Author: Owen Hill
Maybe they are destined for greatness, or maybe they are just an intramural team. Regardless, the Keck Kickers have become one of the most talked-about teams in the history of Occidental’s intramural sports program — well, if not the most talked about, then certainly the most entertaining. Captained by Charlie Haakenson (junior) and Natalie Makel (sophomore), these fiery-footed steeds have made headlines in their first season.
Before deciding to call themselves the Keck Kickers, the small group of theater students tried team names such as “Bend it like Shakespeare,” “Real Theater” and “Stanislavskeet-skeet.” The decision to settle on “Keck Kickers,” according to Haakenson and Makel, came from different sources.
“When you look at the name ‘The Keck Kickers,’ it tells you a lot about who we are,” Haakenson said. “We spend a lot of time at Keck Theater — a lot of time, classes and rehearsal hours. We’re the kickers because we’re those from Keck who kick the soccer balls.”
Haakenson and Makel said that the team’s passion, energy and work ethic sets them apart from other intramural teams. Makel added that the team uses unique pre-game motivation tools.
“For example, I give the first monologue and I always pull from ‘Miracle,'” Makel said. “‘Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.’ It’s really great because it pumps us up, but it also confuses the other team. ‘Are we here to play hockey?’ they’re thinking.”
In addition to their artistic backgrounds, the Keck Kickers have some legitimate athletic talent on their squad. Haakenson, Amanda Wagner (senior) and Rhys Hyatt (junior) played soccer in high school. With their experience comes no shortage of ability for a team with title aspirations.
“[Haakenson, Wagner and Hyatt] are all very good soccer players,” Makel said. “We just sort of fill in cracks where needed and hope that they don’t [ever] need subs. They really put the team on their backs.”
Declan Meagher (senior) said that he uses Stanislavski’s method to prepare for games — specifically, emotional recall. While he did not play soccer in high school, Meagher did play football and is able to draw from those performances.
“I use substitution when I perform soccer,” Meagher said via email. “I recall what I did on the football field and use it on the soccer field for a truly layered performance. This often results in a much more violent, explosive and physically dangerous performance, including sacrificing my body for the team.”
Haakenson added that the Keck Kickers are as good as Leicester City Football Club of the Barclay’s Premier League. He cited the team’s energy, youth and effort as reasons to compare them to the current English league leaders.
“I’d say we’re more like Chelsea,” Hyatt said. “One, we have [Meagher], who reminds me of a [Branislav] Ivanovic, who is just a large man who goes out and hits people. We’re not allowed to slide tackle in intramural soccer, but [Meagher] decided to dive in headfirst to win a tackle. There’s also a Nick Justice [junior] who reminds me of a Diego Costa — a very scrappy, physical player.”
Justice said that his affinity for punk rock and “moshing” at concerts carries into how he likes to play soccer. He added that he is not very good at soccer, so he uses intimidation tactics to his advantage.
“Some of my [other] teammates like to yell ‘Nick, Chaos Mode!’ at me, at which point I just start screaming and charge whoever has the ball with the fury of a thousand angsty suns,” Justice said via email.
Hyatt said that the level of competition in the intramural league has made the team’s play even more outstanding.
“This is a very competitive league,” Hyatt said. “Every team takes their games very seriously, as we all should. [We should] have thousands of fans come out to support us. I mean, real fans should come out and watch us play.”
But the Keck Kickers like to keep games competitive. They don’t want to run up the score, Hyatt said, and put other teams to shame as a result. He cited one of the team’s big accomplishments — a comprehensive 9-2 win — as the ceiling for their future margins of victory.
“There aren’t any numbers that can quantify how many goals we would have scored [with our best team],” he said. “We couldn’t handle the press that would come with it. We have to go to class the next day, and we wouldn’t be able to cope with the attention.”
Hyatt said that the team’s desire to surge to the top has been fueled by a lack of recognition for the department. He said that with further recognition, the team can rise to even greater heights.
“For too long, the theater department has been the under-scrotum [of the college],” he said. “This is for us. This is to put the theater department back on the map. I’m looking to get more funding [for the team] after we lift the trophy.”
While the Keck Kickers have not caught international attention just yet, they certainly are one of the more entertaining teams on campus. This month, these multitalented thespians can be seen doing what they do best in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” performed at their namesake, Keck Theater.
Though balancing their work on stage with their athletic aspirations may be an issue, the Keck Kickers are not short on confidence.
“We are simply the best,” Hyatt said.
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