Parker Webster / Ball State Sports Link
Embracing challenges and having the confidence to overcome them is what defines Ball State senior defender Shelby Kean’s soccer career.
From palm trees and warm weather to cold wintery mixes, Kean has loved her time as a Ball State Cardinal. However, college soccer was never really something she thought she could do early in her career.
“Freshman year of high school I think it was always something I thought about,” Kean explained. “My confidence wasn’t there for it. I never thought I’d be good enough for it.”
When playing for coach Carlos Giron at Saint Thomas Aquinas, he really helped excel Kean’s confidence in stepping up to the next level to play college soccer. Giron even helped Kean on her path to Muncie.
“He was always a confidence booster for me,” Kean said. “Aside from that, I have always had my family and friends that were just supporting me through it all. My club coach also coached for the Puerto Rican national team with the former Ball State head coach.”
After a stellar 21-1 season in high school, she had more than enough confidence to pursue being a college athlete. A connection Giron had to the former Ball State head soccer coach, Craig Roberts, paved the road for Kean to come to Muncie.
“When I came to Ball State I just fell in love with the campus and the girls here,” Kean said. “It felt like my home away from home.”
When Kean arrived on campus in 2017, the team was on the brink of winning a MAC championship. Now a few years later, the senior sees much of the same in this year’s team.
“The drive, especially in this Covid year, I think we just all are on the gas hard and ready to go,” Kean stated. “The same determination and drive from that team is what I see with this team.”
As a sophomore, Kean played 30 minutes in Ball State’s MAC Championship victory over Bowling Green. Now, Kean’s role differs as a starter on the backline, being a key vocal leader for this group is something she enjoys specializing in.
“I have always been loud, maybe too loud, but I do it in the best interest of my teammates,” Kean said. “When I started doing it back in my high school days, I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing. Just being calm and composed and being able to relay that to the team is a big aspect to being a vocal leader for the team.”
In a time where communication is one of the most important things during the pandemic, Kean knew her and her fellow seniors would have to step up their communication off the field too.
“We were already good about staying in touch,” Kean said. “It was easy to get down at times but just the resilience factor of everyone working out every day and knowing that everyone was putting in the work while we were in the midst of a global pandemic made me see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The team would even hold Zoom calls to have dinner together virtually to do anything possible to keep the connections strong.
“On the field they are fighters, they are enthusiastic and ready to go,” Kean said of her teammates. “I think that’s awesome to see because when I was a freshman, I was really intimidated at first. From the get-go, off the field they are fun, and fun loving and fun to be around. They really have clicked well with the team.”
One of the freshman Kean can see some of herself in is Gracie Gilbert from Carmel (Ind.). They were able to connect right away, and Kean is eager to take her under her wing this season.
“Gracie Gilbert, I told her from the start I just see my freshman self in her,” Kean said. “The way we play, the way we hold ourselves on the field, and how we speak to people. I just see a lot of myself in her and I just want to be there for her and mentor her through college soccer.”
With a team that’s just as highly supportive all-around, Kean has been grateful for the unique senior class she is a part of.
“Just learning about all of them has been interesting,” Kean said. “I am the only American in this senior class. Each and every day I am learning something different and I’ll have a bunch of places to travel. I am just grateful I have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people from around the world.”
Ball State finally made it back on the pitch to start the season Thursday, March 4 when Kean would score her first career goal. Emotions poured from Kean’s face after she headed the ball into the net from a corner kick by junior defender Lexy Smith.
The senior was able to check that off her list of things to do this senior season but, more remains to be accomplished.
“Other goals being a MAC Championship, good team culture. I think just happiness, being here and embracing the last few moments with these people who are my world,” Kean said.
Though playing soccer is not in the plans for Kean’s future, she will graduate in the spring of 2021 with a degree in Sports Administration.
Kean will graduate this spring with a bachelors in Sports Administration, although playing soccer isn’t in her future plans, the sports world will still be. After interning this semester with BSU athletics, Kean is highly inspired by women leaders like Beth Goetz and Dr. Karin Lee to pursue grad school as she moves back to Florida.
“Karin and Beth are just female powerhouses; they are the best of the best. They show me that there are amazing women in this field” Kean said. “Just seeing how successful and personable they are. Gets me motivated and keeps me pushing toward that end goal.”
The senior defender understands the challenge of sports being male dominant and is ready to change that stigma. With the motivation of the great women leaders in Ball State Athletics and her confidence she has built up from her time here at Ball State.
“Wherever life takes me, shoot for the stars, land on the moon” Kean said.
With just two games left of the regular season, the Cardinals (4-2-1) still have a shot to win a MAC Championship but must win games both to do so.
The Cardinals head to Northern Illinois Wednesday, April 7 at 3 p.m. before finishing the regular season with senior day against current MAC West leader Eastern Michigan (6-2) on Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m televised by Ball State Sports Link on ESPN 3.