Favorite athlete: Conor McGregor
Favorite team: Philadelphia 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Staying overnight and playing with my teammates in Wildwood
Most embarrassing memory competing in sports: Constantly accidentally hitting my teammates in the head with the basketball during shooting practice. It’s a habit I’m really trying hard to break.
Favorite music: I listen to a lot of R&B rap. Right now my favorite rapper is definitely Roddy Ricch, but my favorite person to listen to is Post Malone.
Future plans: I am attending Howard University in the fall of 2020 and hope to pursue a career in medicine.
Words to live by: “You only live once. Live life to the fullest. Embrace every opportunity.”
One goal before turning 30: Get my scuba diving license and see the Blue Hole in Bali
One thing people don’t know about me: I lived in France for a year-and-a-half when I was younger and I speak fluent French.
By Mary Jane Souder
Sydney Kemp was voted ‘most likely to brighten your day.’
The Hatboro-Horsham senior also was voted ‘class clown,’ but given the choice between one senior superlative or the other, Kemp opted for the former.
Both superlatives have happy connotations, and both confirm one thing – Kemp brings a smile to people’s faces, and wherever she is, there’s bound to be laughter.
“Sydney is a great person, super nice,” Hatboro-Horsham girls’ basketball coach Dennis Steinly said. “Everybody on the team smiles when they talk about her. She has a great attitude and a great personality.”
Tennis coach Michelle McGill echoed a similar refrain.
“Sydney has a heart of gold and can easily cheer up anyone with her infectious smile,” the Hatters’ tennis coach said.
It’s easy to understand why Kemp is such a welcome addition to any team, and although her journey with the basketball team had a few speed bumps, it had a happy ending. Kemp is a contributor on a Hatters’ squad that changed the fortunes of the program, earning a postseason district berth for the first time since 2006.
“I really got to see how we started off as a team that barely won any games and was not doing well at all,” Kemp said. “I got to see us move on from that and then changing over coaching and changing to a different way of playing.
“Now defense is basically our whole game. If we don’t play defense well, then we aren’t going to win. The speed and the incorporation of using defense as a way to score has changed the way that we play.”
When Dennis Steinly took over the helm last season, his coaching philosophy wasn’t the only change. Kemp, a starter as a sophomore, found herself coming off the bench.
“That put me down a little bit,” Kemp said, admitting she entertained thoughts of walking away from basketball. “Quitting was a thought in the back of my mind.
“If I didn’t want to do this anymore, I could easily walk away, but I think the toughest challenge I have had mentally is just staying with it and not letting other factors come between me and what I want to do. If I had quit, I don’t think that I would have been happy with my decision. I needed to stay.”
Steinly, for one, is glad she did.
“I have a great amount of respect for the fact that she could have quit - she had reasons, she was upset, but she worked through it,” Steinly said. “The lesson I try to get through – because most of the girls aren’t going to play sports for a living – you’re going to encounter difficulties and trouble and things that don’t go your way. You can either sulk and feel sorry for yourself or you can work and try to improve, and she’s always chosen to continue to work hard.
“I’m happy that things have turned around, and she is a contributor this year for a team that is competitive.”
Kemp began playing basketball in second grade when she returned to the States after living in France a year-and-half. In seventh grade, she picked up tennis.
“I wasn’t necessarily interested in tennis in the beginning,” she said. “My mom always wanted me to play tennis because it’s a lifelong sport.
“I fell in love with it in eighth grade and that’s all I did. I stopped basketball for a while.”
Tennis might still have a more prominent place in her life if she hadn’t suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament and was sidelined her entire freshman season. She returned to the basketball court that winter and decided to give lacrosse a try in the spring. For the past three years, Kemp has played basketball and tennis.
Kemp played doubles for the tennis team all three years, second doubles as a senior.
“She enjoyed working with her teammates, and her presence could always be felt around the courts,” McGill said. “We wish Sydney nothing but well wishes in her future endeavors.”
Basketball, meanwhile, has been a bit of a family affair for Kemp.
“The biggest influence was my dad,” she said. “He’s had season tickets to the Sixers games since I was a kid. I grew up watching basketball non-stop. That really forced me to play the sport a little bit more. Also, the speed and the intensity and how games can go from being nothing and turn into an amazing game.”
Kemp joined the AAU circuit in fourth grade and continued through ninth grade. She made the varsity team as a freshman but wasn’t happy with her playing time.
“I really worked hard that summer, and sophomore year I started every game,” Kemp said.
After a junior year of transition under a new coach, Kemp came into her senior season with a new attitude.
“This year I came in with an open mind,” she said. “I’m not worried about playing time, I’m more worried about what I do on the floor when I play, and I think that really pushed me and made me a better player overall because I was more focused on the team and not so much worried about my personal goals.”
Kemp has seen action in every game and been a consistent contributor off the bench for the Hatters.
“She has really stepped up and is playing the best basketball I’ve ever seen out of her as far as effort and making things happen,” Steinly said. “Statistically, she’s making positive contributions. I think she’s had a good time being part of the team. It’s a close-knit group of friends.”
Kemp stays busy away from sports. Last year she tried out for the school musical Newsies ‘just for fun.’
“I really was surprised with the experience,” she said. “I didn’t think I would really like it because it’s really out of my comfort zone, it’s’ not something I would have done. I loved it. I met so many new people. It was an eye-opening experience. It was really fun.”
In the fall, Kemp – who places a high value on academics - will attend Howard University where she will major in biology on a pre-med track with her sights set on becoming a doctor.
“I grew up around medicine,” she said.
Both her parents are veterinarians, but Kemp will not be following in their footsteps.
“No animals,” she said with a laugh. “Growing up I’ve literally had almost every single type of animal – I’ve had reptiles, I’ve had rodents, literally everything. I can’t do animals. They’re not fun for me.”
In order to stay close to sports, she would like to specialize in orthopedics.
For now, Kemp and her Hatter teammates have their sights set on their opening round district game, the program’s first in 15 years.
“I never thought we would make districts with this sport – I never thought HH would make it this far,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”
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