University of Virginia-Wise
Hometown: Blountville, Tennessee
Education: Concord University
Email: jkestner [at] uvawise.edu
The moment you first realized that you might like to make coaching part of your career?
I realized I wanted to be a coach the summer after I graduated college. I had the opportunity to coach a group of young ladies from the local high schools near my hometown during a summer league program. That same summer, I was working at a group home for troubled teens and loved it and that was when I knew I really wanted to impact young people in a positive fashion. I felt like I was truly making a difference in those kids’ lives and thought “This is where I am supposed to be,” but after coaching summer league, I knew that basketball would allow me to have an influence on kids in the same way the coaches I had were able to influence me. With coaching, I am able to have that impact and still embrace the game I love so much.
Outside of mentors, talk about one way you’ve learned some aspect of coaching.
Definitely through reading. I read every coaching book I can find. I love learning from all the greats, old and new, in our sport and others. The cool thing about their books is that they don’t just talk about the triumphs they experienced, but that they also delve into the trials they went through in order to get to the top. I am currently reading A Coaching Life by Gary Blair and it is incredible reading about his journey. All of us came to be coaches in different ways and have different stories. That’s part of what makes us so unique. Reading helps me understand the game from different perspectives and challenges me to be the best version of myself.
If you could go back to your rookie coach self and give one piece of advice, what would it be?
You don’t know everything. My first year in coaching, I felt like I had to already know everything about what this job entails. I sometimes felt like I should already be a perfect coach. I also felt that if I didn’t know something, I was failing at my job. You can’t be afraid to ask questions in this field. You will never know the answer to everything and as you continue to grow through this career, you will learn new things every single day. You aren’t going to be perfect right away. Keep working and learning, and enjoy the journey.
What is your favorite memory from a coaching conference or clinic?
One of my favorite memories is from my first ever WBCA convention in Indianapolis. At this roundtable I was immediately required to get out of my comfort zone. That roundtable was chaired by Hernando Planells and I will never forget it. He walked into that room with so much energy that it automatically grabbed my attention. He made us play this game, “Life with the Wright Family” that demonstrated how important communication and listening was from every aspect of the game. Coach Hernando talked about being always being contagious! He told us, “You were allowed to wake up this morning, so don’t waste the opportunity to make an impact that is bigger than you.” I embrace that every day.
Your dream lunch date. One coach. Any sport. Any level. Living or dead. Who is it?
Pat Summitt would be my first choice, although if I could pick a second lunch date it would be Yolett McCuin. Being from Tennessee, I grew up watching Pat and attending her camps. I’ve always admired how she interacted with her athletes. She demanded so much from them but they had the upmost respect for her. I hope to be half the coach she was. Yolett McCuin is someone I’ve heard speak at every WBCA convention since I started coaching and I learn something new from her every time. My favorite thing about Coach Yo is that she keeps it real! This year in Columbus she talked about being transparent with your athletes, and that is exactly what she is. Her accomplishments alone, between win records and being the first Bahamian woman to coach a D1 program, set her apart from others and she continues to set the bar high for us young coaches who are following behind her.
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