Women’s soccer player Kelsey Worth joins five other Buccaneers who play for national and personal pride
By Michael Laderman
Standing just 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing about 110 pounds soaking wet, Kelsey Worth doesn’t look the part of an intercollegiate athlete. She is petite. She lacks the size and muscle. And, according to her, she lacks natural speed, as well. Then again, Worth also doesn’t have the look of a marine biologist, or an explorer, or a photographer. With a casual hat pulled over her short blonde hair, and an ensemble that could have come from the Aventura Mall, Worth seems to be the stereotypical college freshman.
And that image suits the Barry University student just fine.
“Yeah, I’m kind of somebody who keeps things in perspective, I try to be realistic” Worth explained. “But, oh my God, there have been so many doubters in my life, that it’s ridiculous. I think I’ve found more doubters in my life than I find people who actually say to me, ‘you can do it.’ Well, I don’t let anybody ever tell me that I can’t do anything, because you can do anything.”
Worth has proven that time and time again. Academically, she’s a marine biology major, holding a 3.6 grade point average. She hosts her own exhibit on weekends at Miami’s Jungle Island, speaks two languages—French and Spanish—and in addition to biology is interested in photography and international relations. She even knows where she wants to be in 10 years — working for National Geographic. “I see myself on an African safari,” she said with a laugh. “I want to help people. I want to be able to interact with people, of different cultures, of different backgrounds.”
Athletically, Worth is a part of Barry University’s own version of international relations via the playing field. She is one of six Buccaneer student-athletes who represent their respective national teams in various sports, including baseball pitcher Bobby Riley (Team Miami, United States), men’s basketball players Martin Leibovich (Argentina) and Jeran Morris (St. Kitts), and women’s soccer standouts Maya Ozery (Israel), Silvia Lugo (Puerto Rico) and, yes, Worth, also for Puerto Rico.
“I wasn’t picked at first to play,” Worth explained. “Originally, they told me I couldn’t play on the national team because I was too young. I was like, ‘okay, that’s a bummer, but I’ll just wait til I’m older, and then try out again.’ But we saw the national team playing at a school near my home, and my mom said, ‘let’s just go over there and talk to the coach.’ The coach didn’t speak any English, and my mother didn’t really speak any Spanish. My mom pulls me up, stands me in front of him, and says, in some Spanish, ‘She wants play.’ He just started laughing. But another girl came over, started translating for us, and told him that I was saying that he should give me a chance...”
Worth was 14 years old at the time, trying out for Puerto Rico’s under-19 team. She was a relative newcomer to the island, having grown up in Arizona and California before relocating to Puerto Rico in the middle of her seventh-grade year. But she was not alone. There was another 14-year-old who was trying out for the same national team at virtually the same time — Lugo.
“My club coach had told me the same thing that Kelsey was told — that I was too young to play for the national team,” Lugo recalled. “But my club coach then just told me to go to a tryout they were having. I went, and they decided to give me a chance.”
Lugo, a freshman psychology major, and Worth have since grown up together, defying the odds of youth while helping to bring respectability to Puerto Rico’s struggling women’s national soccer team. Thanks in part to their contributions, Puerto Rico has gone from being considered “bush league” among soccer circles to a team to be reckoned with in the region. Their under-23 team recently defeated the Cayman Islands, 4-0, and Haiti, 1-0, in Olympic qualifying action, and was barely eliminated, 4-3 (aggregate score) against Trinidad and Tobago. They consistently ranked among the top 40 national teams in the world.
Worth, herself, has been lucky, and good enough to have been on the national team for four years. No longer the youngest player on the field, she is a veteran on the team’s defense, starting virtually every game. And she, like Lugo, is readying herself for next year’s chance to compete with Puerto Rico at the under-20 World Cup.
But, as she said, she is also realistic. And that includes getting ready for the day when she is no longer attending Barry or representing her country on the soccer field.
“I’ve had coaches tell me that I’m too slow and too young and that I should be working on other things,” Worth added. “But I’m going to persevere, and I’m going to succeed, no matter what it is. I’ve been working so hard since I was five to play college soccer, and I’ve been working so hard since I was a little kid to work for National Geographic. Why am I going to let somebody stop me now?”