You could turn to any teammate, scout or opponent for an appraisal of Kelsey Brinkman’s field hockey abilities and you will hear similar words of praise and respect.
But listening to the first time Paul Simonetti watched the Thomas Worthington senior midfielder play is just so much more fun.
Though not a player himself, the brother of Thomas Worthington head coach Terri Simonetti-Frost, has been around the game for decades and has watched his sister play at the highest level of the collegiate game.
That first time he came to watch Brinkman in a Thomas uniform, Simonetti-Frost didn’t have to wait and ask for an opinion: Her brother registered his disbelief as soon as he walked near the field.
“He was 10 yards away but I could hear him,” Simonetti-Frost remembered. “He just yelled out: ‘Oh my gosh.'”
The slick playmaker that helped guide Thomas to the program’s second state championship in early November has the kind of technical skills so apparent they tend to produce shock when others watch her on the field. Fittingly, Brinkman has been named as the Huntington Bank/Ohio High Player of the Year in field hockey.
Simonetti-Frost said on a number of occasions she has literally halted her instruction in practice to verbally marvel at something Brinkman has done with the stick.
“I’ll just stop and say ‘Whoa, that’s the most ridiculous play I’ve ever seen,'” the coach said.
The University of North Carolina commitment is among the most gifted players ever to come out of central Ohio, both with her field awareness and stick skills.
“You see Kelsey with three people on her and it’s like she’s peeling a banana,” her coach said. “One layer’s gone, then another, and then she’s still making an accurate pass.”
The individual numbers for Brinkman speak for themselves.
In her three years manning central midfield for Thomas Worthington, Brinkman scored 24 goals and dished out 45 assists, more than half coming in her senior season.
A two-time All-Ohio honoree, on Dec. 11 Brinkman was named a first-team member of the 2007 National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-American Team. She was the only Ohioan to receive the honor.
Brinkman scored the first goal in Thomas Worthington’s win over Bishop Watterson in the 2007 state title game, setting the tone for what would be a 3-0 victory. But where Brinkman really stands out, even among the elite in her sport, is in her vision of the field and an accompanying sense of calm in stressful situations.
“There are a lot of kids at the high school level that panic with the ball,” Simonetti-Frost said. “Kelsey never does. She has complete confidence and can be on-the-money with her passes. That’s what makes here so unique.”
Brinkman concurred, though she couldn’t explain the ability.
“I’ve been told you can’t teach it, it just happens,” she said. “I’m just able to see people in open spots.”
An outstanding stick-handler, Simonetti-Frost says Brinkman could play defense or midfield at the next level.
Playing under head coach Karen Shelton with current NCAA champion UNC should give Brinkman every opportunity to go far in the sport. Simonetti-Frost said Shelton works to develop players beyond the college level and mentioned that the Tar Heels had five national team players on their roster this fall.
“She is going to that top-caliber program,” Simonetti- said. “The kid is a hard worker. She wants to play and she wants to improve.”
Brinkman’s own expectations weren’t far behind, saying she has national team and Olympic-level aspirations for herself.
“I want to be the best player I can be,” Brinkman said. “My goal right now is to when I graduate get on the All-American team. We’ll see where college takes me.”