Keyes Unlocks Secrets to Life On and Off the Field

May 25, 2012

University of Kentucky women’s soccer player Brooke Keyes is not known for scoring a goal every game, leading the team in points, or earning numerous postseason awards. Instead, she strives for a different type of postseason award.

The senior out of Newport Beach, Calif., came to Kentucky with expectations that were not high. She didn’t know what to expect from the brand new coaching staff that was headed by Jon Lipsitz, who was coming from Charlotte.

“It was a huge risk for me to leave California and come to Kentucky,” Keyes said. “I was nervous. I remember landing in Kentucky and thinking to myself ‘what was I doing?’”

Keyes had a solid season for an incoming freshman, while the team was still trying to find itself under Lipsitz. She tallied 12 games in which she saw action in, and logged over 600 minutes on the pitch.

As her career passed from season to season, Lipsitz noticed a special something about Keyes that he wanted to make a focal point of the program; something for every incoming Wildcat player to look up to, and modify their work ethic on and off the field to match that of Keyes’.

“Brooke came in as someone that wanted to challenge herself,” Lipsitz said. “She wanted to see how great she could be. Normally when coaches talk about that, we talk about it solely as an athlete. I think Brooke has defined herself more as a person who does great work outside of athletics than she has inside of athletics.”

With all of her offseason work and leadership skills, Keyes’ has been asserted as one of the two captains for the 2012 team that will be looking to take the program to new heights. For Lipsitz, it was an easy decision.

“Brooke has a very special ability to understand when it is time to lead by cheerleading, when it is time to lead by consensus, and when it is time to be the gentle dictator and kick someone in the butt. To have that ability at her age is very rare,” Lipsitz said. “She holds people to standards, and that is hard in a team environment because you want to be friends. The respect she has earned allows her to be a great leader.”

Keyes is also having a storied offseason, not because she can run a five-minute mile or anything of that nature; but because she has already been invited to two nationally-renowned conferences to talk about leadership. In addition, the senior was handpicked to be one of a select few UK athletes to voyage to Ethiopia to help out the residents of Africa and continue her excellent service work. 

To add to all the work around the Lexington area and in her hometown, Keyes has gone out of her way to work in Mexico, Argentina and South Africa.

“I might not be the best player on the team,” Keyes said, “But it is nice to know Jon (Lipsitz) thinks highly enough of me to represent the team in that way. I just felt super blessed and honored to be chosen. I have been in a lot of different countries. That is definitely where my heart is.”

In addition to being selected to go to Ethiopia, Keyes has been invited to attend a national NCAA Career and Sports Forum Conference in Indianapolis this summer. The conference will cover various topics, including leadership in sports, as well as people who are looking to pursue a career in sports leadership and development.

Keyes was also named as one of only 23 ‘Fellows’ who will make the trip to Indianapolis, Ind., on June 13 where they will lead a group of high school students in many topics, including broadcasting, journalism, business, music, psychology, sociology, sports medicine, theatre and web design. Keyes was selected not only because of her infectious personality, but because of her excellent work in the classroom, by maintaining over a 3.5 GPA at UK.

“I have been blessed over and over again with every opportunity because I chose to come to Kentucky. Today, I am so glad I chose Kentucky, and I would have never done anything differently,” Keyes said.