Deaf lacrosse star uses sports to show deaf girls they can do anything, receives scholarship to Westminster College
Kennedy Flavin celebrates after assisting on a goal during the state quarterfinals her junior year. (Brighton High School Yearbook)
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Senior attacker Kennedy Flavin is an all-region, all-state lacrosse player, one of the top scorers on Brighton High School’s team and she recently received a scholarship to play at Westminster college.
She’s also a student body officer, a social butterfly and a budding philanthropist.
Oh, and she’s deaf, too.
When she was in sixth grade, Kennedy’s best friend Nici Boutwell invited her to a lacrosse practice. After the practice, Kennedy knew that lacrosse was something she wanted to do.
Kennedy’s first coach taught her a stick drill that involved lying on the floor while moving the lacrosse stick in different patterns.
“She must have done them one million times,” said Kennedy’s father Mike Flavin. “She told me, ‘Dad, I have to work harder so I can be better.’”
Fast forward five years, and Kennedy and Boutwell are seniors with Brighton lacrosse and they’ve committed to play at rival schools, Flavin at Westminster College and Boutwell at Colorado Mesa University.
“I’m going to be playing my best friend, Nici, three times a year,” said Kennedy. “That’s really cool. That’ll be fun.”
Kennedy visited colleges in California, New Hampshire and Texas and even verbally committed to Pacific University in Oregon
“It was a long process to find that school,” Kennedy said. “At first I didn’t even want to think about staying in state. I didn’t even want to apply. I said, ‘No way. I need to move and go out of state.’”
Westminster ended up feeling like the best fit, Kennedy said.
“They made a good scholarship offer and I wanted to play division 2 lacrosse,” Kennedy said. “They had good interpreters and a good coach and good players. I wanted to be close to my best friend and my family.”
Kennedy isn’t sure what she wants to major in but she knows she wants to help deaf people.
“Well, I don’t know. I know that I want to help,” Kennedy said. “Growing up I’ve always wanted to help those who can’t help themselves. So, I don’t know because I felt alone growing up and I didn’t have people to look up to or the right deaf people to look up to that played my sport or did the same things that I wanted to do. I think of that a lot. I want to be that for little girls.”
Mike said that many of Kennedy’s friends have become adept signers.
“It’s neat because a lot of her friends have worked hard to learn sign for her and that’s an amazing gift they give to her and it’s not because she’s deaf,” Mike said. “It’s because they love her as a person.”
Originally Brighton’s lacrosse team learned some sign language to help out Kennedy, but signs have ended up improving the team as well.
“The whole team will communicate, they’ll be signing,” Kennedy said. “It helps us to be more visually focused. It helps us to be faster on our feet. The team sees more. They steal the ball more. They do things faster. They read people’s body language.”
In the deaf community, instead of clapping they raise their hands in the air and shake them. When Kennedy scores, several members of the crowd applaud her in her native language.
Going into this year’s playoffs, Brighton is ranked seventh in the state, even though a few key players have dealt with injuries. This includes Boutwell, who is one of the team’s top players; she suffered a season-ending back injury.
In the three years Kennedy has been at Brighton, the team has finished in the top three twice, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Park City, who scored a goal to tie the game with 17 seconds left in regulation.
In addition to playing for Brighton, Kennedy has played with the Utah Mamaci Lacrosse club’s under 17 team. Playing for these teams has allowed her to play lacrosse across the country.
“It’s been really cool for me as a dad to watch Kennedy play all over the U.S. People will hear that there’s a deaf player and I watch them, because in the summer I’m on the sidelines, and they’re trying to decide who is the deaf player and a lot of the girls are signing so they don’t know,” Mike said.
Kennedy said helping deaf girls see what they can accomplish is a big part of what motivates her to excel at lacrosse.
“I work really hard because I want to show other deaf girls that they can do it because I can do it,” Kennedy said. “If I can play, you can play. Just because you can’t hear doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can do whatever you want. I don’t want that to stop them!”