Neighborhood: Rosedale, Queens and Crowns Heights
National Origin / Family from: Born in Kingston, Jamaica
Queens is where it all began for Donna-Kay Henry. Her soccer career took her across the globe, from lush Jamaica to frigid Iceland and beyond. After her professional playing career, she returned to NYC, now running her own academy to empower the next generation of young players.
You moved to Queens from Jamaica when you were quite young. What was that like, changing places and getting to know a new culture at such a young age? How long did it take for Queens to feel like home?
Moving from Kingston, Jamaica to Queens, New York was a culture change. I moved at age 8, just a kid still learning who and what I was. But it didn’t take long to get settled and feel like a home because I was always surrounded by my family. Queens was our home!
How and when did you start playing?
My older brother is the reason I started playing. He played since he was young in Jamaica and continued when we moved to Rosedale, Queens. I started late, at the age of 11. I like to think that soccer found me. I was never really into sports at a young age, at least that’s what my mom says. After tagging along to one of my brother’s practices, little did I know that this game of football would change my life.
After playing as a kid, what was next for you?
I fell in love with the sport and never looked back. This game has allowed me to experience the world on a grand scale. First was my full athletic scholarship to play at a D1 school, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Then I went on to have a 9 year Pro career, and now I’m running my own soccer training academy in my city!
Do you have a favorite soccer memory?
My favorite soccer memory was scoring for the Jamaican National Women’s Team in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico in front of my family. My family never really got to witness me as a player, being that my mom was a single mom and worked. Like many other pro athletes, being overseas for 7-8 months each year adds up and that’s time lost with loved ones. These are the sacrifices that I made to pursue my career. Having her and my best friend and a few cousins there at the game vs Mexico to support and watch me meant everything. Even though we lost that game and didn’t qualify, that moment is still one I treasure.
You began playing soccer relatively late, and now you coach girls mostly ages 3-12. What’s so key about starting even earlier than you did as a player?
For me, working with kids as young as 3 years old is not about just teaching soccer, it’s about teaching life lessons. How to be themselves, how to grow in confidence, how to enjoy what you’re doing, and how to be your best self. Teaching players the game and how to love and enjoy the game is what’s key. I work with a lot of female players and I am beyond grateful to be in the position to teach, mentor, and impact these young athletes.
What does FYF stand for, and what inspired you to create the organization?
FYF = FIND YOUR FOOTBALL. It’s the organization founded by Crystal, Lily, and me. Our love for football and helping New Yorkers find playing opportunities is what inspired us to create FYF. Our focus is to build our community through football experiences and bring exposure to the talent we have in New York City!
What makes you most excited about having a team in Queens?
Queens is where I started my football journey so having a team in Queens makes me an automatic Queensborian if that’s a thing lol (editors note – it is now DKay!). It means the football community is growing and this will provide more opportunities for players to grow in the game. A place to showcase their ability and stand as one with the community of Queens. Who doesn’t want that!
In a few words, what defines Queens for you?
Queens, for me, is the beginning. The beginning of my story and that will never change. The first place to give me a home after leaving my birth country Jamaica with my family to find a better life. Queens welcomed me and pushed me into the path that I am still creating today. Queens is my beginning.