Futbol is Life

Lifelong lessons learned on the pitch

Dreaming of becoming a professional athlete is a common aspiration, but it’s one that is statistically improbable; fewer than two percent of all high school athletes go on to play Division 1 sports, and fewer than two percent of those collegiate athletes turn pro. Subsequently, the odds of one family having three Division 1 athletes and two who have gone on to professional careers would likely be similar to one person being struck by lightning three times, but that’s exactly the way things have played out for local soccer phenoms Kyle, Cole and Caden McLagan.

All three young men attended Rockhurst High School and boast impressive academic and athletic resumes, including MSHSAA All-State and All-Region honors. After successful collegiate careers at Furman University, where they were both decorated players with NCAA tournament showings, Kyle is currently playing for Vikingur Reykjavik in the top professional soccer league in Iceland and has played on loan for the Kansas City Comets during his off season, while Cole is playing for Sporting KC II. Caden is playing collegiately as a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Coming by their athleticism naturally - dad Doug McLagan played professionally for the Comets in the 1990s, while mom Christine McLagan was part of the Olympic Development Program and played for George Mason University - the McLagan boys grew up around the game, watching their parents coach numerous club soccer teams. They each recall fondly the spirited soccer competitions that prevailed during almost every family gathering growing up, citing their competitiveness as a significant contributor to both their relationships and their accomplishments. 

Perhaps most impressive about this family, though, is its groundedness. They don’t find their identity in soccer but instead feel soccer has taught them the most important lessons about life. Kyle says “I do see myself as a soccer player and an athlete, but overall soccer has afforded me life experiences outside of soccer that may not have been otherwise available. I have become a student-athlete, college graduate, world traveler, and better person/team player thanks to soccer.”

Kyle adds that living overseas has its pros and cons. “Life can get lonely very quickly when things aren’t going well in soccer, and it can be difficult to have a social life because of how much of a time commitment soccer can be. On the other side, living in Europe has given me the opportunity to travel to several countries with ease; I have seen ~16 countries since coming over in 2018. And of course, one of the biggest pros is that I am being paid to chase a ball around Europe and play the game I love.”

Similarly, Cole says soccer has helped him become who he is today. “A ball at my feet seems to cure whatever problems or adversity I am facing. It’s taught me how to be resilient, how to compete, how to push myself to limits you don’t think are possible, how to be a humble winner, how to be a humble loser, how to take lessons from losses and how to find improvements in wins. Most importantly it has taught me how to get the best out of myself and others around me because talent alone is never enough.”

With regard to the future, these talented young athletes still have lofty goals. Cole aspires to the full MLS experience, saying “A bucket list soccer goal I still have is to play in the MLS. It would be a dream come true if I could do that for my hometown team, but there is still a lot of work to be done!”

Kyle mentions finishing his career in stateside as well, “My bucket list has a few things that I still need to tick in a soccer sense. I want to play in the champions league, in as many different countries as I can, and at the highest level I possibly can. I also dream of ending my career in the US so my friends and family can see me play and fully understand just what I’ve been doing with my life in Europe.”

As for Caden, he hopes to follow in Kyle’s footsteps, playing professionally in Europe, and then moving into another facet of soccer-related life.  “I would love to stay close to the game after I am done playing. Whether that is coaching, commentating, or doing something on the business side of soccer,” he said.

The irony of his sons playing in Europe isn’t lost on Doug McLagan, who was born in Scotland and raised in England. After college, he came to the States on ‘holiday’ and ended up with a professional soccer offer and eventually a wife and family. “I grew up playing rugby and cricket, but when I went to college I played soccer. Unlike here in America, we only trained once a week. So when I came to Kansas City and a friend encouraged me to try out for the Comets, I laughed, but I decided to give it a go. I played three years before deciding to hang up my cleats,” says Doug. 

Doug and Chris have both coached club soccer in the metro area for a number of years, and Doug served as the Blue Springs High School girls’ soccer coach for close to three decades before becoming the Notre Dame de Sion girls’ soccer coach several years ago. Between them, they have coached a multitude of ODP (Olympic Development Program), ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) and Division I soccer athletes. 

Wherever the McLagan boys end up going, parents Chris and Doug will be there watching, and win or lose, they are most proud of the kind of young men they’ve raised. When asked about one of her favorite memories, Chris shared “Rockhurst won the State HS Championship game Kyle’s senior and Cole’s sophomore year. It was a pretty special season having them play together. Caden was the ball boy for many of the games. When they won the final game and the team was going crazy celebrating. I looked over to my right, and Kyle was walking around giving the boys on the other team a pat on the back or helping them up. It made me tear up. These are the things that make me most proud.

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