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Athletics at AU: Megan O’Keefe ’17

Megan O’Keefe is a senior on American University’s Division 1 women’s soccer team.  She is studying sports broadcasting and is currently in her final season of college soccer and is graduating in the Spring of 2017.

Her Campus American University: When did you start playing soccer? Did you always know you wanted to play in college? 

Megan O’Keefe: I started playing soccer ever since my dad introduced me to a soccer ball.  He played college soccer, and once I could start walking, he put a soccer ball at my feet.  I had to have been two or three years old when I started kicking a ball around. I lived in Alaska when I was preschool and kindergarten-aged, and that was when I was on my first team. My dad was my coach.  When I got older I started playing other sports, but I dedicated so much time to soccer throughout my whole life that I think it was definitely the move for me to play in college.  I didn’t always think I was going to play in college because I heard about how much of a time commitment it was, and how it was basically your life and your job to play a sport in college. By junior year I started thinking I wasn’t ready to be done with soccer when senior year of high school ended-I would be so sad if high school ended and soccer ended. During my junior year, I knew I wanted to play for American.

HCAU: Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you as a Division 1 soccer player?

MO: So in the fall in season you wake up at about 6:30 am, and for someone like me who is constantly injured, that means rehab exercises at about 7:00 am. Then practice runs from 8-10:30, and lifting may be included in that. Almost every day I have an 11:20 class, so I go sraight from practice to class. Some days class ends at 5:00 or 8:00 pm, and somehow I find time for eating in between there. I also work for a youth soccer league in the area as a coach, and I help with their social media too. Eventually later at night, usually 9:00-11:00 pm I try to work on real school work, and I panic if I’m not asleep by midnight. If the clock shows any time past midnight I go into total panic mode-I need my sleep.  

HCAU: Do you have time to balance hobbies/extracurricular activities on top of athletics and academics? If so, which are you involved in?

MO: So it’s definitely very hard to balance the time, and it takes a lot. I have 4 calendars, so I’m constantly reminded when I have something to do. I have a calendar in our locker room, a calendar I carry around, one on my desk at home, and one on the fridge at home. I’m hyper-organzied, so that allows me to fit hobbies in and try to have a social life. The hobbies that I’m involed in give me a social life. The league that I coach with has been a nice way to branch out and have another group of friends.  A lot of time I’ll coach all day on Sunday at Player Progression Academy (PPA). I also work for the AU athletic broadcasting team. So now that I’m injured for the rest of the season, I get to be one of the commentators for all of the soccer games.

HCAU: How has your athletic background influenced your future career goals?

MO: I have been playing sports my entire life, and that’s obviously what I know best, so I thought to msyself: “why don’t I apply sports to a career?” I’m pursuing sports broadcasting, so we’ll see how that goes. I came to school wanting to do international studies. I’m now trying my best to do everything I can to build my demo reel and highlight reel. Now I keep thinking that I’m graduating very soon, and my GPA and grades aren’t going to matter. What’s important is what takeaways I will have from college. Like videos of sideline reporting for the basketball team, for example.

HCAU: Let’s talk about injuries-what types of injuries have you had as a college athlete and what is it like not being able to play your sport because of them?

MO: So, I sprained my ankle pretty bad sophomore year, so that kept me out for half the season. I had a couple of concussions in high school, and in college I’ve had 3 documented. When you get your first couple concussions, the trainers are very strict about them, which is great. Once your symptoms go down, you try to pass your baseline concussion test that represents your “unconcussed score.” I have had to take that test a ridiculous amount of times. I had a concussion sophomore year, and spring last year, which was okay. I really just wanted to be fine for senior year-I’ve been out with so many injuries that I’ve never really felt fulfilled in my career. I knew it would be possible my senior year for me to get another concussion because the position that I play in is really physical. I’m a center back so I’m constantly going up for headers. In the spring they told me if you get one more concussion, you’ll be done playing soccer for good. Deep down I thought that I need a fulfilled season, and I knew I needed it for my own sanity. Senior year I started off so strong, and I was so happy to be healthy. I was playing Tennessee in September, and I went up for a header, and as I came down I was sandwiched between our goalie and the other team’s player. I knew then that I was done, and nothing could have prepared me for that moment. Game days are probably the hardest for me now because our team has so many injuries, but I feel physically okay, even though I’m not. It’s so hard to watch my team struggle and not be able to do anything about it.

HCAU: For those who don’t know, what is a concussion and what is the recovery like?

MO: So, once you’re cleared to start physical activity and have passed your concussion test, you bike for a day, then the next day you can lift. Next you’ll run, then have a non-contact practice, and finally you can participate in a contact practice, and then you’re in the clear. You can take a few days to go through each stage. If you ever get symptoms you go back to square one, and you have to take a day off and then take the concussion test over again. Sophomore year, I ended up taking the concussion test seven times. For me, symptoms included headaches, ringing in my right ear, difficulty concentrating, and sensitivity to light. When you’re concussed, all you can do is sit there. You can’t read, and you can’t look at phone or TV screens. For this concussion in particular, they’re taking me through it slowly. My symptoms lasted two weeks, it took me three tries on the computer test. Today was my first day lifting. Now that I’ve come to terms with not playing soccer again, I am much more patient with the process.

HCAU: What advice would you give to incoming college athletes, or more specifically, soccer players?

MO: I vividly remember seniors telling me during my freshman year of how fast the time goes by. But it really flew by so fast, and I would tell anyone you have to enjoy it. Stop yourself and realize that it’s going to be over so quick, and you’re making memoreies right now that you’re going to have forever. Don’t wish any time away. These will be the most fun four years of your life. You will have teammates through it all, and you’ll bond closer together because you go through the hard stuff with them. Don’t beat yourself up about a loss or a bad game because there are so many bigger things, and you’re so lucky to be in the position where you can even play a sport in college.  You really have to enjoy it because it really blows by.


Photo Credits: 1, 3 courtesy of American University Athletics, 2, 4, 5 belong to Megan O’Keefe

Shannon is the former Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus American University. She is a Psychology major and is also a senior on the varsity swim team.
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