When Kaiya Boyd was 10 years-old she returned home one day after playing with her friends and announced she’d like to play soccer. She had never shown an interest in playing a sport before.
“Never,” said her father, Alonzo Boyd.
A top all around athlete and one of the best football players to ever emerge from Rhode Island, Alonzo had accepted the fact that his daughter didn’t want to get her hands dirty on a field.
“Of course I wanted my child to be an athlete,” said Alonzo. “But when she was young and most kids were out playing sports, she didn’t mention wanting to play….Not once.”
Until she was 10. That’s when everything changed.
“I knew nothing about soccer at the time, but I do know this…the first time she played soccer it was awful…horrible,” said Alonzo. “She was twirling her hair and dancing around the field. I thought this was it. I thought it was going to last one summer session.”
Her father was mistaken.
Fast forward seven years. Kaiya has become one of the top athletes in Rhode Island. The La Salle senior multi-sport athlete has been a part of so many championship teams and has earned so many honors and awards, she has to pause and add them all up when asked how many she has earned in her high school career.
A 6’1″ All-State midfielder, Kaiya played a significant role on two state championship soccer teams and three track teams that have earned state titles. Known for her blazing speed, she is a three time All-Stater in track.
“Kaiya certainly has been successful on the athletic front. An All-Stater both in soccer and in track and field, she has continued to work hard to improve and compete,” said La Salle Athletic Director Ted Quigley. “In soccer, she has been a member of two state championship teams, and she has been a part of three state championship teams in track. She is used to striving for greatness, and she understands what it takes to be successful.”
Kaiya’s athletic ability and competitive nature come straight from her dad, Alonzo, who was one of the top football players to ever emerge from Rhode Island’s turf. He nearly went to La Salle, but a week before school was to start his freshman year, he changed his mind and enrolled at Bishop Hendricken.
He made the varsity as a freshman – the first 9th grader to ever do so at Hendricken.
“They had to change the rulebook at Hendricken. It said freshman couldn’t play varsity, but I did and they had to go in and change the whole rulebook,” said Alonzo
What he lacked in size he made up for in heart, desire and skill. By the time he was a senior he was the best football player in Rhode Island. A 5’6″, 158 pound All-State running back, Alonzo collected 1,700 yards as a senior. He scored nearly 20 touchdowns in his final high school season. He had four in a game against East Providence, three TD’s in a game versus East Greenwich and another three in a game against La Salle.
Alonzo was honored as the (1991) Gatorade Player of the Year and was All-American and All-State. A multi-sport athlete, he was the starting point guard on the Hendricken basketball team that was 15-3 in Class A.
That spring he received the Paul McDermott Award, presented annually to Bishop Hendricken’s top athlete. A plaque bearing his name remains on the wall at Bishop Hendricken, surrounded by other former outstanding Hendricken athletes including 12 year NFL veteran Will Blackmon and Minnesota Twins General Manager Rocco Baldelli.
Alonzo went on to play Division I football at the University of Rhode Island.
That was nearly 30 years ago, long before cell phones captured touchdown, steals, dunks and victory celebrations.
“I obviously never got to see him play, but a lot of people have told me how good he was,” said Kaiya. “I definitely get my competitiveness from my dad. He is my role model and I want to accomplish everything he did.
“I’ve learned so much from him and not just about being a competitive athlete,” said Kaiya. “I talk to him about everything.”
“She has already surpassed everything I did,” said Alonzo. “I never won a state championship.”
Kaiya owns nearly a half dozen. She has experienced more success than most high school athletes. In her three years playing soccer at La Salle, the Rams only lost twice. The second loss was devastating.
The unbeaten two-time defending state champs suffered their first loss in nearly three seasons in the Division I state semifinals this past fall. South Kingstown defeated La Salle on a penalty kick in the semis and eliminated the Rams from the post-season – and the shot at a three-peat.
Since her sophomore year, La Salle had won back to back state championships and suffered just two losses in her entire soccer career. The second loss will stay with Kaiya forever.
With tears streaming down her face, Kaiya was the last to walk off the field.
“It was painful,’ said Alonzo. “She is tough as nails. To see her like that hurt… more than anything I experienced as an athlete. To see your child hurt and you can’t control it, is painful.”
But Alonzo has overcome obstacles and has taught Kayia to do the same. Success also comes with disappointment and he has taught Kaiya how to move forward.
They couldn’t be any closer, but there are a few significant differences between the father and daughter.
Kaiya is over is 6’1. Alonzo is 5’7″. She is soft spoken and comes across as a bit shy. Kaiya towers over her dad, who is outspoken and anything but reserved. Kaiya excels in the classroom and is an honor roll student. Now, at 46, Alonzo admits he could have tried harder in the classroom. He readily has shared that with Kaiya hoping she would only follow his footsteps on the field, not the classroom. Mission accomplished.
“She got a B and cried. If I got a B in high school, they would have thrown a party,” he joked.
A Girl Dad, Alonzo spent hours learning the game of soccer…even using quarters and nickels to diagram plays on his kitchen table.
“I wanted to understand the game,” said Alonzo. “I wanted to be able to help her.”
The only real conflict the two have ever had is ongoing – the fierce rivalry between La Salle and Hendricken.
Although it’s been three decades since Alonzo wore a Hendricken uniform, he still bleeds Green and Gold.
“He won’t even wear a La Salle shirt,” laughed Kaiya. “It would have to say ‘La Salle Girls Soccer’ or something that represents a team I play on.”
“No way would I wear a La Salle shirt,” he laughed. “When Hendricken plays La Salle (football) I stand on the Hendricken side. The AD (Quigley) always asks me if I would come over to the La Salle side for a half. No way.”
After she graduates from La Salle in the spring, Kaiya will continue her athletic career and education at the University of North Carolina-Asheville in the fall. The Rams leading scorer (11 goals, 4 assists) will play soccer for the Division I Bulldogs and pursue a degree in psychology.
“Kaiya brings an infectious enthusiasm to everything she does. She is well respected by her teammates, coaches, and teachers. She shows a level of poise and maturity beyond her years,” said Quigley. “Kaiya has the respect of her peers for the way she treats everyone. She makes others around her feel special. “
“I call her my Unicorn. She is a good student, good athlete and a great kid. I have never had to discipline her once. Of course, I am going to miss her. I may have to buy a condo in North Carolina,” laughed Alonzo, his eyes filling with tears as his only daughter rolled hers.
The void that will no doubt be in the Boyd household when Kaiya leaves for North Carolina will be filled by five year-old AJ (Alonzo Jr).. Much like his father, he is full of personality, is anything but shy and is strong willed. He has already started to play soccer.
“He said the other day, ‘Dad I’ve scored four goals I don’t need to practice,'” laughed Alonzo. “And I heard him giving a pep talk to his team the other day. He is five years old.”
Like father, like son….maybe.
“He tells me he is going to play every sport BUT football,” said Alonzo. “He kills me. We shall see.”