by Robbie Bills
Twenty-five year Gilmer County teaching veteran, Kim Charles, has been named new girls basketball coach at Gilmer High School.
In front of a small group of assembled media and Lady Cat players, GHS?Principal Adam Hathaway made the announcement May 6 in the GHS library.
“I am very excited to say that after a long process and after a committee had met for a pretty good length of time, and after we reviewed several great applicants, we have decided that taking the helm as the Lady Bobcats girls basketball coach is coach Kim Charles,” he said.
Charles responded, “I am tremendously excited about taking over the Lady Cat program. I’m looking forward to us moving in a positive direction and becoming a very intense and aggressive basketball team. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few years and seeing how we can make the program grow. We have a lot of experienced girls coming back and a lot of new girls coming out this next year. It will be a thrilling and exciting time for all of us, I hope.”
Previously a constant at the middle school level, Charles made her basketball debut in the high school ranks last season, as an assistant to former head coach, Herb Horton.
She will now be tasked with handling two varsity programs as last season also marked her first as GHS’ softball head coach. Hathaway noted her familiarity with players and previous performance factored into the hire.
“To be honest,” Hathaway began, “the stability of being able to bring the girls together and being able to bring the team together (is why we hired Kim). I know she has been unbelievably successful for us as a softball coach.”
He added, “I know our (softball) season didn’t turn out as well as we hoped it had, but I know what we are building for in the coming years will be absolutely awesome. I’ve been able to watch her in that role and I know absolutely what I am going to get as a girls basketball coach. I wanted someone who was going to come in and bring the program together and be strong moving forward. And was going to be able to be up front and honest with everyone in the program so that we do move forward in a direction that is going to create a great environment here for us. We felt, as a (hiring) committee, that she absolutely was that person.”
According to Charles, “more that 20” of her 25 years in education have been spent coaching basketball and softball. When asked why she waited until late in her career to apply for the top basketball position at GHS, she said, “I think Lady Cat basketball is a really established and great program. I wanted to make sure that continued for all of the girls. I’m definitely a lover of athletics. That’s what I did through high school and that’s what my children do. My daughter (Bailey) and son (Joe Bob) play, and that did have a part in it, but really I’m looking to promote the program and make sure it stays moving in a forward direction.”
With any new coach, changes can be expected. While much of the offseason team building will remain the same, Charles addressed team weaknesses and indicated practices will differ from last season. She cited “conditioning” as where the biggest change needs to occur.
“Things that may be a little different is more of an active practice. And probably a little more of an intense practice to work on stamina and conditioning. As players, I believe that is where we were a little weak. We weren’t as conditioned as we should be,” she admitted.
Last season GHS fielded the top defense in Region 7-4A, allowing just 42 points per game. Offensively, the Lady Cats ranked sixth out of 11 teams, averaging 50 points per game. According to Charles, the team’s offense needs to improve and she hopes that will be aided by an aggressive approach. Charles also said she plans to press more than in years past.
“I think by pressing you force opponents to turn the ball over, or you intend to try and get them to turn the ball over. I think we can get a lot of offense from our press,” she said.
Coaching family and handling two varsity programs
GHS will use five head coaches to lead its seven varsity girls sports. Donna Parks just finished her first seasons as the volleyball and tennis head coach, and Charles will pull double duty as well, as the head softball and basketball coach.
She said it will not be a major issue, and “scheduling” will be the main obstacle.
“The biggest challenge will be scheduling and time. Obviously, all of June will be basketball. Then all of July, August and September will be softball. Right now, basketball players are working out three days a week and softball players are conditioning twice a week. Once the seasons start there isn’t much conflict.”
Sports will continue to be a family affair for the Charleses. Kim’s husband, Al, is a softball and boys basketball assistant. Their son, Joe Bob, plays basketball and daughter, Bailey, is a member of the softball and basketball teams. Charles noted that coaching their children is not anything new and doesn’t foresee any problems moving forward.
“I’ve always coached my own children, so I don’t feel like that is going to be that big of an issue. Their whole lives we’ve coached them. We coached them in younger leagues, then we coached them in middle school and now high school. I never had a problem with my children playing for other people. I think they need to do that, also.”
She added, “Both of my children were told that, ‘you better be one of the best players, because if you’re not, then people will say she’s just playing because she’s your daughter, or he’s just playing because he’s your son.’ But if everyone sees that they’re one of the better players, no one can say that.”
So far, Joe Bob and Bailey have held up their end of the deal, as both are all-region performers.
Next season, Charles will return 12-of-14 players from the 2012-2013 varsity, which finished the season with a 14-12 record. She also has a talented group of underclassmen as Clear Creek Middle School’s eighth grade team has won the previous two Mountain League championships.
Jason Bryson will return for his second season as an assistant coach and the program is in search of one more coach to complete the staff.