Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Far from your typical southern girl, Kelley Lynch has racked up a vast amount of prestigious awards and accolades that rival that of any great athlete. In high school, she dominated the classroom with a 4.0 GPA and in turn dominated the softball field as well. Leading her team with a 17-0 record when pitching, in addition to an astounding 236 strikeouts while only allowing 18 hits and 13 walks. As exemplified here, for a large part of Kelley’s life, she has been exceedingly dominant. She hails from Newnan, Georgia which is about 40 miles south of Atlanta and she now finds herself in Seattle, Washington attending the University of Washington.
Her journey, like many others before her, has been filled with unexpected twists and turns. She was originally committed to Auburn, however, following a coaching staff change, she made the decision to play with the Washington Huskies for her college career. As cliché as it may be, life has thrown plenty of adversity Kelley’s way. Yet each time life throws something at Kelley, all it can do is stand back in awe. For Kelley steps up to the plate and sets her feet in the batter's box and despite those obstacles, we can rest assured she’ll knock the challenge out of the park - every single time.
Kelley’s Most Recent Achievements
Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2019
Pac-12 Freshman of the Week (Feb. 18, Feb. 25, March 3)
Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019
Featured on cover of Sports Illustrated
Won the World Cup with the USA Junior National Team
2019 USA Softball International Cup Bronze Medalist
Won a PGF national championship
Won back-to-back Georgia Class 7A State Championships
Extra Inning Softball's National Player of the Year
Ranked by Extra Inning Softball as the #1 player in the 2019 Extra Elite 100 recruit rankings
Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019 by Softball America
Player of the Year by the Georgia Dugout Club
Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year
Kelley: I’m Kelley Lynch. I play softball at the University of Washington and my softball journey began when I was really young. Pretty much right when I turned four, I started playing in the 6u rec ball tournaments near my hometown in Georgia. I have a sister that's four years older than me and once she started playing competitively, I just followed in her footsteps.
Being four years younger, I just idolized my sister and all her friends. Going to all her tournaments, I could remember asking all the brothers in the stands and the other dads, “Hey, would someone play catch with me, or would someone come over here and throw with me?” So, growing up I would say I owe a lot of success to my sister. Not just because she played softball, but because she’s always been a huge leader in my life and I’ve always looked up to her. She ended up playing Division1 softball at Kennesaw State which is a college in Georgia.
After seeing her sign and play D1 softball, it just lit even more of a fire in me. You know the— “I want to do that, I want to play Division 1 softball.” My dad actually passed away in 2012 and he had coached us our whole lives. That was just another driving source behind my identity; who I wanted to be; and what I wanted to be in softball as a sport. I think that really pushed me to want to succeed in the next level. Now here I am a few years later, I just finished up my freshman year at UW, so it’s kind of interesting how I eventually got here. I was originally committed to Auburn up until my junior year, and then we had a coaching change and some opportunities arose. One of which was for me to come out and check out UW. I ended up loving it and now I’m here!
Kelley and the U.S. National Team
Richmond: Are you looking to participate on the National Team in the future?
Kelley: I’d love to play for the National Team! Unfortunately, we only have the U-19 team and then the big girls team. So if I wear the red, white and blue again, it’ll be on the big girls team playing for an Olympic medal. It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about. I’m pretty sure I want to continue playing after college, so hopefully I can make that dream come true.
Beyond the Odds
Richmond: So, I’m not really a big math person, but statistically speaking you’re the one person, the one athlete out of probably thousands or even millions that could win prestigious awards like Gatorade Athlete of the Year— and for me that's literally insane to think about. How do you think you manage to stay humble despite everything you’ve achieved?
Kelley: I think that awards at the end of the day are things that you can put on your bookshelf and be proud of. A lot of awards people can look at as compliments, but I think it really speaks to people's inner spirit and inner drive. It reflects a mindset that: you can’t get this stuff unless you’re working for it, unless you’re pursuing it. I think the more awards I’m blessed with and fortunate to get, the more I’m driven or compelled to work harder to get even more.
I don’t really know what makes me humble. I just love the game. At the end of the day the awards are awesome, but I’m just playing to have fun. I’m out there playing with my girls, just having a good time. The awards— they’re not everything. They are not why you’re playing. They are not why you’re out there, so I think that’s just what I have to remember.
Richmond: So, let's go back to the past. When you were younger did you ever imagine that all these great things would happen to you? All these awards, all these accolades and great things. You’ve achieved so many things that many kids can only dream about.
Kelley: Absolutely not. As a little kid I was just like all my friends. I think all of my friends growing up played softball together, so it was like our thing to do. I was really passionate about it and everyone's dream is to play college or professional ball, but I didn’t think that would realistically be me. Especially not at a PAC-12 or SEC school. I’d just always dreamed of playing college ball somewhere. I think it was around 8th grade when I really started getting noticed by these huge D1 powerhouse schools for softball. I think it really hit me that this is attainable for me. I realized that I’ve worked hard enough and I’ve got to keep going, because this is something that can actually happen.
So growing up, I definitely didn’t think that I’d be blessed with all that I have been. I can’t be more thankful for what God has given me. The gift he’s given me. So I’m gonna keep going until it runs out.
A Year of Achievements
Richmond: So, in this past year before Covid did you have a favorite event?
Kelley: Yeah, the Gatorade Awards were by far the coolest thing I’ve ever been able to experience! Just going out to Los Angeles and going to the ESPY's was totally insane. My jaw was dropped the entire time just watching everyone and it was just the craziest thing ever— it was so much fun!
Richmond: Did you get to meet any cool people while you were there?
Kelley: I got to meet Abby Wambach, Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, and Peyton Manning. It was insane and I think all the athletes there— going back to the humble question— were talking to all of us who were all 18 or 19 years old about to go to college; a couple of the athletes were about to go professional in sports like baseball and basketball. They were just talking to us and giving all the advice they could and asking us questions; seeing if they could make us feel comfortable. It didn’t even feel like I was talking to this huge idol that you just look at and praise on television, and for me that was really really cool. It was like, “Wow, I can have a conversation with these people,” and I realized sports aren’t their whole entire life. They’re just awesome people that love what they do, and it was something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life for sure.
Richmond: Yeah, you’re definitely able to see that these people are human; they are breathing just like the rest of us. You mentioned that they gave advice to you, but what advice do you have for the younger generation?
Kelley's Advice for Younger Athletes
" When I look back at high school sometimes I just feel that I could’ve done more. I could’ve been more proactive and I think that for anyone who is serious about wanting to be the best— you just have to put the work in. The younger you start doing that the more successful you’ll be in the long run. . . . It’s hard to juggle relationships with your friends and family while trying to hit extra. . . . So the earlier you start trying to map your days out and exactly what you want to do: who you want to be and your long term goals, then I think that's how much more successful you’ll be able to be."
Kelley's Fun Fact
"Well, I have a Goldendoodle. His name is Chesney and people probably know I have him because I post a lot of pictures of him on Instagram because I love him so much. What people probably don't know is that my mom, my sister, and I literally refer to him like he's a human. So it's like “Chesney, your sister's gonna take you on a walk” *laughs* and I’ll be like “Mom, where’s my brother at?” It’s just something quirky we do at our house. " *laughs*
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