Coach's Corner - Kelli Cofield, Long Reach Girls Basketball

This summer, CSZ will be doing a segment on the WICKipedia entitled "Coach's Corner". In this feature, we'll be conducting Q&A's with various coaches from around Maryland to learn more about their coaching processes, and why they love coaching.

Today we're featuring Kelli Cofield, the girls' basketball head coach at Long Reach High School in Howard County! Coach Cofield spoke with us about a variety of topics, including how she got her start coaching!

Kelli Cofield CC Pic

County Sports Zone:How did you get your start with coaching basketball?

Kelli Cofield:I started coaching immediately after I graduated from Stony Brook University. I never thought that I would coach, but I guess it was the natural progression once my playing career was over. Fifteen years later, I'm happy that the sidelines welcomed me. I tried a 'normal' job fresh out of college doing telephone systems sales, but that only lasted a few months.

My first coaching job was at The City College of New York in New York City. After only a year there, I got the opportunity to coach at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA and now at Long Reach High School in Columbia.

CSZ:Why do you coach? What about it do you enjoy?

KC:In short, I coach because someone took the time to coach me. Coaching is the return on the investment that many people have poured into me over the years.

Basketball is multi-faceted. Different seasons bring different areas of joy within the game. When I first started coaching, I loved the recruiting piece of it. Other years, I've enjoyed the player development piece. But as of late, I've really enjoyed being able to employ different strategies based on the personnel that we have. However, my favorite part of coaching is the mentoring opportunities, character building, and being able to model and establish life-long relationships with and amongst our girls.

CSZ:Specifically Long Reach- why do you enjoy coaching there?

KC:I love Long Reach. Prior to Long Reach, I lived in Louisiana, but was born and raised in New York City. In an effort to move closer north, I got into a U-Haul and happened upon Columbia, MD. A quick browse through the volunteer section of the local newspaper led me to Long Reach.

Coming from both New York City and Louisiana, I have the personality of a big city resident, but I also appreciate the serenity and hospitality that a suburban neighborhood offers. Long Reach felt right at home from the beginning. It was such a great feel as soon as I walked through the doors. I served as a volunteer assistant for my first year and then was made head coach at the start of the 2010 season.

Both the administration and staff have been great. Through the years, they have supported the program immensely. Everyone is family here. The coaches fellowship with each other outside of the playing fields. The girls have been in the neighborhood schools since their primary grades so there is a great feeling of community amongst everyone.

CSZ:When you started at Long Reach the program had traditionally struggled. That's really changed during your tenure. What's been some keys to changing the culture around the program?

KC:Yes, we struggled greatly during my first few years here. Oddly enough, it never felt like we had losing seasons until we looked at the standings of course. I guess I would attest that to the idea that we didn't coach to particularly win or not lose games. We coached each game, each play, each practice to simply improve day-to-day. When you're coaching with that as the focal point, success is usually a byproduct.

I can't speak to the traditions prior to my tenure here, but what we've tried to establish is consistency and expectations. I would love to think that our success is solely due to the aforementioned, but I'd be a fool to not acknowledge that the caliber of our players has greatly improved in the last few years as well.

CSZ:What're some characteristics of teams that are coached by you? What do you try to instill in your players?

KC:I would hope that all of the teams that we've coached have felt a sense of family within our teams. We often say that Long Reach love is eternal, so I hope that all of our girls leave the program knowing that. I hope that while here, the girls will have learned a thing or two within the confines of the court, but if basketball is the only thing that we've taught them, then we've failed tremendously. Through basketball, we want to establish an expectation of excellence, accountability, responsibility, and community.

CSZ:It ended up being a tremendous season for Long Reach's girls' basketball program, winning its first ever regional title and reaching the state finals. Why was this group able to do so well?

KC:This was a special group of girls. I will forever hold this season as dear to me. The wins were great. Making it to the state final game was an amazing experience. However, each game was exciting. Our student support was great throughout the season. Playing in front of packed crowds gave you a playoff atmosphere each game.

More than I am a coach, I am a fan of the game. This group of girls were fun to watch, fun to coach. The things that they were able to do on the court were unbelievable at times. On the basketball front, this was the perfect mix of skill sets on one team. This team arguably had three first-team all-county players, six girls that should have started each night, two players of the year, players with limitless range. This team was a coach's dream.

But more than their impeccable skill sets, they each worked hard and worked together each night. Their skill set coupled with their unselfishness and work ethic made for the most successful girls basketball season to date at Long Reach.

CSZ:It's far off, but what are your goals and expectations for the upcoming Long Reach basketball season? Much of the team returns, though key guard Kiana Williams has graduated.

KC:We were a quarter or so away from our trophy being engraved with champion as opposed to finalist. So that is the ultimate goal. We just want them to compete every night, play hard, and have fun. The wins will take care of themselves.

Kiana Williams certainly brought a special piece to our team and we'll miss that. But this rising senior class is a special group. Many of them have played together since their freshman year and have experienced great success. We're expecting a lot from them and we're confident that they'll live up to it. I'm excited just thinking about the group of girls that we have returning. Led by the reigning Player of the Year, Lyric Swann, All-County member Arianna Briggs-Hall, sharp shooter Jaelyn Swann, and athletic wings Haley Thompson and Malaya Streeter, this group will be just as dangerous and fun to watch next season.

June 28th, 2018By: Wick Eisenberg

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