We promise, you will not want to miss a word of this interview with former Oklahoma Sooner and Alabama Crimson Tide goalkeeper McKinley Crone. The current professional goalkeeper is in the midst of her first professional season in the NWSL with the Orlando Pride and she took some time out of her busy schedule to share some important advice for aspiring young goalkeepers!
1. You've had a decorated career as a goalkeeper, starting from when you were in high school. When did you start playing the position full-time and what motivated you to continue your career
after high school?
I started playing goalkeeper at the age of 11, but always also played on the field all the way until
my senior year of high school. I did this because I knew that the game required goalkeepers to
be able to play with their feet, and what better way to be good with them than to be in with the
As for motivation, I’ve always been internally motivated to want to be my best. Once I found out
that college soccer was an option, I was going to do everything in my power to do that. The
same translated into college, I wanted to be the best, because I knew that if I was at my best then
my teammates would be at their best, and we would win more.
2. What was the recruiting process like for you? When did you get started and what were some
of the highs and lows of the process?
The recruiting process is a lot different now than when I was going through it. I’m glad there
has been change, because it is benefiting the athletes. My experience with recruiting was at a
pretty young age, and I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do going into college. All I
really knew was I wanted to play soccer.
Some of the highs are obviously getting to see and travel to all the cool places that the schools are at. Another great experience from recruiting is learning how to speak for yourself, and not letting your parents control the conversation or experience. You are the one on your visit, so I learned it was going to be me asking the questions and learning what I needed to know about each school, not what my parents wanted. It made me become very organized very early on.
I think one of the lows though was the pressure to commit. I was being recruited by pretty big name athletic departments, and I didn’t want to disappoint any of them by not coming to their school.
3. You ultimately chose Oklahoma to continue your playing career in college. Why did you
choose that program and what was the transition like to the college game?
I chose Oklahoma because at the time it was the right place to fit my athletic, academic, and
social needs. I was in an environment where I was going to be able to go in and compete for the
starting spot, and that mattered a lot to me.The transition to the college level of play was smooth, thankfully to my club coaches, but what I wasn’t prepared for was that not everyone had the same mindset of “I want to be at my best always.”
4. You spent two seasons at Oklahoma before transferring to Alabama. What was the motivation
behind transferring? What were some of the differences between the two environments and how
do you think both helped you reach the professional level?
One of the biggest motivations for me was the fundamental differences that I had with where the
team was at and where I wanted to be. I had aspirations of winning a conference championship,
competing for a national title; winning. That was not happening at OU, and with two years left
of eligibility at the time I knew it was time for a change.
I think the biggest difference between the two environments was the culture. At Bama, we weren’t perfect when I transferred there. Shoot, you can look at our record; we were far from perfect, but we had a core group of girls who were willing to want to impact and change that culture. Being a part of changing the culture at Bama was an experience I will hold for a lifetime, and take with me into every endeavor that I enter in the future, both athletically, professionally, and socially.
5. After an outstanding collegiate career, you went unselected in the most recent NWSL draft.
What was your reaction like after that and how did you find your way into preseason with the
I was pretty hurt not going drafted. I had a handful of friends selected, and while I was so
excited to see them land somewhere, I can’t say that I was happy to not hear my name called;
especially after feeling like I had a very good couple seasons at Bama. One thing I learned from
Bama, however, is that you can celebrate/be sad for 24 hours, then it’s time to go to work. And
that’s what I did. The next day it was back to getting ready for whatever was ahead of me, and I
was so happy that it was with my hometown team.
6. Going into your first preseason in professional soccer, what was your preparation like and
what were some of the goals you set for yourself as a rookie?
Going undrafted and being without a contract, I have a different outlook for my rookie year; compete every day and push myself to new boundaries. I would love to say that I changed my preparation from college soccer, but really I didn’t. Becoming a pro doesn’t happen overnight. I was told my sophomore year that if I wanted to be a pro I had to start doing the things it would take to become one then, not when I turn pro. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t, and never will be, overnight success in this sport.
7. Now that you are a few months into your rookie season in the NWSL, what has surprised you
most about the level of play as a goalkeeper? What are some of the major differences from
Obviously when you change the level of play, the speed of play and pace is going to get faster. I think that’s the go-to answer. For me, the biggest change has been that I have a little more
autonomy with my development. In college, a lot of stuff is done for you: film is clipped for
you, meals are ordered for you, classes are scheduled. Whereas in the pros, you have to make
some decisions for yourself, and trying to navigate when to make certain decisions is an
experience I am loving growing in.
8. In college, you were the starting goalkeeper more often than not. How have you dealt with the
adjustment of playing a backup role with the Orlando Pride? What is your daily focus on
This has by far been the hardest change for me. The way I approach it is that every day is a
chance to make an impression. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the goal trying to save the ball or if I’m
serving balls in for crosses for the starter, I want to be at my best because every moment is a
chance to catch someone’s eye. This outlook has allowed me to grow mentally and physically as
a soccer player.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring goalkeepers looking to break into the NWSL ranks?
Always work. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. Do the things that others won’t do. This
doesn’t just apply to on the field either. You don’t start acting like a pro when you become a pro,
it is the preparation beforehand.
10. Boomer Sooner or Roll Tide?
I am grateful for my experiences at both schools because they developed me to who I am today,
but 1000% ROLL TIDE