It was announced Thursday morning Magna Vista hired Kyana Smith as the school’s new girls basketball head coach.
Smith, a former basketball player at Tunstall High School, Concord University and Averett University, has never coached at the varsity level, but since taking the head athletic trainer position at the school in 2015, she has been involved with the program she’s set to take over.
“Basketball has always kind of been my first love, and I knew at some point in time I wanted to get into coaching,” Smith said. “I just felt like it had to be the right opportunity for where I was. I’ve been around these kids since 2015. I’ve seen most of them from eighth grade on, so I’ve been able to interact with them, but I’ve also seen the program up close and personal and I know that it’s a strong foundation that’s been laid out so it’s something we can build upon.”
Smith was actually out of the country when Henry County Public Schools officially approved the hiring on Thursday, but she was back in Henry County Friday morning when she held her first team workout as the new head coach.
“Definitely a lot of nerves. I will say it’s been overwhelming, just the congratulatory comments and support that I’ve already received,” she said of the first practice. “I feel pretty confident in saying that, just from working with the program, even in a volunteer role, that I know the system, I know what we do well, I know some areas of improvement that we need to work on.
“The girls have a good work ethic… and they’re eager and excited to play basketball.”
Although her coaching experiences are limited to youth basketball and in a volunteer role at Magna Vista, Smith feels that her background in playing the game at the college level, as well as her years of experience as the school’s athletic trainer provide her with a strong foundation to get her coaching career started. Some of that experience is on the court and her basketball mind, but it also comes from seeing how the world has changed in terms of how to best coach today’s youth.
“I’ve seen first-hand the generational changes that we have going on with our athletes, so I’m able to use those experiences to know the limits, to know where we can push the kids to and what we need to work on,” she said.
She also has the experience to encourage her players to play other sports throughout the offseason and the benefits that will come with that when the season begins.
“It helps our basketball program if they are involved with other things as well,” she said.
She’s also no stranger to her players, so there’s less of an adjustment period in getting to know each other.
“I think it’s extremely important because I know the girls, not only on the school level, but most of them on a personal level,” Smith said. “I’ve always had an open-door policy in my athletic training room, and it’s the same as a coach. I’d like to feel like there’s no situation, whether it’s involving basketball or not, that they can’t talk to me about so that we can find a solution because at the end of the day basketball is only a small piece of this puzzle. It’s academics, it’s building character and integrity… as well as having a family-like atmosphere because I want them to always feel like, even when they leave Magna Vista High School and this basketball program, that they always have a place here.”
ON THE COURT
Smith, an Army veteran, expects her players to play hard at all times and to be fundamentally sound. So this summer, she said the main focuses will be on those two aspects of the game.
“We want to make sure that everybody, when they come into this program, they’re able to shoot the basketball, dribble a basketball, handle the basketball… because if you watch basketball, the game is changing,” she said. “You don’t run those slower sets. You don’t have a traditional post player anymore. Everybody is running a five-man spread where everybody can shoot and handle the basketball, so I think we have to be able to adapt to the way the game is also changing. And we see that when we get to the state (tournament)… and I think that’s something that we really have to push ourselves to adapt to.”
This being her first head coaching job at the varsity level, Smith knows she can’t be successful by herself, so she wants to make sure she has a strong group of assistant coaches, especially to help in areas where she may be less polished.
“Hopefully, behind every good coach you have a great staff, so we’re really working to build our staff to add some different components,” she said. “I’m very defensive minded, as well as all about the hustle, the grit, the rebounding, the hustle plays, and the strength and conditioning aspect of it, so we’re really looking for somebody to bring that offensive component to our staff.”
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Vicky Hayes, who announced her resignation as the Warriors head coach earlier this offseason, had a lot of success in her time at the helm of the girls basketball program, including winning the state championship in 2004. Smith is excited to make her own mark, but knows Hayes left her a strong group with which to get started.
“I approach it with humility and gratitude because I am grateful to her for the foundation that she’s laid and she’s a mentor,” Smith said of Hayes. “She was great for the program and for the kids and I know they miss her and things are different… but I’m just glad to know that I still have her in my corner.
“She’s motivated me and I really take that to heart and I’m appreciative of that.”
Smith is eager to get her team on the court against other competition. Even though they will only have a few days together, she is taking the Warriors to a Radford team camp next week, and expects to play in a number of camps throughout the summer.
“I’m trying to get us games here, as well as the camps and things just so they have an opportunity to put what we’re doing here into play,” she said.