Kendall Ballard graduated from Charlottesville High School as one of the area’s most decorated athletes.
The 23-year-old returned to Central Virginia last month with a degree from Ohio University and a potential budding professional career overseas looming in 2020.
“Field hockey has given me so much,” Ballard said. “I was lucky enough to have a full athletic scholarship and get a degree debt free, and got to a school that I love. I have gotten to travel all over the country and now the world and I have met some amazing people that I hope to continue keep in contact with for years to come.”
Ballard was a must-see performer for the Black Knights during her high school career. A four-year starter at midfielder, the two-time Jefferson District Player of the Year wrapped up her high school career with 85 goals and 41 assists. She was named team Most Valuable Players two seasons and was a VHSL Class 4 all-state performer her senior year.
She also played basketball at Charlottesville High School and credits playing multiple sports for making her a better player and allowing her to grow as a person and an athlete.
“I recommend playing any sport for all of those reasons,” she said. “I loved growing up and playing every sport possible. What drew me to field hockey and why I recommended everyone to try it because it is a fast game that makes you think. You are constantly solving problems during the game. Learning how to use the stick to manipulate the ball and do some magical skills is so satisfying and nothing quite compares to hearing the ball hit the backboard of the goal and seeing it fly into the net after your team has worked so hard to score a goal.”
Ballard made a significant role on the growth of the Ohio University field hockey program. She started all 65 games she played for the Bobcats, finishing with 31 goals, 17 assists and 78 points.
As a senior, she scored a team-high 10 goals, including a game-winner in overtime against Indiana, and had six assists to finish with 26 points. Ballard was named Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was part of the Longstreth/NFHCA West region second team.
“I have to give all the credit to the coaching staff and my teammates,” Ballard said. “The coaches have created an amazing environment for the players where they let us have fun, but we are constantly trying to play at a higher level so we can compete with Top 20 teams and win a conference championship.”
Some of the highlights from Ballard’s career included a big come-from-behind victory over Appalachian State this past season. Ohio scored four unanswered goals in the final 13 minutes to knock off the Mountaineers.
Ballard scored the fourth goal and set up the game-tying goal to spark her team. The Bobcats scored with six seconds left to secure the win. Competitive contests with Duke and Ohio State also were among the highlights her final college season.
The real fun and memories, Ballard said, was the camaraderie with her teammates in pre-game warmups.
“We had our own special warm-up that is less structured and looks chaotic from the outside, but we have fun with it and get ourselves pumped up for the game,” she said. “I am most proud of helping the team have a winning season for the first time since 2011 by beating Indiana in overtime and being voted Conference Offensive Player of the Year.”
Ballard’s college career extended an additional semester after having to medically redshirt her senior year. She played her final season for the Bobcats this fall and graduated in December with a degree in athletic training.
“Staying an extra semester turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I only saved one class to take so that I would be eligible and then I took two fun classes,” she said. “I got to spend the rest of my time focusing on field hockey. I am also thankful that I got to spend another season with some amazing coaches and teammates.”
The love of athletic training started in high school at Charlottesville. Ballard said she took a sports medicine class her junior year and “never really left.” She credits Joella Matheny, the school’s long-time athletic trainer for generating the interest.
Ballard continues to come back to the school and give back to her alma mater. She has served in a voluntary capacity as a training room intern and worked with field hockey players in similar capacity during offseason workouts.
“It has been a great experience to consistently be around the athletic training room to see as much as possible,” Ballard said. “I love that I can still be a part of the Charlottesville High School community and try to give back to them as much as possible. I love getting to coach with the field hockey team while I’m home as well. Seeing the players improve and grow as people over the past couple years has been very rewarding.”
In addition to her college career at Ohio, Ballard represented her country recently with the United States Under-21 team in Argentina as well as the US Developmental team in the Netherlands. Tryouts for both teams are this week and the Charlottesville native hopes to be selected to one of those teams.
The U.S. team did not qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, but Ballard hopes to be in consideration for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
In the meantime, she plans to continue her field hockey career professionally overseas. Ballard committed to play with a team in Terrassa, Spain.
“We are still working on all of the logistics, but I hope to join them by the end of January or the beginning of February,” she said. “I am also looking at potentially going to play with a team in Perth, Australia, once I am doing playing in Spain. Because there aren’t many opportunities to play after college in the U.S., I wanted to play abroad so I can continue to play at a high level and grow as a player.”
Regardless if it’s as a playing professionally or representing her country, Ballard has big plans.
“Once I am done with field hockey, I am just going to see where my life takes me,” she said. “I would love to come back to Charlottesville and continue to be a part of the high school. I love coaching now, so that is definitely on my list of options. I have the option to work as an athletic trainer now that I am certified and I took all of the prerequisites for medical school, so there is a chance I might go to become an orthopedic surgeon as well.”
With her college career complete, Ballard is grateful for everyone that played in a role in her achieving her goals.
“I would just like to thank all of my coaches I had growing up and through college,” she said. “My teammates, my athletic trainers, my family and everyone else that has supported me on my journey. I would not be here without each and every one of them.”