The Great Kate … an interview with Kate Incerto

In an ongoing effort to feature University of Texas Soccer alumni, we’re thrilled to present an interview with the great Kate Incerto, UT class of 2010. Kate played for the University of Texas Soccer Team last year, and after graduating this past spring, she’s now working at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Kate played for the Longhorns in her senior year as a walk on after spending two seasons with the UT club soccer team. While she loved her club soccer experience, she dreamed of making it up to the varsity team. In 2009, Kate tried out for the Texas team and joined-in for practices over a three week period. It was an incredible experience and she loved it. While she didn’t make the team in 2009, she also didn’t get discouraged. Finally, in 2010, Kate got the call she’d been waiting for. She was asked to join the Longhorns varsity team as a full time player. While not in the starting lineup, Kate still became an invaluable part of the team, providing endless support and encouragement to her teammates.

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Kate encouraging young campers at the Berkshire Soccer Academy in Otis, Mass.

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When asked about her former teammate, current Texas Longhorns Soccer captain, Lucy Keith, responded, “Kate is an amazing person. One of the best I know. She is full of life and a friend to all. Kate knows how to make people feel special and included.” Asked about Kate’s warmth and friendships among team members, Lucy added, “She is truly the greatest friend someone good have. Her spirit and smile are contagious which is why so many of her teammates wanted to be around her.”

We caught up with Kate in Colorado Springs where she hasn’t skipped a beat in contributing to everyone around her and also where she’s very much enjoying her new experiences.

1)  You’re working now at the United States Olympic Training Center. What’s it like?

My internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs has been incredible! In fact, if there’s such a word for “super incredible,”  I’d choose that instead. Some of my duties here include setting up and attending community service events for the athletes, creating programs and events for the athletes living on site, and writing articles for the newsletter which is distributed monthly. I have a TON of interaction with the athletes, which makes for an amazing job.

We refer to the Training Center here as a “campus” or “complex” because it’s a lot like a college campus. There are dorms to house all of the resident athletes, coaches, and interns. There is a cafeteria “the caf”, oh my gosh the food is so yummy, and there are weight rooms and facilities for a variety of different sports. Some athletes come in for a weekend like a Michael Phelps, who will be here next month, while others have been living here for six plus years. We have a huge range of sports that are represented, but most of the athletes here are for triathlon, gymnastics, fencing, bobsled, wrestling, weightlifting, judo, pentathlon, shooting and several paralympic sports.

I’ve become friends here with Jessica Long  who is one of the top paralympic athletes in the country. She’s also one of the Coke “Eight-Pack” Athletes for the London 2012 Games along with U.S. Soccer’s Alex Morgan. One day she was randomly mentioned texting Alex Morgan, and I about flipped out! They’re good friends, and I’m more than slightly jealous! :)

Colorado Springs is absolutely beautiful. My walk to work takes about two minutes and along the way I get the most amazing view of Pikes Peak. The weather is unbelievable as well with almost no humidity. (Ha, it makes me never want to go back home to Houston!) There are 20 interns this semester, all working in different departments. Since we all live on the same floor in our dorm, it makes for a very freshman-year-all-over-again atmosphere which I really love!

Graduating from school was hard. I had to leave behind so many precious things. Teammates, friends, soccer, and security. So this has been a great transition for me, and hopefully this opportunity will open other doors as well. Regardless of what happens down the road, though, I’m so thankful for this experience here right now.

My favorite experience so far has been fencing. I previously thought fencing was perhaps a dorky sport, you know, maybe for people who didn’t make the baseball team growing up. In reality, you need to be very athletic to do it. And strategic. I got to bout (fight) against other interns, and I had so much fun learning the techniques.

Oh, one other fun note. There are three interns here from the University of Texas Sport Management Program. This definitely makes me proud of my UT education, and it’s pretty cool on game day when the Longhorns are the majority!

Kate Incerto (right) fencing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

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2)   In the question section of your bio for Texas, you were asked, “If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice what would it be?” Your response was “Take it to the house Kate.” Can you expand upon this answer and tell us what in the world you were talking about?  :)

To be perfectly honest, who the heck knows what I was thinking when I wrote that down! I wish I had some really awesome story about why I wrote that, but I don’t! I remember when we had to fill out the questionnaire last fall, we were rushing through it because we also had pictures that same morning. So I panicked a little when I came to that question.

I started using the phrase “Take it to the House” on my WPSL team, the Buxmont Torch, in the summer of 2010, but I don’t want to miscredit Trick Daddy. He was the original creator of the phrase… but I definitely made it sound cool! I used it frequently at practice and in the locker room. I think at times my teammates would say it was excessive. Haha, but it was my go-to, my way of saying get the job done, go score a goal, go get ‘em tiger… You get the idea!

3)  You are one of only two players in the history of Texas Soccer to have a career shooting percentage of a hundred. (The other being Shay Wilkerson.) Can you tell us about the goal you scored on September 3, 2010. … Let’s take you back: A little over a year ago, at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin, in front of 1,300 fans on Horns and Heroes night, Texas played host to visiting Navy. The Navy side scored first in the 13th minute, and the Horns then responded with five unanswered goals over the course of the game. You scored the fifth goal for Texas in the 86th minute off a corner kick. Please tell us about your goal. We’d love to hear every detail!

This might sound kind of cheesy, but I will never forget that day, that game, or that goal. My parents were in attendance as well as a few close friends which made the moment even sweeter. I remember stepping onto the field that night. There was still twenty minutes left in the game, and I was determined to play my best and finish strong for my teammates. I will tell you straight up that I didn’t make the Texas soccer team because I was a stud muffin player. I was never a super fast, highly recruited high school athlete. I just loved to play. I had a great attitude and I always worked my butt off. I controlled the controllables. So when I scored that night, it was an inexplicable feeling for me. It was unreal. Everything I’d been through the past few years, all the hard decisions I’d made and the extra work I’d put in, it all came to fruition in that moment.

For the goal itself, it was every center-mid’s dream setup. The corner was crossed in, the ball bounced around through defenders before it popped out and rolled its way back to the top of the 18 yard box. It was a gift! I’m telling you every center midfielder dreams of a shot opportunity like that! I wasn’t thinking too much as the ball came back to me, I just remember ripping the shot. I struck the ball with my laces, and the ball ended up in the left upper 90 of the goal – the goalkeeper had no chance. Looking back I’m so glad I didn’t shank it over the net!

I’ll never forget what Lucy said to me after the game was over. She told me, “Kate, after you scored, I thought you saw Jesus!” It was a bit overwhelming. My teammates surrounded me with high fives, hugs, and butt slaps. Okay, I made that last one up! But I think you can see from the picture, I was absolutely overjoyed.

Kate Incerto celebrating with teammates after scoring her goal against Navy

Texas Captain, Lucy Keith, on Kate’s goal against Navy:
“I’ll never forget the look on Kate’s face when she scored her goal against Navy. I remember telling her after the game that ‘it looked like she saw Jesus!’ Her smile was ear to ear and she was glowing. Although we already pretty much had the game won, everyone was so excited that Kate got herself a goal! It was such a joyous moment for her. It was even more special because she had family in town. I was so happy for her in that moment.”

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4)  You had an amazing experience at the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy. Can you tell us about it? What was it like? Is Kristine Lilly a fun, great person? And the kids, were they totally inspired by the experience?

Yes! I’ve been fortunate enough to work for her camps three times now. The first one was in Dallas for Team First Soccer Academy, which is a new soccer camp run by Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Tisha Venturini, and Angela Kelly. It was amazing. I got to work closely with all of them for four days. A dream come true? Definitely. I also got to stay with them in the hotel, and on my last night my room got cancelled so I actually bunked in their room. It was awesome to get to know them off the field. I was also really encouraged by their amazing relationship with each another. One of my favorite things about team sports is the lasting friendships you build with your teammates, and in their case, they are family with one another and act like sisters. So it was really neat to see that.

My second camp with Lil was this past summer in Boston. Lil lives there with her family now and held a camp there for local girls. I got to stay at her house so I wouldn’t have to stay in a hotel. It was great because the Women’s World Cup was going on so we would come home from camp, make lunch, play with Sid, her daughter, and watch the games.

The third camp was the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy in Wilton, Conn. I stayed with her at her dad’s house during that camp as well but also visited my family frequently in Norwalk. In all, I spent about 3 weeks total with Lil this summer. I never thought in a million years I’d spend even one full day with one of my soccer heroes. And now she has become a mentor to me, teaching me a lot about the game, coaching techniques and more importantly, to love what I do and share that love with other people.

I’d also have to add that working with Lil is straight up the coolest thing ever. I grew up admiring her. She was my favorite player. I still have a poster of her on my wall, even here in Colorado! Now that I know her, I have to say that Lil is the most down-to-earth, humble, and selfless professional athlete I’ve ever been around. Her camps are phenomenal. She does them because she loves it and you can tell. She is there the entire time, from registration to tear down. She is very hands on with the kids, super involved in the coaching and even when she was seven months pregnant she was out there demonstrating drills for the campers. I learned a lot from her both as a player and a coach.  I realize I’m very blessed to have grown so close to such a world class athlete. I plan to continue working for her camps as much as I can.

Kate with a 7 month pregnant Kristine Lilly

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5. Did you go through a tryout process to become a walk-on player at Texas? We’d actually love to hear as much you can tell us about the whole process of becoming a walk-on (and we hope that your story might encourage other walk-ons in the future.)

Well, it was definitely a process for sure. The first step was realizing I wanted to compete at a high level and be a part of an amazing program. After I left St. Edward’s and transferred to Texas, I played for the UT club team for a year. Although I had an awesome experience doing that, I was hungry for something more challenging than what the club had to offer. So I emailed Chris (Petrucelli) over Christmas break and asked for a tryout. He responded within a few days and told me I could come practice with the team in January. Holy cow, I was pumped!

I continued to work my tail off all break, to be as fit and as technically sound as I could. At the beginning of January I received an email from Sarah Barnes (Texas Soccer Assistant Coach) letting me know I needed to come by their office as soon as I got back to campus. My first day back in Austin, I met Chris and Sarah in Chris’ office. We talked briefly about my background and why I wanted to join the team. Before leaving, Sarah handed me a packet of paperwork to be filled out prior to practicing with the team. Actually, let me rephrase that. It was a book of paperwork. A lot of it was insurance information, and healthcare questionnaires, and I had to set up an appointment with the team’s athletic trainer, get my shot record up-to-date, and have copies of all my important cards (social, drivers license, medical, health, etc) made.

After I got all of that turned in, and everything was processed and approved, I got the OK to join a practice. The night before I could hardly sleep. I laid everything out on my floor and I set four different alarms to ensure I wouldn’t be late! I woke up the next morning with an unreal amount of energy. My apartment was about a twenty minute walk from the field so when I finally arrived I felt completely refreshed. I recall having to wait a while at the door, because I didn’t have a swipe card to get into the facility. Walking into the soccer house at Mike Myers for the first time, I was completely in awe. I introduced myself to a few of the players before putting on my boots and walking out into the stadium. The field was unbelievable. I mean, the grass could have easily been mistaken for carpet. I don’t recall too many specifics from the actual practice, I just remember being fully satisfied with my performance that day. I was confident I had done my best and I left it out on the field.  I knew I wouldn’t be the most talented player in the stadium that morning, but you better believe I was going to be the hardest working. I remember leaving practice feeling incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’d just been given. I wanted so badly to be a part of that team, but I also realized that regardless of what happened I’d just had an experience most soccer players would die for.

The coaches asked me to come back again the next day, and I continued practicing with the team for two months. In April, I was told that I wouldn’t make the roster for the coming fall due to a lack of budget and the large amount of players already on the roster. I played club soccer again the next year but then received a call from Sarah the following winter. She asked me if I was still interested in being a part of the team. I told her “Heck yeah!” and she invited me to a spring practice. I guess I made the cut, because I stuck around all spring and into the fall. Long story short, I went through two tough spring seasons to play a fall season… but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Kate Incerto (left) with Longhorns teammate Erica Campanelli

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6. As a player in a back-up position with Texas Soccer, did you define a specific roll for yourself on the team? And if so, what was your roll on the team?

I think the great thing about a team is that each and every person does have a role. That doesn’t mean your role will be the same throughout a season or even throughout a game. But whatever your role is as a player at that point in time, you have to embrace it. Wherever you are in life, you have to be all there!

Being a part of the team, my personal goal was to consistently be one of the hardest working players and to maintain a positive attitude. That was not always easy, especially when we were losing or running fitness, but I knew that if I couldn’t contribute on the field as much as I wanted to, then I would have to contribute off the field in other ways. This also included being an encouraging teammate on the bench. Let me tell you, we had a great bench last season, and it seems to have continued on to this season as well.

At the beginning of last the season, I noticed we were standing for the first five or ten minutes of the game, and then sitting down. Well, that just wasn’t going to fly. So by the time we were about 4 games into the season, the entire bench was standing the whole game and being loud in the hopes of energizing our eleven teammates out on the field. Heck, ask Leah Payne about that, she’ll get a kick out of that one. She wasn’t thrilled about it at first and tried to convince me to let us sit near the end of the half. But then she always ended up standing the entire game, and now she an avid stander! :)

The coaching staff started an award mid-season called the “Texas Fight”. It recognized the hardest worker in practice from the previous week and was given out each Friday. I was fortunate enough to receive it three times that season. I obviously wasn’t a Big 12 Player of the Week or an All-American, but receiving the Texas Fight award was a great honor and really meant so much to me. Being on the bench was hard at times, but that award encouraged me to continue working hard for my teammates and it reminded me that there truly is profit in all hard work.

•  Follow Kate Incerto on Twitter at @kate_leigh9

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Kate working with children last year at an NSCAA Camp

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