Where Are They Now – Kenzie Tillitt
Where Are They Now?
Dynasty Goalkeeping is so much more than becoming a better goalkeeper and succeeding on the soccer field. Certainly that is a short term goal of ours, to help every student become their best version, but our long term vision is much greater. At our core we take pride in developing leaders beyond the field, getting our students to expand their scope of self, and empowering them to make a greater impression locally and globally. That is where our true impact lies. This blog was developed to highlight our Dynasty alumnae and reconnect you with former students as they make their way in the world. Personally, I think we have a tremendous family of alumnae and I want to share their journeys with you. Hopefully their stories will inspire you onto greatness of your own and open you up to possibilities you never previously imagined!
Kenzie Tillitt grew up in Carson City, NV and first got introduced to Dynasty Goalkeeping at our very first winter camp in Sparks, NV in 2009 at the age of 14. After that she was hooked for life and made the trek east in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014 while also attending winter camp every year until college as well. She transitioned onto staff in 2014 after her freshman season at the University of Colorado at Boulder working the summer camp and multiple winter camps throughout her college career. Kenzie is now living her dream life working in Truckee, CA as an architect designing single family, custom homes for Marsden Architects.
How did you first find out about Dynasty Goalkeeping? What drew you to Dynasty?
I found out about Dynasty through my goalkeeper coach at the time, Graeme Abel (former goalkeeper coach of the US WNT and current head coach at the University of Oregon) who was training another goalkeeper, Hannah Daly, who was about to head to UNC to start her freshmen year playing for them. I met Tracy and immediately fell in love with her coaching method and style, and I knew she was going to be the key to my future success in the sport.
What stands out most to you about your Dynasty experience? How did Dynasty help you grow as a player and person?
What stands out to me the most about the Dynasty experience is the mentality that surrounds the program. Mediocrity is not accepted which made everyone show up at their best to every training session. This resulted in competitive training sessions that perfectly prepared me for college ball. On top of that, the mental side of the game was taught equally to the physical. I still rely on the mental skills and toughness developed through training and lectures at Dynasty each and every day.
How would you compare the winter camp experience to the summer camps?
To begin, there was not any snow at summer camp! At winter camp a shovel, brooms and hand warmers were all necessary to survive training on the snow covered turf! 😉 Summer camp was also much more competitive than my home training environment. I was surrounded by girls who all had the same mindset and were all in to become better players. The winter camp was more accessible to me though as a Nevada native the Sparks, NV location was logistically a lot easier to attend! It also gave me great Dynasty training dosages spaced roughly 6 months apart. The winter camp skill level was broader and really hammered in the fundamentals of being a successful goalkeeper without getting into as many of the tactical aspects of the game. At summer camp, we were exposed to the intricacies of the game that really took my goalkeeping to the next level.
Favorite Dynasty memory?
My favorite Dynasty memory was during my very first winter camp in Sparks, NV. This was my first exposure to Tracy and right out of the gate she started with a nutrition lecture (a topic I had never been educated on in my life). So the next morning, I was feeling all invigorated to start eating healthy and making sure my body had the fuel it needed for the upcoming training sessions that day. I found a jar of peanut butter in the pantry and spread it on a rice cake to eat on my hour drive to the fields. Well, turns out that peanut butter was of the organic type and was meant to be refrigerated after opening (and was also multiple years expired), and midway through the morning session, which I vividly remember being breakaways, I had to sprint myself off the field to the nearest trash can and throw up that years old peanut butter. Not the greatest start to my nutrition journey, but I have definitely honed in the art of eating peanut butter.
You are a smaller female gk, how did you specific address and overcome this challenge?
I am 5’5”. Consequently I was not originally recruited to Colorado by the previous coach specifically because I did not meet his “height requirement.” I was determined to never let my height play a factor in my game though. And it never did. I would hit plyometric workouts 3 times a week to help with my vertical and I have always just been a gifted athlete. So I made sure my mentality backed my athletic prowess and demanded command of my box regardless of my height. My greatest compliment came from Graeme Abel when he was helping me get recruited at an ODP Championship tournament, and he said to me after a game “you played like you were 6 feet tall. These recruiters won’t be able to resist you.” And sure enough after that game was when I got the call from my head coach that the new Colorado soccer coach wanted me.
How did your experience at Dynasty help you with the transition from youth soccer to college?
Dynasty gave me that competitive edge and confidence that I was ready to compete at at CU as a young 17 year old freshman having 22 year old seniors smash balls at my face. I was ready, my reflexes honed, and I felt in my element rather than intimidated by the age discrepancy and experience difference between me and my new teammates. It especially helped that I was exposed to college players from the ACC in the evening small sided games at Dynasty, so I had already some experience playing against some of the top collegiate player in the country as a high school player.
You grew up playing youth soccer in Carson, NV, which is a bit of a soccer desert. How did you end up at the University of Colorado?
I jumped around from team to team, guest playing as much as possible. However, my main club out of Northern Nevada was Nevada Elite. We were not competitive and never played in any tournaments that would have gotten me recognized by recruiters. In addition I got involved in the NV ODP program where I competed at the regional level and made it to one National Team camp. Those experiences allowed me greater exposure to network with club coaches gaining invitations to guest play with them in more showcases and tournaments which ultimately got me recruited.
In high school you played center midfield instead of in goal, why? What benefits did you gain from this?
I have never put myself in a box when it comes to my “position” in soccer. I fell upon goalkeeping by happenstance at the age of 13 (after 7 years of playing on the field) because I was put on a team without a goalkeeper and said “why not.” And I happened to be halfway decent at it! So I rolled with it when I was needed as a goalkeeper. I also realized goalkeeping has its niche in the soccer world which would ultimately help me get recruited out of my small town. However in high school, my best friend, Emmy Heller (who is also a previous Dynasty student), was also on the team and that was the only position she played. So I played midfielder, which helped me keep my aerobic fitness up, while she played in goal. It was a win-win!
What was the biggest challenge you faced in college? (academic & athletic)
The biggest challenged I faced in college, without a doubt, was my head coach. He did not believe in me one bit. After playing there for one year I was honestly confused as to why he even recruited me. I would end a training session, have him give me a pat on the back and tell me I was the best goalkeeper out there, then he would sit me out to travel that weekend. I even had captains of the team asking the coach why I wasn’t starting, let alone playing. His answer, “I did not come with a pumped up enough resume and background for him put me on the field in a D1 PAC 12 conference game.” He never game me the light of day or a single chance to gain the “experience” he thought I lacked. And the one game I did play, due to a concussion to the starter in training that week, I had a shutout with 9 saves and the team won 2-0. I never saw the field as a goalkeeper after that again. So, moral of the story? Play for yourself. If you love it enough, other people’s opinion won’t matter. I still got to wake up every morning and spend 3-5 hours playing the sport I loved with my best friends for 4 years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In college you transitioned back to playing on the field. What position? Why? What mental and physical challenges did this create?
This is a great transition from my answer above. So story continued…I had to have the hard conversation with myself and face the reality that I would never play in a Colorado uniform as long as I remained solely a goalkeeper. My junior year, my coach brought in another senior goalkeeper transfer. There was a redshirt freshmen goalkeeper below me who was decent, but I should have still played over. I was meant to be the starter that season. I did not get picked for the 18 player roster to travel to the preseason tournament. So when my coach got back from the trip, I set up a meeting with him in his office and laid out my request. I would still train as a goalkeeper, but I would suit up as a field player for games (I was always the most fit on the team), and coach would send me out on the field for the last 5 minutes of every half to just run my damn ass off to put the defense on its heels which ultimately ended up with us scoring game winning goals. My heart was always in goalkeeping, but my love was for soccer. And I all I wanted my junior and senior year of college was to spend as much time as possible with my friends, playing soccer. Transitioning to the field as a forward helped me do that. I made every roster for every game after that and got to play rather than sitting the bench (or worse) being left at home to miss out on memories made with my best friends.
What was your favorite college soccer highlight?
Freshmen year, first round of the NCAA tournament. Colorado versus Denver at Denver. At this point in time, there was still a HUGE rivalry between the two teams. Every fan was so hyped for this match! We got an epic send off from our locker room to get on the bus to take us to the Denver campus. Getting ready in the locker room, the energy was just out of control. It felt like we were playing for the National Championship. Then we get out on the pitch, Saturday night under the lights. We play to a 0-0 tie and head into overtime (sudden death style). Right off the kickoff, we get a breakaway and should have scored, but our forward got demolished by the retreating defender causing us to get a free kick right outside the box. Annie Stuller, our super star senior forward, takes the free kick and scores! Game over. Colorado wins and players and fans rush the field, singing the Colorado fight song. It was everything I could have ever dreamed of from a soccer match and more.
Environmental Design with a major in Architecture
Please list any college accomplishments (academic & athletic)
- Graduated with Special Honors
- Inducted into the Colorado Athletics 4.0 Club
- Dean’s List all 8 semesters (IMPRESSIVE!!!)
- Academic Excellence Award in Environmental Design
- Member of the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Committee
- 4 year member of the University of Colorado at Boulder Women’s Soccer Team (2013-2017)
- 2013 – NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
- 2014, 2016 – NCAA Tournament Round of 32
Tell us more about your current job at Marsden Architects?
When I first moved back to Truckee, I had this lux job at Mark Tanner Construction, building 3D models of homes and rendering pretty pictures. It was the perfect transition from college into the real world as it was not your stereotypical 9-5 office gig. As cushy as that job was, I knew I needed to get into the architecture field in order to start making my dreams come true. I landed at a bigger firm called Kelly & Stone Architects. It was not the right fit for me and I ended up quitting after a year; however, I did meet my current boss at that firm, Ryan Marsden, and we totally hit it off and became great friends. After only a few months of me working at KSA, Ryan quit to open his own firm, Marsden Architects. After I quit at KSA and a few months of being “fun” employed in other jobs, I reached out to Ryan looking to see if he may be looking for his first employee. Sure enough he hired me and I have not looked back since! For my first year it was just the two of us and it was a priceless experience being exposed to many parts of architecture that typically I would not face until much later on in my career. I basically get to design people’s dream homes with wild budgets and free rein to make the designs spectacular. The workload can sometimes be a lot, but I absolutely love what I do so I never mind putting in those extra hours. Personally, I want to make sure everything that comes out of our firm is nothing short of perfection. Incredibly, during the pandemic we have only gotten busier with the onslaught of people trying to escape the density of the cities to live in that fresh, mountain air. I am a bit nervous about how many homes my boss has contracted for the upcoming years, but I cannot complain one bit. I get to design beautiful mountain homes, all around the country, but mostly locally in the mountains I call home, with one of my best friends as my boss, so yeah I couldn’t ask for a better dream job!
Are you involved in soccer at any level anymore?
My boots are hung up and I am fully retired from the game.
Hobbies outside of work? Outside of work what have you enjoyed about living in Truckee, CA?
I have transferred my athletic and competitive energy into CrossFit. I am currently a CrossFit coach at Dreamtown CrossFit in Truckee. When I am not in the gym throwing around heavy weights and doing other insane movements, I can be found hiking with my dog, Tuli, all over the mountains. Really I am up for anything outdoors. When Lake Tahoe is your playground, it is hard to get bored and stay inside! That being said I also love cooking and thoroughly enjoy a quiet night in with my girlfriend making a yummy new recipe together and enjoying a lovely bottle of wine.
Have you maintained the healthy eating habits and exercise you learned as a high level athlete? Why or why not? What are your daily challenges to maintaining that lifestyle?
I would actually have to say I am probably in the best shape of my life currently. I took all my knowledge from Dynasty and my college nutritionist and just ran with it after college. Starting CrossFit significantly impacted my all around fitness while having a daily routine keeps me on top of my nutrition. (It also helps when you have a very good paying job so I can afford organic produce and meat from local vendors). I deeply believe in the idea that our body is our temple. And with a healthy body comes a healthy mind and all round healthy life. I think my biggest realization about health is that mental health plays just as big of role as physical health. I was not mentally healthy in college which led to having a few more pounds around the edges than desired and also just zero accountability to myself when it came to the food I put in my body. Since starting my life in Truckee (post college), I have had a new motivation to be my best self in every facet of life (as a partner, dog momma, employee, coach, and everything in between). And I believe that all starts with nurturing my body and mind.
The ultimate goal is to get my architect’s license. It’s a long and lengthy road. After that, I dream of being my own boss and working for myself designing sustainable and sexy homes. Ideally, I would love to take over the firm I work at currently when my boss decides to retire, and continue its legacy and excellence.
How did your career in soccer prepare you for your transition into the ‘real-world’ beyond soccer and the challenges you now face? Any specific examples?
Being a student-athlete requires epic time management skills. Transitioning into the lone employee role at a firm that was just taking off took those same exact skills. I wear many hats at my job, and it’s so important to keep everything compartmentalized, focusing on staying in the moment and only worrying about the task at hand. I have realized there is a lot you can get done in one day as long as you stay level headed and motivated. College soccer and Dynasty Goalkeeping, definitely taught me those valuable lessons.
What or who inspired you when you were playing? And now?
I was a big Iker Casillas fan. He is also on the shorter side but absolutely dominated the game for so many years. I remember watching him win the Men’s World Cup with Spain and just being so impressed how he demanded his space while also making ridiculous saves look easy all through proper footwork and technique. I definitely modeled a lot of my game after him. Now — Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the USWNT players are simply my life role models. As a female in this country, they are all I need to remind me of my purpose and the power I have in this world. That my voice matters and can be heard and it is always important to stand up for what you believe in no matter what may be being said around you. In a time where life can feel helpless and hopeless, they always give me hope. Hope in humanity, hope that evil can be overcome, and hope that there is still a bright future ahead of us all if we all keep fighting the good fight together.
Anything else you want to share with our students? Words of wisdom?
I recommend that every student, coach, parent, human reads the book, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman.
“There are no ordinary moments.” – Dan Millman
Care to share your Instagram handle if any Dynasty students wanted to connect with you?