Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor Leader

Sarah Keady: Authentic Leader, Compassionate Teammate

By DAVID BIGGY | Nov 01, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy TWO-WAY STAR: Sarah Keady was selected by her coach to anchor the Wildcats defense, but the fleet-footed senior made the offense click, too.

Little Egg Harbor — A few years ago, Pinelands Regional field hockey coach Liz Law gave Sarah Keady a new assignment. She was going to be the team’s center back, the lead player at the top of the defensive formation.

“Sometimes, in the past, I was afraid to do or say something, mostly because I lacked the confidence in myself,” said Keady, who just completed her senior season. “She looked me in the face and said, ‘You’ve got this!’ I had no reason to worry about it, because she had full confidence in what I could do. Since then, my confidence level has continued to rise.”

Good thing. The Wildcats needed a center back who could lead from the middle of the field as they transitioned from defense to offense, and Keady was the one Law pointed toward to take charge.

“I knew when she joined the team as a freshman she eventually would be a senior captain and a pinnacle leader,” Law said. “Leadership is ingrained in her personality. In my role as the coach, I’m here to provide a platform for the girls to thrive, and she had a platform to find her space as a leader in that center back position. She not only thrived as a leader, she did everything I could have asked of her and more.”

Within most sports, defenders don’t often receive the highest of accolades. Generally, the highest praise is reserved for those who score the goals or have high numbers of assists. This past season, Keady did quite a bit of both while anchoring the defense, finishing with the fourth-highest goals output (9). She led the team in assists with 10, most coming from her role as the deliverer on penalty corner attempts.

“I said at the beginning of the season, Sarah is a full-package leader. And that didn’t change at all,” Law remarked. “From front to back, she continued to show personal responsibility and great ethics every time she took the field. Her standards are unwavering. And she did everything she could to help our team.

“Her leadership was nothing less than consistent, every day, on and off the field.”

Providing a calm presence in the middle of the field definitely was something the Wildcats needed this season, particularly because a lot of young players were taking on full-time roles and several were taking on new roles.

“I like to lead by example, and be a friend to everybody,” Keady said. “It takes time to be a leader. You have to be there for others. And that’s what I enjoy about being a leader.

“During a game, leading is easy because you just have to know what’s going on, and follow the game plan. But off the field, it’s different. You don’t really know what you’re going to have to deal with each day, or how you’re going to deal with everything.

“But I love leading, off the field as much as I love leading on the field. I didn’t want to be some ‘big, scary senior’ everybody is afraid of. I wanted all my teammates to know they could come to me and talk about anything, that I’d always have their back.”

Of course, Keady credits her coach not just with helping develop her confidence level, but also challenging her to be the leader she is today.

“I wouldn’t be who I am without Law,” she said. “She probably has had the biggest influence on me of anybody. She breaks down every problem and makes it seem like it’s easy. She cares about us as players on the field, and even more so off the field. She has complete confidence in everybody she puts on the field.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot more from her the past four years than (from) anybody else.”

Law loves that her senior captain is greatly self-motivated, honest and authentic.

“Sarah never pretends to be something she’s not,” Law said. “She has goals, she can set goals, and she truly works hard to finish them. She doesn’t need much push from anybody. If I came up with a list of things any of our girls would be as they leave our program, she has all those pieces. That’s why she’s able to lead the way she does. She has a genuine passion, and can elevate everybody.”

During the winter and spring sports seasons, Keady is a leader for the girls track and field program as well. The speedster has developed into one of the better 400-meter runners in Ocean County.

“I’ve been running since fifth-grade,” she said. “I raced a couple of my friends and thought I was good at it, so I kept doing it. I love the thrill of running. My friends think I’m crazy.”

What’s not crazy is Sarah’s choice of career. She plans to major in exercise science and work toward a doctorate in physical therapy. Interestingly, she’s already decided not to pursue field hockey or track after high school.

“I was going back and forth on that decision, but I really think it’s important that I focus on my academics in college,” she said.

“Whatever happens this winter and in the spring, I’m thankful for every moment I have with my teammates, just as I was for every moment I had with my teammates on the hockey field. I’ve made a lot of ‘friends for life’ the past four years.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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