey to this point was a lengthy one for Healy.
Healy began his Saint Ignatius career on the JV B squad as a freshman. His voyage continued as a sophomore on Jim Brennan's JV A squad before Healy received the call-up to the varsity squad. Healy enjoyed the 2016 state championship season, earning some playing time and a varsity letter.
Healy's game evolved more during his junior year. The Westlake native saw more playing time and started to show offensive prowess with the varsity Wildcats. His skills started to attract the eyes of college coaches.
In the offseason, Healy trained for his important senior season. His teammates voted him captain, placing extra weight on his shoulders. Healy burdened the responsibility well, showcasing strong leadership capabilities leading into the 2018 campaign.
As the season started, the hard work of drawing interest from schools continued.
"It's a very long process. It's a lot of work to play Division I soccer. If you want to play, you need to put in a lot of work," Healy said. "It's constantly calling coaches, setting out your schedule, and playing well when they're there. You also have to play well at camps and ID camp. After one game they want to recruit you, but after another, they don't want you. It's very hard. Many people quit during the middle of it. But you have to stick with it."
Healy stuck with it well, producing well on and off the field. Healy guided a maturing Wildcats team through trips to Jamaica and New York, navigating adversity along the way.
At season's end, the Wildcats fell just short of the team's ultimate goal – a state championship. But Healy and the Soccer Cats had plenty to be proud of after an excellent season.
As for Healy, he finished the 2018 season with 10 goals and 5 assists (25 points) in 22 starts and 1,511 minutes. Healy originated some special moments, including an awe-inspiring free kick goal against St. Edward.
"Kyle's senior season was a tremendous season for him personally and the team," said Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85. "The success and culture we saw last year was created in part by Kyle and his leadership skills. He worked really hard every day. He set a great tone for the rest of the players and he realized his role as a senior leader. You could tell he wanted to do something special. He was fun to watch."
Indeed, Healy was a marvel for the Wildcats during his career. Healy tallied 14 goals and 10 assists over the span of 3,331 minutes on the pitch for the Wildcats.
Plenty of schools came calling during and after Healy's special senior season. For Healy, the difficult part was discovering which school wanted him the most.
Strong schools such as Ohio State, Dayton, and St. John's showed interest along the way. These schools intrigued him, but a Saint Ignatius soccer connection ultimately opened up a perfect opportunity.
Healy met Devan Anderson through Coach McLaughlin. Anderson is a well-traveled and well-known person in the soccer world. Anderson leads the soccer program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), among other soccer ventures. Anderson became connected with Saint Ignatius soccer when his son, Devar '21, chose Wildcat High. Last summer, Devan helped McLaughlin to plan the team's preseason soccer and service trip to Jamaica.
During the recruiting process, Anderson introduced Healy to his friend and fellow Jamaican native, Hylton Dayes. A 26-year veteran head coach, Dayes immediately took interest in Healy's game and showed genuine interest in the young midfielder.
"The coaches at Cincinnati are good coaches and people. They were nice, and honest, with me. They told me I would be a good fit," Healy said. "When I visited, I loved the campus, with its college town feel next to a big city. Having FC Cincinnati in the MLS and a huge soccer community that's starting to prosper and grow also helped."
In the end, UC was the perfect fit. Healy will be the first Soccer Cat in school history to play for the Bearcats. And according to Coach McLaughlin, Healy will do great things at Cincinnati.
"Kyle is comfortable on the ball. Because of that comfort, he can read the ball at a high level," McLaughlin said. "Kids like that can play a lot of different positions. He was critical running the show in the middle of the field. He was the organizer and the playmaker. He sped things up when it was time to speed up, and slowed things down when it was time to slow it down. And he had several important PKs for us throughout the season. Part of that is the courage and desire to step up in the moment and put the team on his back. He did that."
Healy is certainly up for the challenge.
However, Healy will definitely miss wearing the blue and gold at Saint Ignatius.
"Saint Ignatius soccer meant a lot. To represent the Wildcats and the players before me has been great," Healy said. "The tradition and brotherhood at Saint Ignatius soccer is something you don't get at any other high school. Many people play for themselves at other places. But here, every game you want to help your teammates have a memorable time and win for them. You play for your brothers. Our tradition is something you'll never get at another high school."
Before heading off to the next level, Healy wants to thank a number of people in his life.
"Most importantly, I want to thank my family – they have been the biggest for me. For them to take time out of their lives to help me travel and achieve my goal is so special, I can't describe it. I have to pay that back somehow. They've always been with me through the process," Healy said. "I definitely want to thank my friends who have always supported me and asked me how it's going. They always made the best student sections at our games, that was fun. I thrived off that, I loved seeing them there.
"I also want to thank my coaches – Coach Mike, my club coach, and Coach Anderson. I've learned a lot of things from them to help me get to the next level. And finally, my teammates. They pushed me every day to make me the best I can be."
Healy will certainly be missed in the Saint Ignatius program. His character, inspired leadership, and joyful attitude is not easily be replaced.
But Wildcats fans can take solace in the fact that Healy will only be about four hours south in Cincy, moving on to bigger and better things.
"Kyle has been an outstanding member for the last four years. To watch him grow and mature into who he is today has been a real pleasure. He embodies what we hope to create in a Saint Ignatius student-athlete," McLaughlin said. "Cincy is a great fit for him. It's not too far away, and it's a high-level program. We're excited to watch him grow and develop at the collegiate level."
On behalf of Saint Ignatius athletics, congratulations, Kyle!