For many students, the summer before heading to college is filled with leisure time and bittersweet memories with high school friends.
Not for Jayde Riviere.
But she’s not your typical 18-year old. For her last summer as a high school student, she was in France representing Canada in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
But before she competed on soccer’s biggest stage, Riviere sat in a training camp in Spain with no idea if she was going to be selected to the Canadian squad. At the end of the camp, all of the players were led into a dark room. The lights flipped on and projected onto a board were the names of the final World Cup team.
The celebrations erupted. Riviere said that she almost broke down in tears when she realized she was going to France.
“For me, the World Cup is huge,” Riviere said. “It defines women’s soccer. The FIFA Women’s World Cup — everyone knows about it. To be a part of it at a young age, no one can take that away from me.”
Being the second-youngest member of the team, Riviere felt that connecting with the veterans was important. 36-year-old star forward Christine Sinclair took Riviere under her wing and when she was handed a start in the second match of the group stages against New Zealand, Sinclair challenged her to bring her A-game. It ended up being one of her best performances for the national team, and Canada cruised to a 2-0 victory.
“My coach likes to say that if you don’t get butterflies or anything with an international match then there’s something wrong with us,” Riviere said. “There’s obviously a lot of pressure to be representing my country. Always a sense of pride and pressure when you’re wearing that jersey and have that badge over your heart.”
Riviere was selected for a reason. With her pace and attacking qualities, she fit in well at the wingback position. Canada finished in second place in their group, advancing to the knockout stages. Unfortunately for Riviere and her teammates, her run ended in a 1-0 loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.
For Riviere, playing soccer isn’t just about winning games or scoring goals. It’s about family. Her father, Antony Riviere, grew up playing soccer in the island nation of Dominica. He taught her everything he knows about the game.
But Antony wasn’t the only member of the family who helped teach her about the game. One of her role models growing up — alongside Sinclair, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo — was her late-grandfather, Arlington Riviere. Arlington saw promise in his granddaughter and wanted Jayde to be just as invested in her academics as her athletics. Arlington was never able to see her represent Canada or play at Michigan. He passed away when she was young. But playing soccer allows her to stay connected to her role model.
“I was kind of like his favorite granddaughter,” Riviere said. “Every time I walk on the field I do the sign of the cross and I always point to him because I know he has the best seat right now.”
That emphasis on academics was part of the reason Riviere ended up at Michigan. In her recruiting process, she had it narrowed down to two schools: Michigan and West Virginia. Riviere chose to come to Ann Arbor partly because she planned on graduating college, and saw value in getting a degree from Michigan.
During an era in which growing numbers of players are choosing to forgo college altogether, Riviere is playing the long game.
“Because of my success, I’ve had agents reach out,” Riviere said. “But my answer has been the same for every agent — I’m going to continue to do my four years at Michigan and get my diploma from there and after that, the doors can open up to anything professional-wise.”
When Michigan coach Jennifer Klein accepted the job two years ago, Riviere was already committed to playing for the Wolverines.
“One of the big things about Michigan and Canada is there is a connection between the two programs,” Klein said. “Michigan has had a lot of great Canadians that have been part of our program so that relationship was created years ago and we’ve just been able to continue to develop that relationship.”
Riviere was initially recruited to play as a wide forward closer to the goal. But, as she became more involved with the national team she shifted to the wingback role which combines the defensive duties of a traditional outside back with the attacking responsibilities of a winger. The Canadian national team let the Michigan coaching staff know they preferred Riviere to be deployed in a more defensive role at fullback to continue her development.
“Defensively her individual ability, her speed is good,” Klein said. “I think those skill sets allow her to be impactful within our group and I’m just excited for the experience that she’s going to gain being with the Canadian team.
“I think she has the ability to be a major contributor for our program. I think as the season went on last year you could see that she has the ability to take a game on and really capitalize and put the ball in the back of the net when the team needs it.”
In the Big Ten Tournament semi-final, Michigan was tied with Rutgers in overtime. The Michigan coaching staff thought Riviere was fatigued and asked if she wanted to be subbed off, but insisted she was fine.
Moments later, she scored the game-winning goal to send the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship game.
In a January Olympic qualifier against St. Kitts and Nevis, Riviere scored her first senior national team goal in an 11-0 win. A rocket from 30 yards out that buried in the top right corner. That was also the game that saw Sinclair break the all-time international goal scoring record.
“When Sinclair broke her record that was a huge milestone for everyone,” Riviere said. “For every little girl and to be a part of that on the field. To be able to hug her and be in her little celebration, I think that was one of the most amazing experiences that I could’ve experienced as a teenager on that team.”
Due to the postponement of the summer Olympics, Riviere is planning on using this summer to do online classes and said that as of right now the Wolverines are preparing to play in the fall. She has kept in touch with teammates during quarantine, using Zoom to reach out to incoming freshmen and returning players. Even though Riviere had her eyes on Tokyo, she is still focused on the upcoming fall season.
“There will definitely be a kind of new flair to Michigan,” Riviere said. “I believe that we’re trying out new platforms, maybe new players in different positions kind of having a more versatile team. I think we obviously want to win a Big Ten (championship) and we want to win an NCAA Tournament. I think we set the bar last season and now it’s just about raising that bar.”
Riviere has already played on some of the world’s biggest stages in women’s soccer. Now she’s ready to bring that experience and flair to Michigan.