Beyond the Lines is a biweekly profile story on a coach or athlete that goes beyond the fields and courts. The goal of these profiles is to discuss what makes them who they are– core values they live by, their relationships with others, what is meaningful to them, and more. Beyond the coaching and student-athlete roles these individuals play, at the end of the day we are all human.
In nearly 15 years with the men’s lacrosse program, including 11 as the head coach, Keegan Wilkinson has lived by one word all his life– overachieve.
His coaching resume would tell you likewise: three MAAC Coach of the Year awards, five MAAC Championship appearances, and two MAAC trophies. But outside of coaching, overachieving is in his DNA.
Wilkinson was raised in Columbia, Maryland by his parents Paul and Beth, and is the youngest of three siblings. Athleticism runs in their family, as his father was his basketball coach for many years while his sisters Molly and Kate were chasing their own athletic dreams.
Molly played field hockey and lacrosse in high school while Kate earned herself a college scholarship in equestrian, but “probably could’ve played field hockey or lacrosse at a very high level,” according to Keegan. Being the youngest, his siblings pushed him almost as much as his parents did. If anything, it was his father who pushed him the hardest.
“Nothing was ever given to me, nothing was ever handed to me,” Wilkinson said. “I was always asked to be the hardest working guy on the team when he was my coach because he knew that we’d be under a magnifying glass.
“So he pushed me very, very hard. And the thing that I’m really lucky that he did for me at that time is he never ever talked to me about other kids. It was never about the other kids on the team, their performance, why they should be playing. He would only talk to me about me, in my game, and what I needed to get better at.”
According to his dad, the biggest thing Wilkinson needed to improve on was not on the field. It was his approach, his attitude.
He was ultra-competitive, hated losing, and would get distraught after a loss, so he was taught how to manage the emotions he felt to turn them into motivation. His father always told him to believe that more could always be done, to never be satisfied.
This was evident as he was a multi-sport athlete until eighth grade: soccer and football in the fall, wrestling and basketball in the winter, and baseball and lacrosse in the spring.
“I’d come from a town where I was on every travel team for every sport. And if I’d gone to my public high school, I probably would’ve started at quarterback and point guard and on the lacrosse field,” said Wilkinson.
Instead, he enrolled at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, where athletics were more competitive than his public high school. He admitted he wasn’t the most talented player, but he would always play hard and was the “glue guy.” In the early fall of his freshman year, he showed up to soccer tryouts, and the first test was the mile run. When he saw the varsity team run, he started having second thoughts about playing. After a few days, he decided it wasn’t for him and focused his attention on lacrosse. After two seasons of lacrosse coming off the bench, Wilkinson almost gave up.
“I wanted to quit, I wanted to transfer back to public school and it was really hard and I just wanted to go there and be a star and be the guy that got a lot of attention,” said Wilkinson.
At 16 years old, Wilkinson’s parents were there to push him harder and convinced him to persevere. His mother strongly believed in loyalty, so he had to push himself harder than before. His father also sat him down and told him that it was an incredible opportunity to be playing at such a competitive school.
So he stayed the remaining two seasons and was part of the team that won the championship in 2001 in what was supposed to have been a rebuilding year.
After high school, he attended Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and was a four-year starter on the Hawks and was a captain his final two years. Despite this, there were times throughout his collegiate career where he was told he should transfer to a bigger school as St. Joe’s wasn’t quite a lacrosse powerhouse. “Loyalty is everything.” His mother’s words always quelled the transfer talk.
Wilkinson racked up all kinds of accolades: two-time All-NEC selection, Hawks Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006, was the team MVP his senior year, led the team in assists in points in three out of four years, ranked second in the school’s all-time assists list, and was seventh in all-time points. Overachieving was certainly an understatement at St. Joe’s.
His love for lacrosse is also evident during his free time today, as he spends most of it watching other lacrosse games because of the several NCAA committees he’s a part of. But something he loves almost as much as lacrosse is music.
“I listen to everything, honestly, and that sounds cliche. I like rap, rock. I’d say my number one thing is rock and roll, classic rock. Pearl Jam, Black Crowes but at the same time, our guys crack up on this on my Spotify– it’s Drake, it’s Kendrick Lamar, it’s a lot of different things,” said Wilkinson.
He has records hanging up on the walls of his living room– Gary Clark Jr., Funkadelic, David Bowie, reggae artists and more. When he finds a concert that aligns with his schedule he’ll try his best to go out to them.
But when it’s jamming out at concerts or being involved with lacrosse matters, he and his wife Jessica will fly away somewhere, typically California or Hawai’i as they’ve done many times. All they need is a towel, a beach chair, and the sun’s rays to fully immerse themselves in the grains of the sand. This is their ultimate form of letting go from overachieving.
And now the Wilkinsons have a third person for these vacations, their three-year-old daughter Ryan.
“Being a father is truly amazing,” said Wilkinson. “Our daughter Ryan is amazing and my wife often laughs at how much of a kick my players would get out of seeing me as a ‘girl dad.’ It’s been really special to have her growing up on the Marist campus surrounded by both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams and the other members of the athletic department. My daughter is everything to me, my wife and I feel so lucky to come home at the end of our busy days on campus to spend time with her and our dog Huck.”
It goes beyond Wilkinson’s immediate family, it’s also the players he’s had the privilege of coaching during his tenure with the Red Foxes. Multiple sets of brothers have come through the program– the Dizons, Violas, Coveys, and currently the Emburys. Wilkinson also has the privilege of coaching his own nephew, sophomore Bryant O’Donnell, which further emphasizes how much family and relationships mean to him.
“Spending the last 13 or 14 years here, this program is everything to me. My wife and I were just laughing about it that my best friends are guys that either coach with me now or coached with me in the past and played for me. I met my wife here, we raise our daughter here, and we’ve been fortunate to build a really successful program,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson may have been a glue player during his playing days, but he has certainly had every player and coach together for many years with the goal of always competing for the MAAC title.
Without his parents, sisters, coaches, players, and the people who have supported him throughout his life, he would not be the son, brother, uncle, friend, coach, or mentor he is today: an ultimate overachiever.
Edited by Dan Aulbach and Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Keegan Wilkinson