New York Soccer Stories: Sky Blue’s Kim DeCesare

unnamed

This is the second article in the Empire of Soccer series on the men and women from the New York/New Jersey area who are now playing, or have played professional soccer. 

By JACK BELL

imagesizecacheurlShe may be a household name only in her own household, but make no mistake — Kim DeCesare is a New York (O.K., Long Island) soccer story through and through.

Despite a detour to Durham, N.C., for college at Duke University, a cup of coffee with a club in Sweden and now a three-year residency in Central New Jersey with Sky Blue, DeCesare, 25, said that her soccer heart will always live in Massapequa.

“I stuck with the Massapequa Power until college,” she said. “I was training with the boys teams before college and wanted to stay loyal to my club. There were others who left the club to play with a bigger team after they developed with us. I decided to stay and help the team.”

DeCesare embarked on her soccer career at 7 years old with the Massapequa Squirts, playing five-a-side with downsized goals for diminutive players. As the oldest of two children (she has a younger brother, William), her parents, Bill and Anna, signed her up for a smorgasbord of youth sports — soccer, basketball, softball, swimming and karate. Neither of her parents, had ever played soccer and it was her mother, a softball player, who was her athletic role model.

“She is my sports enthusiast, she’s like an encyclopedia, especially for women’s soccer,” DeCesare said. “It’s funny, my parents were not the crazy soccer parents. They really didn’t know too much about the sport, but my mom loved to know the stories about the girls. Not stuff like who’s better, she never talked about that. She’s interested in women’s sports.”

unnamedDeCesare is the first to admit that she was late in developing her ball skills, but instead was fearless on the field and helped her club team win New York State Cup titles. By age 12, she had discarded most of her interest in playing other sports to concentrate on soccer. That dedication and enthusiasm, however, did not prevent her from being cut four straight years after tryout for a regional ODP team. She didn’t make the team until she was a junior in high school.

Like many young players, DeCesare confesses to not being a huge fan of the game when it came to watching on TV. Who had the time? “Not that I didn’t have interest, but I was always playing, I had homework. When it came to TV, it’s the last thing I wanted to watch.”

That began to change as DeCesare spent more time training with her club’s older boys’ teams.

“I had to think quicker, make quicker decisions,” she said. “The boys were all stronger, but I’d say it also helped my confidence. With the boys, I was one of the bottom two players. If you don’t connect a pass you got yelled at. They tried to expose you on the field. I got tougher. If you make a mistake they’re telling you right away. Girls, on the other hand, would just say ‘come on guys,’ then talk behind your back.”

Playing ODP opened up unforeseen college opportunities to the point that in the first week as a junior DeCesare received 15 letters from college coaches. “My mom made me write back to every one of them,” she said. “I had no idea where I wanted to go, I just knew I wanted to play soccer.”

The choice came down to Duke University of North Carolina State, both competitive Atlantic Coast Conference schools. She said she was surprised by the interest from Duke, which was looking at national team players.

She sat out her freshman year because of knee injury sustained in high school; played 500 minutes as a sophomore, none as a starter; then started and played every minute against opposition that was technically and tactically more mature.

“I’ll never forget, in my senior year we played UVA [Virginia] in Sweet 16 and we were up, 2-1, with about five minutes left in the game,” she said. “I was begging to come out and just sit on the bench, I couldn’t move. But we wound up winning, 3-1, and I scored that third goal in last minute and a half. I didn’t celebrate after the game. I just walked off the field, I was so physically exhausted. I could not move. That was full mental and physical exhaustion.”

At the ripe “old” age of 25, DeCesare said she would have done a few things differently — offering a cautionary tale that, basically, less is more.

“I would have taken things a little bit lighter,” she said. “When I was young, if I didn’t play in game I would run the bleachers. I wish I would have done less physical work and more technical. Work with the ball more than go for a run. I was playing all the time, training all the time. In college I was first at practice then the last to leave. I wish would have done less.

“More quality, training smarter.”