UMBC softball senior Kennedy Lamb thrives off routines. She knows how to build and stick to a schedule. When she wasn’t at practice the past four years, Lamb made sure she was doing things that were productive and helped her reach her goals.
She’s earned a 4.0 grade-point average every semester with this process.
“From the first time I met Kennedy she was always someone who stood out and had her life all together,” Retrievers softball coach Chris Kuhlmeyer said. “She always had a plan in place for herself.”
But that routine has helped in ways outside of the classroom. During her junior year, Lamb began to experience difficulties with her mental health. Like everyone, she’s always had good days and bad days, but those bad days started to turn into bad weeks and months. When spells like this happened before, sometimes she would talk to a friend about it. This time, she knew she had to do something more.
Lamb called her primary care doctor from her hometown of Mexico, N.Y., and they talked for more than an hour. During that conversation, Lamb said she realized she had struggled with mental health her whole life.
“In middle school I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so nervous going to school,” Lamb said. “I [would] sweat through two shirts. I didn’t know that’s what anxiety looked like since there wasn’t a space to talk about it. … I just thought I had overactive sweat glands.”
She was clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says is “characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of things,” and major depressive disorder, which the Mayo Clinic describes as causing “a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.”
Lamb’s teammates and coaches could tell something was wrong as well, and she told those in the program shortly after she was diagnosed. When she told Kuhlmeyer, he opened up to her about his own struggles with mental health. Since then, they’ve had several meetings during which they talk about what each is going through.
“We always end up talking about how we get through our own struggles, whether that’s running, eating healthy, et cetera,” Lamb said. “We are similar people so there are shared tactics of dealing with mental health problems.”
Once she was diagnosed, Lamb’s routine was just another way she was able to reduce her anxiety. She takes medication, talks to a therapist and focuses on things that are important to her. While she never carved out a huge role for UMBC, hitting .182 in 77 at-bats from 2017-2020, softball still played a big part in helping her feel better.
“It was definitely a stress relief,” Lamb said. “When I was on the field it really required a focus where I couldn’t get anywhere besides the classroom. Just being around people who care about me and have my back it’s just an irreplaceable feeling I hope to have again.”
In 2019, the Retrievers finished fourth in the regular season in the America East and won the conference tournament for the first time. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 after being picked last in the conference’s preseason poll. Lamb won the America East softball Elite 18 award, which is given to player in the tournament with the highest GPA.
UMBC was hoping to prove that last year’s surprise season wasn’t a fluke, but like teams all across the country never got that chance after NCAA spring sports were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the NCAA will allow member schools to grant spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, Lamb quickly decided that she would be moving on from softball and into the next phase of her life.
“It wasn’t really in the cards for me,” Lamb said. “I was looking forward to life after softball. I love the sport and everything it’s given to me, [but] I don’t have plans in being in the [softball] world after college so I needed to take this time to set up the next time in my life.”
Lamb will graduate next month with a degree in English with plans to go into science journalism or communication. She was always interested in science, and her experiences at UMBC piqued her interest in being able to explain complicated topics that are relevant in everyday life.
She’s interned at UMBC Magazine and spent the past two summers at CoLab, a narrative-based research project, where she helped create videos about environmental sustainability on UMBC’s campus. She was accepted into the master’s degree program for science writing at Johns Hopkins and applied to the Smithsonian Institute of Science Writing, but hasn’t made a decision about her future just yet.
Sarah Hansen is the communications manager for UMBC’s College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and worked with Lamb at UMBC Magazine. According to Hensen, Lamb is well-suited to have success in whatever direction life takes her.
“I could tell she would do great things because of her attitude,” Hansen said, “I kind of pointed her in the right direction and she just took it and ran with it.”
With the season being cut short, Lamb has had more time to think about exactly what she wants. She’s put thought into what her schedule would like at certain jobs, making sure they give her time to focus on herself outside of work. It’s all part of the next chapter in her life and finding that next routine.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of UMBC Athletic Communications