Coach's favorite

Keegan Billick's team is drawing raves, too, as dad leads cheers

October 25, 2006|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN REPORTER

Keegan Billick knows a little something about game pressure, especially around this time of year.

As sweeper for Garrison Forest's third-ranked field hockey team, she strives for a shutout every time. Each one - 11 in 18 games - feeds expectations in the Grizzlies' quest to finish atop the highly competitive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

On the weekends, she gets a break from the sport, but pressure of a different sort awaits the 17-year-old senior.

Sunday afternoons, she sits in the suite for coaches' families at M&T Bank Stadium or in front of the TV, biting her nails with other Baltimore fans as they watch the Ravens try to recapture the glory of their Super Bowl season.

Ravens games are no less personal than her own games. Of course, she wants her dad, Ravens coach Brian Billick, to win all of his games, too.

With expectations running high for father and daughter this fall, pressure abounds in the Billicks' Reisterstown household.

"Sometimes I wonder what has more pressure, Sunday or these," Brian Billick said during a recent Garrison field hockey game.

This season, the Ravens have been up and down at 4-2 while the Grizzlies are soaring at 16-2. Winning or losing, the pressure is business as usual for a family steeped in athletics.

Leave my dad alone

Sometimes it can get to Keegan, the younger of two Billick daughters. Though her parents said she can be hard to read, often internalizing the tension, she has struggled with the constant media scrutiny of her dad.

Two years ago, she struck out in his defense, firing off an e-mail to The Sun's Ravens beat writer. She didn't like what he had written as the Ravens' chances began to fade in the AFC North race.

"My dad said something about throwing up a white flag or surrendering, because of the record. It made me very upset, because [the reporter] took it like he was giving up and the entire team was giving up when, really, if you looked at our schedule compared to [the Pittsburgh Steelers'] schedule, it looked to be near impossible for us to catch up."

Surprised that anyone remembered that message, she added: "It had been a long year and that kind of set me off. I went on the computer early one school morning and I went off."

That was just fine with Brian Billick.

"She was coming to the defense of her dad, which was fun. She had some points she wanted to make and she got them across," he said with a smile.

Through other tough times when the media have blasted her dad, Keegan Billick said she tries to have tough skin.

"Obviously it hurts, because you're like, `That's my daddy,' " said Billick, who was a fifth-grader when her father became Ravens coach. "When we first got here, they said, `Brian Billick is an arrogant so-and-so,' and I'm like, he may be a flamboyant coach, but I know him as the hilarious, understanding dad at home as well."

Living with the media attention focused on her father for seven years has gotten a little easier, she said. She has learned not to take it personally.

"It's not that I've become accustomed to it, but it's part of the job description. My mom, my sister and I obviously don't like it, but we try to not listen. At the same time, you really want to. You want to know what they're saying."

Grizzlies' oasis

Through it all, Keegan Billick has had one place where her connection to the Ravens doesn't matter to anyone - Garrison Forest's sprawling Owings Mills campus.

No one has given her a hard time there, she said. Her transition was smooth when she arrived from Minnesota, where her father had been offensive coordinator for the Vikings. She has always fit in, on and off the field.

In addition to field hockey, Billick plays basketball and lacrosse, sings with the Ragged Robins choral group, performs community service and keeps up an A/B academic average.

It has certainly helped that her refuge is an all-girls school. Still, her mother, Kim Billick, said that never played into their choice of school for Keegan and her sister, Aubree, 22, a former Grizzlies athlete and Northwestern University graduate living in Ohio.

"Looking back, it's probably been a real help to their school careers," said Kim Billick, adding that it would have been different at a coed school "with boys who are interested in playing [football] themselves and being a part of it."

Keegan Billick, who has a boyfriend who's away at college, said she has always had to be wary of the intentions of boys she has met. During mixers at other schools when she was a freshman or a sophomore, she wouldn't give out her phone number or her online screen name. However, she said she can tell when boys are more interested in the Ravens than they are in her.

When the Grizzlies travel, especially to schools they don't play often, she has heard people ask, "Which one is Brian Billick's daughter?" But she said she has never felt targeted by the opposition.

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