Leading by example: UJ's Kemp competing on national stage
A full-time dream job or a shot at an elite athletic career?
Some people, like University of Jamestown women's wrestling coach Shauna Kemp, don't have to decide between the two. They just do both.
Kemp is entering her third season heading up the Jimmies and has some big goals for the program this upcoming season. Women's wrestling is an emerging sport around the country and, according to Kemp, recruiting athletes at the collegiate level is getting more difficult season by season. Kemp explained with the addition of roughly 10 to 15 new programs each year, she realized her background as a wrestler could be used to the Jimmies' advantage.
Kemp, a sponsored wrestler with the California-based Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, has hopes of making the 2020 Olympic team by winning at 50 kilograms during the Olympic trials next April. Her history and success in the sport are extensive, and it's not just for herself that she is competing.
"I realized it would be a good opportunity to get some publicity for my team and for Jamestown. So I just decided to compete and see what kind of exposure I could get for our team," Kemp said. "It's an Olympic cycle this year so I am going to just kind of give the best effort I can to try and make the 2020 Olympic team and hopefully that brings some publicity.”
Kemp recently won the U.S. Women's Beach World Games Trials held in Las Vegas, Nev., this past April, which qualified her to compete in the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 12-13.
Kemp said even though she is an elite-level athlete, she will remain completely dedicated to coaching the Jimmies. She said she has decided not to train during team practices herself, as that will be time to coach and be present watching UJ's progress. Kemp wants to lead her team by example and show it through her own journey what is needed to make a top-level women's wrestling program.
"It takes a little bit more for a female to gain the (trust) of another female, but once I do (have it) they run with it," Kemp said.
Kemp said as a coach she has to be more strategic and careful in the way she approaches her team because wrestlers -- male and female -- are generally used to being coached by males. Kemp has purposely hired male assistant coaches and has had experience coaching men's wrestling, both of which she said help her credibility with the team.
"I seem a little bit more willing to try new things and not just go by the norm," Kemp said.
At the end of the 2018-19 season, a young Jimmies' team hosted and placed third at the first-ever NAIA Women's Wrestling Invitational held at Harold Newman Arena, with 10 Jimmies placing inside the top 10 individually to earn All-American recognition. UJ was ranked third in the NAIA and No. 12 in the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association.
The coach believes her team is capable of ending this winter with a top-five finish in the NAIA, a top-seven finish in the WCWA and a second Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference title. Kemp also said some individuals on the UJ team have the potential to compete against her next spring.
"We'll hopefully qualify a couple of girls into Olympic trials," Kemp said.
The new college season begins in November for the Jimmies, but one can bet Kemp isn't going to wait until the first official practice to start working toward the titles she has in mind. The Jimmies will be shooting for "Conference Champs," while Kemp has her eye on "Olympic Team member."
And, the coach/competitor isn't planning on picking just one.