Closing in on her first season in professional football, Lionesses midfielder, Katie Kitching has her focus on doing anything she can to elevate London City to the Women's Super League at the end of April.
London City's No. 27 put pen to paper on a contract with the Lionesses in January 2022, heading back to the United Kingdom following five seasons in Tampa, Florida at the University of South Florida.
Kitching began playing football around the age of eight or nine, and since she can remember, kicking the ball around in the yard with her father and brother was always a constant.
Even though it may have been a later start compared to the rest of the pack, Kitching's love of the game grew, joining the grassroots team, Ripon City Panthers in the West Riding County FA to kick off her football career.
Kitching spoke on what her upbringing in football was like, stating, "It was a much later start than usual, but I just remember playing in the yard with my dad and my brother and even playing at school.”
The Bedale, England native spent a few seasons at Ripon City before moving to the York Centre for Excellence where she spent six seasons maturing both on and off the pitch.
In a match against Manchester United while at York, Kitching caught the eye of Manchester City scouts after she helped her team pull over an upset in a youth FA Cup contest.
The midfielder spoke of the match as one of her fondest memories from her early ages, stating, "We were playing against Manchester United in the youth FA Cup, and we were not expected to win, but we went on and won the match. That is how I found myself at Manchester City."
Kitching began to take continuous steps toward becoming a professional footballer, and after she played for Manchester City in the FA WSL reserve league, Kitching made her biggest stride, moving across the Atlantic to participate in collegiate football.
Despite not visiting the school once before deciding to attend, Kitching made the leap of faith, joining the Bulls at the University of South Florida, providing her with the opportunity to obtain a degree while being surrounded by the game of football at the same time.
She had originally planned on taking another year in England, but when she received loads of raving reviews from the experiences others had on the west coast of Florida, there was nothing preventing Kitching from passing up on the opportunity.
"Getting a degree, and being able to play at the same time is not something you can do in England, but for it to all be in the same place, it was a no-brainer for me", Kitching stated on what went through her made in making the decision to move to the Sunshine State.
During her five seasons with the Bulls, Kitching played a crucial role in the midfield, assisting the team in what became the most illustrious stretch of women's football in the history of the program.
In each season Kitching was there, USF finished in the top two in the American Athletic Conference during the regular season, capturing the regular season title in three out of the five years. South Florida is just the second team in the conference to have three women's football regular season crowns under its belt.
Behind the leadership of only the second coach in the program's history, Denise Schilte-Brown, Kitching and the Bulls secured three conference tournament titles, becoming the only team in the AAC with three postseason championships.
From 2019-2020, Kitching started in 33 of the 34 possible contests, collecting three goals to go along with five assists in two seasons where the team climbed all the way to the top of the conference.
Kitching spoke about how USF prepared her to become a professional footballer, stating, "There was a competitiveness and a professional environment at USF. The coaching was good, they not only developed us as players, but they helped support us to become strong women. There was a real focus on you as a person as well as the player."
Following five remarkable seasons in green and gold, Kitching returned to England where the Lionesses presented her with her first opportunity to play the game she loved at the professional level.
She became Melissa Phillips', and London City's first signing of 2022, adding depth and versatility to a midfield that was trying to lead a late-season push to the top of the Women's Championship.
Kitching reflected on her first year in the professional game, stating, "My first season of professional football has been a really good one, I've learned a lot. The coaching standard is very good, and the playing standard is extremely competitive.”
She continued, "The success the team has had should continue to get better as we look to strive for promotion. That is where we as a group need to be, and should be."
Kitching knows that all successes are not earned without hard work, and if you trust the process, in the end, you should end up where you need to be.
From her days in the yard kicking the football around with her family to making her mark in the midfield in a Lionesses' kit, Kitching aims to use her first year on the professional level as a stepping stool for the future.
It is not always when you began, it is about the work that is done to keep progressing you forward.
Kitching defines that, and as the season moves into the month of December, the former USF midfielder will use her spirited mentality combined with her quality going forward on the pitch to give this London City team a boost in whatever way she can.
Want to see Katie in action? Click the link to purchase tickets for our next contest at Princes Park against Southampton.