Men's Lacrosse

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Remembering Bob Kemp: Notre Dame Lacrosse Family Honors Devoted Father

Oct. 7, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Former University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse goaltender Joey Kemp every so often thinks back to things his father used to say.

“He would always tell us, ‘Use the sport, never let the sport use you.’ What he meant was to use the sport for what it had to offer in the long run of life--building character, leadership, picking your head up when things didn't go well, and to never let the ups and downs of competition get the best of you or go to your head,” said Joey.


Kemp has missed hearing those sage pieces of advice since May 10, 2014. That turned out to be a bittersweet day for anyone connected with men’s lacrosse at Notre Dame.

On one hand, the Irish team opened NCAA Championship play that afternoon with a 13-5 win over Harvard at Arlotta Stadium on the Notre Dame campus.

On that same day came news of the passing of Bob Kemp--father of Notre Dame’s two former All-America goaltenders, Joey and John—due to a heart attack at age 63.

On the next two weekends when the Irish continued NCAA play—including a landmark overtime win over Albany and an eventual appearance against Duke in the championship game in Baltimore—the Notre Dame players wore BK stickers on their helmets.

Mention BK around Notre Dame, and most fans might first think of Irish football coach Brian Kelly.

The suggestion that a parent of an Irish lacrosse player might be memorialized in that manner proved a strong indication that Bob Kemp was no ordinary father.

Notre Dame continues its tribute to Kemp this weekend by participating in the Bob Kemp Lacrosse Classic, celebrating Kemp’s legacy and his commitment to faith, family and athletics.

From 3-7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at The Terrace in Washington, D.C. (101 Constitution Avenue N.W.), the Irish lacrosse team will play host to a game watch and tailgate to view the Notre Dame-Navy football game—including a networking component for Irish players and alumni. Order tickets here: http://bobkemplacrosseclassic.com/game-watch-tickets

Then, at noon EDT Sunday, the Notre Dame and Navy lacrosse teams will face off at Georgetown Prep’s Fegan-Galvin Field. Admission is free, and the game will be followed by a 2 p.m. clinic featuring Major League Lacrosse players.

Proceeds from the weekend will benefit the Washington Jesuit Academy, a cause dear to Bob Kemp, and will create a WJS scholarship in Bob’s name. Washington Jesuit Academy, founded in 2001, serves students from low-income communities in grades 5-8 in the Washington, D.C., area. All WJS students attend on full scholarship.

Living in Potomac, Maryland, mortgage banker Bob Kemp (he played football for Lou Holtz at William & Mary) and his wife Cheryl were parents to seven children, all of them aspiring (and eventually prolific) athletes:

-- Rob, who graduated from Providence
-- Julie, an All-America swimmer at the University of Miami
-- C.J., the first All-America lacrosse goaltender at Fairfield (2002-03)
-- Erin, who swam at Towson University
-- Joey, an All-America goaltender at Notre Dame (2006-08)
-- Liz, an All-America swimmer at Florida who helped the Gators win a national championship as a team captain in 2010
-- John, an All-America goaltender at Notre Dame (2012-13)

Tales of the Kemp clan growing up in the youth sports world became legendary:

-- Rob, the only Kemp of the seven kids not to play Division I sports, kidded that his tuition cost more than his six siblings combined.

-- “He (Bob) always got in the stadium early so he could watch his kids get warmed up. He never made a big deal about it . . . they just always knew they could look up and find him when they were getting shots before the game. He was usually by himself unless someone intruded,” recalls Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan.

-- In John’s freshman lacrosse season at Notre Dame in 2010, Bob and Cheryl came to see the Irish play Ohio State in South Bend—while driving back and forth twice to West Lafayette, Indiana, to watch Liz swim in the NCAA Championships (Liz swam the first leg of a relay that clinched the title for the Gators). “That was a great weekend,” noted Bob.

-- Family pride rooted strongly: “Everyone is rooting for the person on the field or in the pool. When I go to their games, many times it’s hard for me not to say, ‘I’m Julie Kemp.’ My name has changed (since she married) but I want to say ‘Kemp,’” she said.

-- “Do you know how many socks we had in our house?” asked C.J. “Thousands, thousands, all unmatched,” said Julie.

-- Bob displayed his thrift in college by ordering the cheapest item on the deli menu—a 75-cent tuna fish sandwich. So his kids would roar when their dad, years later, still ordered a tuna sub for lunch.

-- The Kemps would set their alarm for 4:12 a.m. because that was the exact time required to get two Kemp daughters to morning swim practice at American University. When Julie began driving, Bob often followed her for the first month just to make sure she arrived safely.

-- The only one of John’s Notre Dame lacrosse contests that Bob missed was one in 2010 in South Bend against Rutgers when Irish veteran goaltender Scott Rodgers suffered a hamstring injury, and John ended up finishing the game.

-- Bob refused to let any of his children move out of the house until they had saved $50,000.

In fact, Bob became so wise in the ways of college athletics that he often could be found consulting other lacrosse parents as their offspring began considering playing at the college level.

“My dad got a new Irish lacrosse jacket for Christmas, and he was so excited to wear it. Well, our first game that next year was in Jacksonville, Florida, and the temperature was 80 degrees and he wore that jacket proudly the entire game,” said Joey.

“He never played lacrosse but he grew to love the game. And as proud as he was of all of his kids, he was most proud of marrying my mom.”

This weekend is for Bob Kemp.

Those BK stickers suggest his impact reached farther than your average parent and father, mentor and fan.

-- by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director 

The University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built: Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.

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