Kennedy Josephs' first memory of kicking a soccer ball was at age 2.
That's when she joined her Jamaican-born father, Keith Josephs, for some back and forth with the ball in their Rochester backyard.
Not long after that, Keith took things up a notch with Kennedy, the youngest of he and wife Sonya's two daughters.
Life would never be the same.
"In one of our first days in the backyard, I would not allow Kennedy to kick with her (dominant) right foot," the 46-year-old Keith said. "I wanted her to be strong with both feet."
And there you have it. If you're looking for a soccer demarcation line with Kennedy Josephs, maybe the most promising soccer player ever out of Rochester, there it is.
This was the true start of things, the taking off point of soccer becoming much more than a way for Kennedy and her father to while away time together. It's when soccer morphed into a mission — Kennedy's mission — and one that's only gained steam. The Friedell Middle School eighth-grader now finds herself listed among the top 112 13-year-old girls soccer players in the country.
And for Kennedy, that ranking is only the start of things. At least she sure hopes it is.
"I want to play DI (college) soccer," Kennedy said. "And I want to play on the United States women's team."
And Keith and Sonya? They'd celebrate both of those things, too. That's because they're also in love with soccer and even more in love with their two daughters, Kayley — a Mayo High School soccer star before graduating last spring and now going to school at Duke — and Kennedy.
But there are days when Keith and Sonya want something completely different when it comes to Kennedy and her year-round pursuit of soccer greatness. There have been so many miles driven; so much time and money spent.
Sometimes they just want a break.
"There are days when I wish Kennedy would tell me that she didn't want to go to practice," Keith said with a laugh. "But she almost never does."
Hard to blame Keith, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. Kennedy's soccer practices these days are 80 miles away in West St. Paul. They happen three days a week, year-round. This all started two summers ago, when Kennedy tried out for and made the Eclipse Select Minnesota U13 team, the top Minnesota club for her age group. Also on the team is Rochester's Addison Clarey, another budding star.
Keith and Sonya, a pediatric dentist, are Kennedy's drivers. They're not crazy about those trips, which have them leaving the house at 3:30 p.m. and not getting home until close to 11, with homework done in the car.
Kennedy's commitment to that routine is total. But …
"Sometimes I'm tired," Keith said. "And I also worry that maybe all of this is too much for Kennedy. I worry about her burning out and not having a life."
Indeed, Kennedy's soccer existence doesn't stop with those thrice-weekly practices and then tournaments most weekends at places as close as the Twin Cities and as far away as California.
There also are Friday workout sessions at Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, individual skills training she's done in the Twin Cities and Olympic Develop Program training, which will happen once a week for eight weeks, starting in November in Minneapolis.
But when it comes to Kennedy's daily schedule, there is a lot more to it than that.
There is the matter of Kennedy working to maintain her straight As at Friedell (she's in the gifted and talented program and double accelerated in math), practicing piano up to two hours per day and also trying to squeeze in time with friends.
Yes, it all gives both her parents pause. That's despite Kennedy not being ready to pause one bit.
Soccer is magical to her.
"It makes me feel free when I'm out there, like I don't have anything else to think about," Kennedy said.
And then there's her future. She has a hard time not thinking about it.
"It would be really fun to go on the field playing Division I and play in games that people can watch on TV," Kennedy said. "I want to go to Stanford or Duke."
BIG SISTER'S INFLUENCE
If you're looking for an individual driving force in Kennedy's quest for soccer greatness, you'll find her in Durham, N.C.
That's the college home for big sister Kayley Josephs.
Before Kennedy was catching the eyes of fans, opposing coaches and college scouts, Duke freshman Kayley was doing it.
Sonya recalls then-Mayo High School soccer coach Dave Foreman hesitating before calling Kayley up to the varsity as a freshman. Foreman figured it was only that rare freshman who was ready for high school's biggest stage.
He found out in a hurry that Kayley was one of those rare players. With her lethal mix of speed, size and touch, she scored a ridiculous 25 goals that year.
Kennedy watched most of those 25 hit the back of the net, taking them in with her parents.
Already hooked on soccer at the time, Kayley's phenomenal play further inspired her. The same has been true of Kayley's stellar work in the classroom.
About all of it, Kennedy says with a smile: "I don't want to be as good as Kayley. I want to be better."
Says Kayley: "Kennedy is really competitive, and not just in soccer but in life. She likes to come out on top."
A bit of a sibling rivalry here? Yes, a bit, even though it might be coming from just one direction. And even though both Kayley and Kennedy say they are as close as sisters can be.
So far, Kennedy is keeping pace with big sister in school with her straight As. In soccer, she's on a path that would surpass big sister, who was a finalist for the state's Ms. Soccer award as a senior. Setting Kennedy apart is that she was chosen to participate in the ODP National Training Camp in Phoenix, one of just 112 girls in the country to make that cut.
Kayley sees things in her sister that she didn't quite see in herself.
"She has a very good eye for the field, something I didn't have as well," said Kayley, who is playing club soccer at Duke this year but might go out for the real team next year. "She's also very versatile, and her athleticism allows her to do that."
Neither Josephs sister is lacking in the athleticism department. Besides being agile and strong, they both have speed. Kayley was a sprinter on Mayo's track team, and Kennedy was, too, last year as a seventh-grader. Kennedy's 100 time ranked among the top couple on the entire team. She didn't stick with it, though, as her club soccer got in the way.
That speed, combined with rare strength for a 13-year-old, make her a physical problem for teams to contend with.
Andy Kaasa, her Eclipse Select coach, is sold on her.
"She is an incredibly dynamic forward," he said. "She is great at creating shots, and her shot is unbelievable. She has great power with both feet, and technically she is unreal. She is very advanced for her age."
Age, school: Kennedy is a 13-year-old, eighth-grader at Friedell Middle School. She is in its talented and gifted program, where she has all As.
First kicks: Those happened at 2 years old, as Kennedy began soccer training with her father, Keith Josephs. They did their first kicking in the family backyard.
Soccer ladder: Kennedy started off playing recreational soccer in Rochester, then moved up to a Rochester traveling team from 8-11 years old. Then she joined Dakota REV out of West St. Paul and for the last two years has played for the top club team in Minnesota for her age group, Eclipse Select Minnesota U13, also out of West St. Paul.
Family: Kennedy's parent's are Keith and Sonja Josephs, both born and reared in Jamaica. Keith is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, and Sonja is a pediatric dentist at Apollo Dentist Center in Rochester. Kennedy is one of two children to Keith and Sonya. The other is Kayley Josephs, a former soccer and academic star at Mayo High School who now is a freshman at Duke.
Eyes on the prize(s): Kennedy's long-term goals are to play Division I soccer and be a member of the U.S. national team. She'd also like to be a neurologist, like her father.