POWHATAN – Having gone to Blessed Sacrament Huguenot for 14 years, Michael Kemp got to grow up and watch every individual before him in that span achieve the school’s Male Athlete of the Year honors. He’s gotten to see who each individual was, what they’d go on to do and where they are now – “playing college sports and everything and doing all this great, ridiculous stuff.”
“Seeing everyone do that…when you’re younger, you’re almost in awe of it.”
And when Michael Kemp achieved BSH Male Athlete of the Year in 2019, he pretty much had that same feeling.
“I was honored to the fullest extent,” the senior said. “I was in awe of myself – I didn’t think I was capable of getting that award.”
Kemp had immersed himself in each of the three sports he played for several years, starting basketball and soccer when he was about 5 years old and football when he was around 10. For Blessed Sacrament Huguenot, he played all three - both football and soccer since 7th grade and basketball since 5th grade – all the way through his senior year.
He’s taken immense pride in playing for BSH.
“I don’t think I could’ve had a better experience competing for the school,” Kemp said, “because I’ve done it for so long, and I think there’s a certain attitude that you have playing for a smaller school.”
The football team, with its 7-3 winning season in 2018, played a huge role in representing the school this year, Kemp pointed out, and while he described being in the spotlight as “pressing because we had to keep being successful,” he and his BSH Football teammates were able “to be presentable to everyone and make it known that our school exists, and that we’re here, and we’re not a joke – we’re not a small, little itty-bitty school that doesn’t mean anything to anyone.”
Kemp had initially started competing with the idea of winning and playing for the coach.
But as he’s come along throughout the years, he started to realize that: “It wasn’t really about the coach or winning – it was more about the teammates to me.”
He’s gotten a lot of his inspiration from playing for his teammates and not for himself; back when he was named to First Team All-State this season for football, BSH Football head coach Shawn Pickett was quoted as saying about Kemp: “You’d have to get a forklift or something to drag the kid off the field…because he’ll do anything for any one of these kids on that field.”
“I love playing the game – I love the game to death,” Kemp said. “But I love my teammates even more.”
He’s earned unconditional respect for them, having seen how they make the same sacrifice as him on the hardwood, on the gridiron and on the soccer field.
“You just want to put in as much effort, maybe more than they’re putting in, because they’re putting in that amount of effort for you…personally I felt the need to give back to everyone that was working hard to help me,” Kemp said. “I worked just as hard as they did – maybe even harder – to give back to them.”
For football, Kemp – despite his being one of the smaller players on the field – feels that the aggression and “sense of reckless abandon” with which he played really helped him out and pushed him to achieve First Team All-State for defense.
In basketball, he had the ability to be a voice of reason on the floor.
“Because it’s a high school sport, everyone’s a teenager, sports are very emotional and everything…having the voice of reason on the floor to try and keep everyone in check’s really helpful” – Kemp said – “especially when it’s someone who’s played for the school for a lot of years…”
He brought physicality to the soccer field and emphasized having the right mind set.
“We didn’t have success this year like we had had in previous years,” Kemp said, “but that kind of physicality and mind set of playing through fouls and losing players and all of that kind of adversity…the ability to keep playing through all of that is very important, and having younger teammates see that and be inspired by that can push your team to be incredibly successful.”
When it came to playing three sports, the most attractive aspect to Kemp was the challenge.
“I really enjoy challenging myself and I don’t like to do things the easiest way possible,” he said. “I could’ve played football in the fall and soccer in the spring and cut out on basketball and have my time to myself, but I have teammates to play for and I had a commitment made to the team, and I wasn’t going to let myself just sit around all winter and do nothing but hunt.
“I wanted to make it so I had to manage my time and manage my school [work] and make sure I made it to practice every single day and was prepared for games in every single sport,” Kemp said. “I think it’s helped me out in ways that I can’t even say – prepare myself for what’s coming after high school.”
Kemp is leaving for the United States Marine Corps boot camp on July 15.
“I am ecstatic,” he said. “The day cannot come soon enough for me to start this adventure.”
For anyone who’s reading this and considering playing a sport: do it – Kemp emphasized.
“It is a one-of-a-kind experience,” he said. “It will set you up for success in any facet of your life.”