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Students, parent-coaches make unusual situation work

Mt. Spokane’s Reids, Mead’s Kights unite on volleyball court

High school athletes who play for a coach who is also their parent know that the situation can be either a blessing or a curse.

On one hand, it’s an advantage growing up around the sport and getting sound early instruction. Nonetheless, the public perception of nepotism or the fear that expectation can lend to unfair scrutiny goes with it.

None of that concerns Mt. Spokane volleyball standout Kenzie Reid or Mead counterpart Kaely Kight. Both longtime foes have carved out All-Greater Spokane careers and both consider it a blessing to play for their parents, Wildcats coach John Reid and Panthers coach Judy Kight.

“I actually really enjoy it,” said Kenzie, a setter who is playing this year despite a shoulder injury that forces her to hit left-handed at the net and serve right-handed with a funky underhand swing. “It’s a different connection than he can have with other players. I’ve had people think I get special treatment. Of course, he’s going to be a little bit harder on me and expects so much because I’m his daughter. But when we’re on the floor in the gym he’s my coach, No. 1, and when we’re out of there he’s just my dad.”

Kaely, a six-position player listed as a middle blocker, concurred.

“It’s been fun playing for Mom,” she said. “We don’t have a conflict and I joke around with her in practice. I did feel pressure making the team as her daughter and living up to her standard as Judy Kight.”

Winning state titles has become an expectation under Kight, whose Panthers have seven titles, six in the last seven years. Reid has taken Mt. Spokane to three straight state tournaments, placing seventh in 2008 and second last year.

It’s not uncommon that high school coaches coach their children. There are numerous success stories in the GSL.

Unusual in this case is that both Kaely and Kenzie played on state-finalist teams last year as juniors at different schools – Kight for the State 4A champions, Reid for the 3A runner-up. Both teams, each with a core group of seniors that has played together for years, have the potential to play for a title again.

John Reid played volleyball in college and said that he played professionally for two years while in the Peace Corps in Brazil. Caught in a mass teacher layoff in California, he ultimately found work here through a Job Fair in Spokane and coached girls basketball and volleyball at North Central before coming to Mt. Spokane and eventually taking over the volleyball team.

Kenzie said she wanted to be like her athletic sisters who were NC athletes. She began playing volleyball for her dad in fifth grade. John said she proved to be a natural setter, although he had his youngster playing every position.

“What she had was a sense for the game,” John said. “She was one of those youngsters in soccer, breaking out of groups and anticipating.”

John said another trait is Kenzie’s leadership, born of compassion and caring for others.

When she was young, an incident about parent-child relationships left a lasting impression.

After calling for her to block out during a Hoopfest game, John said, “She turned to me, put her fingers to her lips and said, ‘Shhh. I’ve got a coach, be my dad.’ We have a relationship at home where we hardly ever talk about volleyball.”

He said that didn’t extend to a recent conversation in the family car following a match, when Kenzie took her captain’s role with the Wildcats seriously.

“I basically told him he needs to relax a bit because we’re an amazing team,” she said.

John said her comments, while difficult to accept for a dad who wants to fix things, made him proud and a better coach and dad.

Kaely also grew up in volleyball, a sport readily discussed at home. Judy and Kelly Kight, who was coaching in Warden at the time, connected at a volleyball clinic and eventually married. Both coached their daughters in club ball, although health issues ended 20-year-old sister Chelsea’s volleyball aspirations before high school.

“I don’t think you can predict whether they will play in high school,” Judy said. “Kaely wanted to, was able too and it worked out. A lot of people think we shoved volleyball down her throat. Basically, we told both girls to do what they love and find what they love.”

Kaely played up in age early in her club career and grew up witnessing the great Mead teams.

“Club was when I really knew what I wanted to do it in high school,” she said. “Seeing them win state made me want to become part of one of those teams.”

Judy said she treated Kaely like any other player.

“I basically said this is my daughter and that’s a great thing,” Judy said. “But when we get in the gym I am Coach, not Mom, and that’s how we dealt with it.”

Kaely and Kenzie made their respective varsity teams as sophomores. Both were first-team All-GSL last year for teams that finished 1-2 in the GSL, won respective regionals and finished 1-2 in state.

Kaely stands 5-foot-10, taller than her parents. Her size, jumping ability and all-around versatility on the front row or back made her an attractive college recruit.

Kenzie will weigh her options following shoulder surgery.

“Ever since the injury happened, I’ve been taking things one step at a time,” Kenzie said. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world getting to play volleyball my senior year with girls who I’ve grown up together with and who are good friends.

“There’s nothing else like having Dad on the bench. I think I’m lucky to have him coach me.”