a life of Inspiration
Published January, 22nd, 2020
I met Deanna Keil the summer of 2016 right after I graduated college and moved to Washington D.C. She is the assistant women's soccer coach at The Catholic University of America and former student-athlete there as well. I joined their staff and felt immediately welcomed by her big smile and kind face. Her and Daniel were a wonderful couple to be-friend and joining their soccer league was so much fun. I was honored to even get in invite to their wedding. She was one of the most beautiful brides I had ever seen.
Deanna is an architect and Daniel had a secret job with the government that he was not allowed to disclose. He contracted throat cancer shortly after they were married. Watching her struggle through his illness with a brave face and still show up for work was both painful and inspiring. She never truly showed how sad she was. She is the type of person that puts other's first, and that is why I chose her to be on the "Artis Inspo" page. Her love and devotion to not only her family and her work but to the members of the soccer community is something rare to see.
Words to live by
"I made a promise to my husband before he passed that I wouldn't abandon our rescue dog."
Tell me a little bit about where you grew up and why you decided to first start playing soccer.
I grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania ["the RIGHT side of the state!" as I would later in life say to my husband, a man pridefully from Pittsburgh]. Thanks to my father -- an avid fan and longtime player of the sport -- I started playing Kinder Soccer at the YMCA when I was a toddler. From then on, soccer became the foundation of our father-daughter relationship and so many of my strongest and dearest friendships, my first ticket to seeing the world, and the light that shone brightly in the direction of the pitch on which I would meet the love of my life.
What is one vivid memory you have as a player that will always stand out in your mind?
As cliche as it sounds, winning the Capital Athletic Conference Championship with Catholic in 2005 remains an incredibly vivid memory in my mind. I can remember the minutes counting down before the final whistle was blown -- my heart beating in my chest, the fans cheering on the sidelines, my teammates on the bench jumping up and down while clutching each other, willing the ball to be as far away from our goalkeeper as possible. While we had been undefeated the entirety of the season leading up to that game, it had not come easily.
At that point, my body and those of my teammates were running purely on adrenaline to make it to the 90-minute mark. In that moment, I remember a crowd of people rushing onto the field with champagne bottles popping (thanks, Mom!). I feel blessed to have witnessed the culmination of my individual and the team's collective hard work manifest in such a glorious moment -- something so few athletes experience.
Having the opportunity to play soccer in college, and specifically at Catholic University, is one of the aspects of my life for which I am most grateful. It provided me with an instantaneous family in a new environment and taught me many lifelong skills that continue to pave my path toward success and happiness. It was, in a way, a representative microcosm of many of life's journeys -- full of mental, emotional, and physical obstacles, collective and individual problem-solving, failures and triumphs.
Being a part of the Women's Soccer program at Catholic during a time of its significant growth was incredibly rewarding. We experienced year one when the women's and men's teams shared gear, a practice field, and a coaching staff because of limited resources, to year four when a roster of 19 won the program's first ever Conference Championship. Being a part of this legacy is something I am very proud of and look back upon fondly.
Words to remember
"The clock of time is wound but once..."
Tell me about your late husband Daniel and the relationship you shared with him.
Daniel Sean Carik was and IS one-of-a-kind. To paraphrase from his obituary:
"A true renaissance man, Daniel read fervently, learned voraciously, cooked cleverly, danced frenetically, and loved wholeheartedly. He was an intensely devoted husband and brightened every room he entered."
I like to think that we provided a necessary and welcomed balance to one another's lives. I am a grounded, faith-filled, Bachelor/Bachelorette-watching introvert and he a gregarious, inquisitive, Bruno Mars-loving extrovert. Together, we could have accomplished anything we dreamed of and weathered any storm...and that we did.
Some of my favorite memories about and with Daniel inevitably involve him bringing levity to a situation -- whether or not warranted/appropriate. This includes moments as mundane as him dancing his way through making breakfast sandwiches for house guests or as monumental as his proposal to me which involved a box of extension chords, a few choice four-letter words, and him awkwardly handing me a little blue bag from Tiffany & Co. to open and reveal its contents myself.
Regardless of my sadness or anxieties, with Daniel by my side, life was never insurmountable. Thinking of him even since he passed still brings this sense of peace and happiness to my soul.
"Thank you for, even in death, sending gifts of life and love my way"
Words to cherish
How did you cope with the news of Daniel's illness? What struggles did you face?
Daniel's cancer diagnosis in 2016 turned his, my, and our worlds upside down. But not unlike every other challenge my husband faced in life, he stared this one down with a rational and kick-it-in-the-butt attitude. I knew I had to take his lead when it came to how we faced the life ahead of us, as a couple and as individuals. We opened our home to visitors, invited his coworkers to keep him company during treatments, and attended major life events of our dear friends and family members with a positive outlook. If roles had been reversed, I imagine that I would have crawled into a hole and never come out. I was and continue to be in awe of Daniel. One of the most challenging aspects of his illness while he was alive was to witness my husband suffer an incredible amount of pain. One of the most challenging aspects of losing Daniel is imagining the future we desired together and the world I live in without him as a part of it.
Words to respect
"He genuinely wishes for others a better life than he had, which to me, is difficult to imagine."
Who is your role model in life and why?
I feel blessed to have many compassionate, generous, intelligent, and resilient people in my life. The one that comes to mind when I think of a role model -- someone who I look to for integrity and honesty as well as love and support -- is my maternal grandfather Leo Witczak. Born in 1925, he has lived a full life: grew up simply as one of nine children, fought bravely in World War II, attended college at a time when few did, worked proudly as an electrical engineer, married his one true love, raised three wonderful human beings, and continues to guide two generations of individuals through their journeys in this world. Leo is a unique balance of hard-working and fun-loving and his accomplishments are a reflection of such. Most recently, I witnessed my grandfather lose his wife of 67 years only six months before I lost my husband. Navigating our grief alongside one another has not only brought me closer to him, but has shown me true strength and humanity. He genuinely wishes for others a better life than he had, which to me, is difficult to imagine.
What is your coaching philosophy?
What I believe that I bring to the game of soccer as a coach is to embrace and enhance the passion and the skill of each individual that steps onto the field, be it in a training session or a competitive match. Each player is uniquely motivated and therefore responds to a different coaching and mentor-ship style.
How did soccer change your life and why do you continue to be a part of it?
Soccer has and continues to change my life by revealing that it takes an army behind a (wo)man for success -- of any kind -- to happen. On the pitch, I could not have accomplished all that I did without my ten teammates + dozens of others alongside me. With each chapter or life event, I witness the same to be true, as did my husband Daniel from his teammates at Allegheny College.
If you could share one piece of advice to all female athletes out there what would it be?
One piece of advice I'd like to share with fellow female athletes is to be grateful for your opportunities and abilities. Do your best to not take for granted what you are able to do while you are able to do it. Along these lines, words that my husband Daniel shared with me before he passed away were to "not be like water" -- meaning, do not follow the path of least resistance in life. Unlike water, which flows effortlessly along an unobstructed path, he suggested that I/we work hard for that which I/we want. The worthwhile things in life require effort and intention.
A representation of passion, energy and kindness.
Proof of strength, courage and devotion.