E-W graduate headed for breakout season

  • Monika Jones<br>For the Enterprise
  • Friday, February 29, 2008 11:33am

SEATTLE — University of Washington sophomore Kevin Forrest spit up his ham and cheese sandwich all over the couch when he heard one of his soccer coaches had described him as “a handful.”

“A what? A handful? Wow,” he said. Then he blushed.

The 2003 Edmonds-Woodway graduate is a pre-business major and starting midfielder for the Huskies. And when he’s not too busy playing soccer, he’s got the charm of the boy-next-door.

As assistant coach Seth Spidahl put it, “He’s got it goin’ on.”

Forrest has scored five goals this season so far, already surpassing the three he had during his freshman year. He plays on the wing because of his speed.

He isn’t a “handful” because he’s difficult to coach. He’s delightful, his coaches agreed.

The only ones who think Forrest’s gumption makes him a “handful” are his opponents. They keep getting beat.

Forrest scored his team’s second goal in Washington’s 3-0 victory over California Oct. 9. The Huskies (2-0-1 in the Pac 10, 9-3-2 overall) currently are in first place in the Pac-10.

“Forrest is the kind of guy you don’t like to play against because he is always in it. A real menace,” UW head coach Dean Wurzberger said.

“Well, I take that as a compliment,” the 19-year-old Forrest said. “I guess I’m a menace. I don’t like to give myself descriptions like that.”

Forrest does not pay attention to comparisons made between him and athletes who have a similar career path — primarily father Ward, a former UW and Seattle Sounders forward, and Ben Somoza, an Edmonds-Woodway and UW graduate and current Sounders midfielder.

Though Wurzberger, who was a Sounders’ teammate of Ward’s in the 1970s, remarked that Forrest “has a lot of his dad in him. There is something to be said about genetics and athletics. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Wurzberger did note the differences between the father and son.

“Ward was a straight-up forward, the approaching goal scorer type,” he said. “(Kevin is) more dynamic. He can go up and down the field.”

The younger Forrest is playing his own game. Forrest said he’s thankful to his dad for support — “He made sure I wanted to play because I wanted to play” — and that he looks up to Ben Somoza — “I definitely admire him. He’s been very successful.”

But Forrest isn’t dead-set on playing professional soccer — he wants to get his degree in business in order to keep his post-graduate options. That way if a career in soccer doesn’t work out, he isn’t too disappointed.

“I work hard,” he emphasized. “I just want to go as far as I can go.”

Therefore, Forrest’s present focus is more along the lines of doing well as a student-athlete — and it can be tough balancing classes with six days a week of intense three-hour practices and games.

“There is competition within the team,” Forrest said. “For example, if you’re a forward you want to start and play the whole game. That’s your goal. But there are also four other forwards that want to be doing the same thing. It’s really competitive.”

His study of business, his intended major in school, helped him understand.

“In the end competition is like capitalism,” Forrest said. “It pushes everyone and everyone eventually gets better from it.”

Forrest also keeps in mind advice he got from a sports psychologist the team met with during the preseason.

“He said, ‘Don’t aim to be the best. Aim to be your best.’ I think it’s really helpful because, say for instance, if you aren’t starting or playing your best game, it can cause a lot of anxiety.”

His teammate, Will Flanagan, described Forrest as “mellow, pretty laid back. I look up to him. He’s positive to have on the team.”

So soccer isn’t making Forrest uneasy but his busy schedule is. He said he goes to bed later than in high school, but that comes with the territory. He lives with three other guys, including a teammate, in a house near Greek-row.

“I wake up, go to school, then practice, which is long and by the time I get back it’s 5 p.m.,” Forrest said, as he leaned back on the couch and tugged his gray and orange beanie over his eyes. “And I’m tired. I haven’t even started my homework. But I’ve gotten used to it.”

At least at the house there’s more room for his shoes than in the dorms, where he lived as a freshman. Soccer players are like dancers on the field. It’s a performance founded on fancy footwork. Players may actually have more shoes than their more romantically viewed counterparts since soccer shoes suffer extreme wear from long stints in mud and wet grass.

Though Forrest couldn’t count the total number of shoes he has (it’s more than 12), he’s using four pairs this season. They’re not always comfortable, either.

“Soccer shoes have to be really tight which can cause toenails to fall off,” he said. “More than anything you have to take care of your shoes, not just your feet. Some guys polish them, like a ritual, before every practice and every game.”

Forrest held up his favorites, white calfskin Nikes so worn the leather was yellow and bucking up from the rubber sole.

“I just glue them back together,” he said. “They’re my favorite pair. They just fit really well.”

In addition to their prolific shoes collections, Husky athletes get all equipment including shorts, fleeces, sandals, running shoes, jock straps and beanies from their corporate sponsor, Nike. When Forrest was voted Most Valuable Player during Husky Fever Classic, he got a backpack, which was “convenient because I needed a one.”

Perks like free stuff make playing at the collegiate level attractive. But it isn’t easy.

What is Forrest’s advice for a high school student hoping to score a spot on a college team?

“First of all, the most important thing is to put time in by yourself,” he said. “You have to practice on your own. I know that’s what everyone says, but if you do it, I think that is the most important thing.”

When he’s not on the field or in class he keeps his edge by reading, playing chess and playing the occasional game of MindSweeper on his computer.

“I’m a competitive person,” Forrest said. “I do things to stay sharp and get better.”

While his coaches call him a “handful” they predict the combination of his suave moves on the field combined with his unpretentious attitude will help vault him forward as an athlete.

“Forrest has a good character. He’s got a lot in here,” Spidahl pounded his fist on his chest. “Solid kid, solid character. Character, work ethic and attitude go a long way in college. Long way. It goes a long way in life. To be successful here too you gotta have it. He does. He’s got it goin’ on.”

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