Susie Keeney

Susie Keeney has owned a house in Coronado since 1988 and is the third generation of her family to live in the city. She also has two direct ties to the Navy, the first being her Grandfather LCDR James H. Brett, Jr., commanding officer of Torpedo Squadron Two in the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942. “He was a graduate of the Naval Academy and he had a good feel for flying low and dropping torpedoes,” Susie said. “He died when my Mom was 10 and I never got to know him.”

Known as Susie Elizabeth McAbee when she graduated from Coronado High School (CHS) in 1979, she moved to Coronado at the age of 10. “My parents divorced, and we moved here. My Mom Judy Brett (CHS ’53) grew up here as a Navy Brat and she knew it was a great place, where kids could ride their bikes to school, and we could be more autonomous. I used to ride my bike to softball practice at North Island and the Amphibious Base. My Grandmother Martha Brett lived here, and my Mom knew she would help out.”

In the best possible sense of the term, McAbee-Keeney was an overachiever in high school, as a partial list of her activities will attest. She played shortstop on the Islander varsity softball team for four seasons, earning All-Metro League Second Team recognition as a sophomore and First Team honors her junior and senior seasons, as well as being team captain as a senior. She played volleyball for two years, was Second Team All-Metro League and team captain as a senior. After two seasons at the JV level, she played on the varsity as a junior and a senior and earned All-Metro League Honorable Mention status. Mix in playing drums in the band for three years; drums in the Pep Band for two years; serving as Junior Class Treasurer; Varsity Cheerleader as a senior; being on the Homecoming Court; and you have a well-rounded, complete high school experience. In addition, she was the starting shortstop for the Semi Pro Softball San Diego Astros, who won the Class A National Championship,

“I was lucky to be able to play so many sports and this is why everything I have done has led me to help kids with their athletic recruiting and college applications. We had a great athletic group. (CHS Athletic Director) Robin Nixon was on my basketball, volleyball, and softball teams. (Award-winning Movie Producer) Lisa Bruce was an athlete, one of my best friends in high school, and my maid of honor. We had a great class and we’re still close. That’s something I talk to the kids about. If you go to high school here, you are part of the community. And you get out of high school whatever you put into it. You can challenge yourself academically. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, except for attending CHS. A lot of my classmates have done very, very well and are starting to retire.”

Keeney recalled some of her teachers and coaches. “Bob Demmon was the band director. He was so awesome and so motivating. For a small band from a small school to go to band reviews and compete against other bands and kick butt was amazing. Leslie Crawford was in the band with me. Lynn Hurt was our softball coach and she also coached us in volleyball and basketball. When I was on the varsity basketball team, Ernie Dickerson took over and nobody had a clue who Coronado was. We were all juniors and sophomores and only Fallbrook was ranked ahead of us in the County. We were undefeated in the Metro league. Then in the Powderpuff Football games, Tami Fick was our quarterback and she could throw the football 45 or 50 yards. I was the wide receiver. Tami was the CIF Player of the Year in both Tennis and Basketball. In softball, we weren’t that good and luckily I got picked up by the Astros and played with them.”

After high school, Keeney accepted a softball scholarship at San Diego State University, where she was the starting shortstop for three years. She graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in advertising and a minor in marketing. Armed with her degree, Keeney spent three years as an AT&T Sales Account Executive. “We were the No. 1 sales team in the nation. I got great training and I worked my butt off. I decided I was much better at building relationships and I decided to get into medical sales.”

Navy Tie No. 2 for Susie is her husband CDR Mike Keeney (USN-Ret.), who is a graduate of the Naval Academy, where he was an outstanding swimmer. The couple met at the Naval Amphibious Pool and as you might imagine there was a sports tie-in to the story. Susie said, “After softball, I got into triathlons and started training. Mike and his Masters relay team set a world record last year and he is still a very good swimmer. All of the different sports I have done, and working with different athletes, helps me relate to kids more. I understand and talk the lingo.”

After her medical sales career started, the Keeneys had to switch coasts as Susie explained. “At that point Mike and I got transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, where he went to Armed Forces Staff College. Mike was an admiral’s aide and he earned his master’s in Science Administration and Management. Mike retired from the Navy in 2000.”

The couple has two children, with the older child being Ryan Keeney (CHS ’12), who attended the Air Force Academy to play soccer. “He’s still in the Air Force in acquisitions and he lives in Boston at Hanscom Air Force Base,” Susie said. “He’s loving it and playing a bunch of sports, while finishing his master’s degree from Boston University in project management and leadership. He has a lot of good leadership qualities.”

Daughter Carly Keeney (CHS ’15) played lacrosse at Claremont-McKenna and graduated from the university in 2019 with an economics and accounting double major. She currently works for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Costa Mesa in accounting. Susie said of her daughter, “Since COVID, they sent their teams home and today she is in our office upstairs studying for the second part of her CPA test Tuesday (yesterday). The only good part about COVID is Mike and I got to see what she does with her job. She has done well her first year.”

When Ryan was a youngster, Susie Keeney starting coaching Little League Baseball and eventually turned to coaching her first love, softball. July 2010, after enrolling both of her children in the John Harvard Academy in Point Loma, Keeney begged Owner-Founder Dr. Andre Tran to open a Coronado branch. “Dr. Tran came over and found the site at Eighth Street and Orange Avenue and asked me to run it. The reason I did it is my kids were either on a field playing or getting help with their subjects at John Harvard Academy. I learned so much from Dr. Tran, like how to help kids with college applications and essays. It was helping a lot of kids and a lot of athletes, to go there and get the help they needed. Ryan wanted to play soccer in college and I had him calling coaches as a freshman. He was scared out of his wits. But the process built a lot of self-esteem, confidence, and marketing skills. It’s about building relationships with coaches, follow-up and having a strategy. I learned so much and I wanted to help the parents. We can take a kid who doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do, isn’t motivated in school, help them see what they are good at and what they enjoy. But in high school they have to have some goals, and understand the bigger picture, either in athletics or as musicians. We can use that to get them into better schools.”

Keeney worked at John Harvard for seven years before striking out on her own. “I got Ryan and Carly through high school, along with a couple of classes of kids I really loved. I was there from 3-7 p.m. most nights. Part of what I do is take stress off the family. Along with the parents and the student, we’re all a team trying to take care of the kids, and all the plans were individualized. I am the one keeping them on a timeline. I can help with writing essays. There is a website www.MyPlan.com and for $19.95 you can do a series of three personality tests and it spits out careers to match your personality.”

Keeney estimates she has helped over 20 kids earn scholarships and she works with kids outside of Coronado as well. “I have a kid I work with in Michigan, it’s a word-of-mouth kind of thing. It dawned on me that athletic recruitment is the exact same thing as music and colleges need band members. It’s just about building relationships.” Keeney can be reached at susiekeeney25@gmail.com.

As we concluded, Keeney commented, “I wish I would have had more direction and understood what my options were when I was in high school. When I see what the CHS counselors do now for kids, it blows my mind. When I was in high school, you didn’t have that kind of mentoring. My kids were both good students and worked really hard, but if not for athletics they wouldn’t have gotten into the schools they did. You have to be a good student to receive a scholarship. Coaches aren’t going to hand out a scholarship to a kid who isn’t good academically. That’s just a wasted slot. For the most part, it works out well, if a kid really wants it. Given the opportunity, the kids here are just amazing.”

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