The McNeel family’s athletic success has been passed on for generations

For the standard family, having one division one athlete is impressive. However, one Godwin family has two – with a legacy of more. 

Matt and Trish McNeel have three children, two of which are varsity athletes at Godwin. Kaitlyn is a senior outside hitter on the girls volleyball team and Nathan is a junior left tackle on the football team. Brody, the youngest, is a seventh grader and is six feet tall already. Brody plays baseball, basketball, and football. He is going to try lacrosse in the spring and has previously swam and played soccer.

Penny Stevens (Left) and Kaitlyn McKneel (Right)

Kaitlyn has officially committed to continue her athletic and academic career at Dayton University in Ohio. As far as Nathan’s recruiting, his interest has only begun. Recently, Nathan was fortunate enough to secure multiple division one scholarship offers, including Eastern Carolina University and Marshall University.

Although some may see Nathan and Kaitlyn’s athletic successes as an anomaly, it can almost be seen as destiny. Their parents had some triumphs back in their day and it should be no surprise that their children have been so accomplished thus far. 

Matt, Kaitlyn and Nathan’s father, was a division one football player, playing tight end for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Trish McNeel played division one basketball at The University of Toledo in Ohio. The University of Toledo is not far from Dayton University, where Kaitlyn has committed to play.

In the 1994 season, Matt played in 10 games, catching 25 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

In the 1993 season, Trish had her career high of 11 points versus Loyola. Her college career was unique as she worked her way up from a walk-on her freshman year to a scholarship athlete for the final three years of her college career.

Nathan and Kaitlyn have not only benefited from the skill of their parents, but other physical attributes. Height is one of the most noticeable features that was transferred to the children as Trish is 6’1” and Matt is 6’4”. Kaitlyn is 6’3” and Nathan is 6’5”. 

“I love being tall,” said Kaitlyn.

Being up and coming division one athletes have their tolls, though, as Nathan and Kaitlyn tirelessly work to perfect their craft. 

Nathan goes to position-specific training twice a week. 

“This offseason, I am trying to hit the weights hard. I’m behind on that part of training strength wise. I also plan on visiting schools and attending camps this summer,” said Nathan.

Kaitlyn does not have an offseason. She goes straight from her school season here at Godwin into a travel volleyball season at Richmond Volleyball Club (RVC). However, once at Dayton, she will have an off-season.

“They do a lot of working out during the offseason at Dayton to get stronger,” said Kaitlyn.

Nathan and Kaitlyn have very different experience levels when it comes to how long they have been playing their sports. Nathan previously played baseball and basketball, and only began playing football a year ago. 

“I would say that my dad’s past in the sport definitely made me want to try it out last year, I was getting tired of baseball and basketball and wanted to try something new,” said Nathan.

Kaitlyn has been playing volleyball since seventh grade. Kaitlyn previously played both basketball and volleyball, but fell in love with volleyball and never looked back. 

“I played in a middle school league at RVC and that is where I initially became interested,” said Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn said, “I definitely thought that I would be playing basketball in college. I didn’t really enjoy some of the aspects of basketball, so when I found volleyball it was an easy switch for me.”

When describing the recruitment process, wild does not encapsulate what it was like and what it is like for these siblings. 

“The recruitment process was crazy. It was a lot of phone calls and long talks with different schools all over the place. I was so happy when it was over because I feel very confident that I found the perfect school for me,” said Kaitlyn.

One thing Kaitlyn learned was how to keep everything organized to limit being overwhelmed. Nathan also described this process as ‘crazy’. 

“These past two weeks have been very crazy jumping into the recruiting scene. I would say the most exciting part is getting to go on visits and look at different college facilities and environments,” said Nathan.

As one could imagine, having two parents that played at the division one level has been “tremendously helpful” to Kaitlyn. 

“I have heard their stories both good and bad but knowing it all made me realize that I can’t imagine having a college experience without playing the sport I love,” said Kaitlyn. 

Having a father who played his same sport at the division one level “definitely helped” Nathan. 

“He will give me pregame tips and we watch film together to prepare for upcoming games,” said Nathan. 

Nathan also expressed that colleges love an athletic background so he feels that is helping his recruiting process. Kaitlyn’s commitment to Dayton could possibly bring some added pressure to perform at the level her parents did. With that being said, Kaitlyn says there is no pressure. 

“I do not have much pressure from my parents at all, they just hope that I truly enjoy my time at UD,” said Kaitlyn.

Growing up, the McNeel kids were given the opportunity to participate in a wide range of sports.

“We just tried to expose them to a variety of sports – gymnastics, swimming, baseball/softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, [and] hiking,” said Trish. 

Nathan, Kaitlyn and Brody have tried a majority of those sports previously listed.

“Matt and I have always liked to be active and our lives both were impacted by the sports we played, so it was just natural to raise Kaitlyn, Nathan, and Brody with sports.  It was something we all enjoyed,” said Trish.

One sacrifice Matt and Trish had to make was going to different games/tournaments. 

“Matt and I would have to divide and conquer to attend games.  Unfortunately very rarely do we all get to attend games all together.  Now that they can drive , transportation to and from practices is so much easier, but before, we did a lot of driving around in the evenings,” said Trish.

As children, Nathan, Kaitlyn and Brody were fortunate enough to go to Wake Forest Games. 

“Kaitlyn, Nathan, and Brody were able to see the locker rooms, sit in club seating, go into the field, and meet some great friends Matt had made through being a part of Wake Football.  They were exposed to the friendships and the respected value of being a college athlete,” said Trish.

Although it can be glamorous, Trish and Matt wanted to talk about all the details of them being division one athletes.

 “They have also heard our stories of our time being college athletes.  It is a wonderful way to go to college, but we have let them know the work and dedication it is.  At times it feels much more like a job than a sport at the college level.  Wonderful life skills were taught – sacrifice, balance, time management, priorities, grit, effort, perseverance, pride, and health,” said Trish.

Trish and Matt never pushed sports onto their children, but guided them to find the sport they loved and succeed. 

“Athletics can impact your life so very positively when it is something driven internally and we are very proud to have two children represent Godwin sports at the Varsity level,” said Trish.

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