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    Holding His Own

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    Briana Coyne ('12) is a student worker in the Media Relations office. She recently profiled men's lacrosse goalie John Kemp, who is continuing his family's strong athletic legacy.

    Lacrosse, baseball, soccer, football, hockey - name the sport and John Kemp, a junior goalie on the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team, probably played it at some point during his childhood. This comes as no surprise considering he grew up in a household with six older brothers and sisters who all played sports, as well.

    "Sports were just a big thing in my family," says Kemp. "We always had a 15-seater van and my Mom would drive everyone around. I literally was in the car for six hours a day picking everyone up and going to practices. I would miss practices for other practices."

    With so many practices, scrimmages and games to take all seven of the Kemp children to, it is hard to imagine how the parents were able to juggle all these schedules, but they managed. However, on rare occasions, there were mishaps.

    "When we were growing up, there would always be that one time my Mom would forget about someone so we would be left at practice for like two hours," jokes Kemp.

    Regardless, the Potomac, Md., native and his siblings continued competing and excelling in sports as they got older.

    The athletic achievements of the Kemp family are numerous: Robbie played baseball in high school and was named all-conference; Julie swam for the University of Miami (FL) and qualified for the NCAA Championships in 1999; CJ played lacrosse at Fairfield University and then professionally for the Rochester Rattlers and the Baltimore Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL); Erin swam for Towson University; Joey, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate and former goalie, was named the 2007 Great Western Lacrosse League Player of the Year and currently plays in the MLL for the Chesapeake Bayhawks after previously playing for the Los Angeles Riptide and Chicago Machine; Elizabeth swam for the University of Florida, was a six-time all-Southeastern Conference selection, and competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials; and John is the starting goalie for the Fighting Irish. If all of those honors were not enough, Julie, CJ, Joey, Liz and John have all been named All-America in their respective sports.

    For one family to have so much athletic talent is remarkable, but the Kemp children are not the only athletes in the family. Their father, Robert, played football under Lou Holtz at William & Mary.

    "My Dad has some really funny stories about him (Lou Holtz)," says Kemp. "He does a really good impression of him with his voice."

    Kemp, who started playing lacrosse at the age of seven, said going to so many practices was hard to adjust to in the beginning, but he soon realized the relationships he gained with teammates and coaches were definitely worth it. Also, being in this athletic atmosphere with his siblings helped Kemp with his own game.

    "When you are around sports all the time you think about the game from a young age," says Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan. "You recognize what works and what doesn't work. There is no question that John has benefited from the experience of all his brothers and sisters."

    When Kemp was younger, he learned the most from his siblings through observation - seeing his sisters' diligence in getting up at four in the morning for swimming, watching his brothers play on the field, and attending everyone's games.

    "Seeing the success they had really helped me," states Kemp.

    Not only was Kemp excelling in the same sport as two of his older brothers, he also was playing the same position. With so many similarities, it is hard not to feel the pressure of following in their footsteps, but that did not faze Kemp.

    "I think it makes it easier for me, but it also makes it harder," comments Kemp. "Obviously there is a lot to live up to, but it is also something to keep in mind because they have been through it and makes it feel like it is possible for me."

    In his sophomore year at Georgetown Prep, Kemp committed to play for the Irish, where his brother, Joey, was the goalie at the time. Because of the quality of education and his brother's experience at the school, Kemp felt Notre Dame was the obvious choice.

    "Joey absolutely loved it here," says the younger Kemp. "I always joke around that we have had the same teachers, and he brings up stories about them."

    Since they both played goalie for the Irish, it is hard not to draw comparisons. According to Corrigan, both John and Joey have very similar approaches to their position.

    "If you were to look at them from 100 yards away and watch them in the goal and watch their mannerisms - the way they move and even their footwork - it is scary sometimes how much they look alike," states Corrigan.

    It is not only John and Joey's on-the-field play that is comparable, but also their mental attitude towards the game that has helped them thrive.

    "The qualities that most distinguish them are their mental toughness and their ability to keep an even keel and perform at a high level on a consistent basis. They just never get rattled. They are never thrown off their game," adds Corrigan.

    With having two older brothers play professionally, Kemp gets plenty of feedback on his performance.

    "If John has a bad game, the first guys he hears from are his brothers," says Corrigan.

    "They watch my games and tell me what I did wrong," says Kemp. "During our Duke game last year, Joey sent me an email after the first quarter telling me what I was doing wrong. I saw it at halftime and made adjustments."

    With the support of his family as well as his own commitment to the sport, Kemp has had a very accomplished career thus far at Notre Dame. He recently was named the 2012 BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year and was one of 25 nominees up for the Tewaaraton Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top lacrosse player. Kemp currently ranks first nationally in both goals-against average (5.95) and save percentage (.641).

    For Kemp, his personal statistics are secondary to those of the team. His focus is solely on how he is contributing to the team's efforts and success.

    "I don't like to think of personal goals because I really don't care about personal goals," states Kemp. "It just matters what the team does."

    His leadership and stability are qualities that his teammates rely on, especially in tough situations.

    "He just comes in quietly and does his job," says Corrigan. "I think the guys count on that no matter what is going on. If things are going well or not, John is going to be the same guy, and they can look back, trust him and count on him to be 'that' guy."

    Even with all the success he has had, Kemp does not forget to give credit to his parents for their encouragement and dedication.

    "I think it is true for me and all of my siblings that we consider our parents our role models. With their dedication in taking us to practices and sending us all to private schools, they have had to give up a lot for us."

    Having so much athletic achievement in one family seems almost unfathomable, but the honors and accolades do not lie. And for the youngest Kemp child, he keeps adding to the incredible legacy.

    - Briana Coyne ('12)

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