By T.J. Morgan
Freelance Sports Reporter
Hornet Nation is our ultimate 6th man and we can’t wait to show out together in the 2023-24 season.
– Coach Heidi Coleman
Her career began under Coach Mary Lou Feese at Edmonton Elementary, then a K-8 school. Unlike now, middle school athletes weren’t permitted to play high school basketball, meaning even though she was capable, the rules would force her to wait until high school to put on the maroon and white.
As a freshman and sophomore, Heidi Coleman would play for the forefather of Lady Hornets basketball, Coach GL Richardson. Metcalfe’s deepest tournament run would take place in Heidi’s sophomore season in 1992. The Lady Hornets would advance all the way to the 4th region championship, where they would suffer a heartbreaking two-point loss to Warren East. Also in that season, the Lady Hornets would advance to the semifinals of the All-A State tournament.
Heidi’s junior year would see the introduction of Mary Lou Feese as the Lady Hornets’ head coach. Fittingly, Coach Feese would return to the bench this season to assist Heidi in her first season as head coach.
While playing for Coach Feese, Heidi would receive recognition for a remarkable junior season, being named 4th region player of the year and being selected for the Kentucky All Star Game.
You took over as head coach for a 20-win, back-to-back 16th district champion Lady Hornet team that had just made a 4th region semifinals run. You had to feel a lot of pressure coming into this season. What was that pressure like and was there a point in the season when it felt the heaviest?
Heidi – We approached this season in a very different way from last year. From the beginning of our summer all the way through, we worked to adjust the culture by focusing on preparation and progress instead of results. By taking the focus off the wins and losses it reduced some of that pressure.
How satisfying is it to match the success of the previous season in your first season as head coach, racking up 20 wins, winning a third straight 16th district championship, and making a 4th region semifinals run?
Heidi – It has been such a satisfying season in how our team chemistry and the individual player progress came together. The timing that we peaked with all the pieces coming together was really special. The wins were great, but there was a large body of work in terms of culture, chemistry, and player development underlying the results. While we didn’t anticipate or focus on this kind of success in terms of numbers for the year, it was definitely special.
You had a special senior this year in Camryn Reece. Explain her role with the team and how important is it to success to have selfless players like Cam that put winning above anything else.
Heidi – A lot of people focus on scoring points or playing time, but to be a successful team you have to rely on a blend and variety of roles. Our program is really trying to shift focus away from individual stats to roles that benefit the team. You just can’t have every player trying to be the leading scorer and you can’t allow other people’s expectations of players define the role of a player.
Of the various roles that may be part of any team, Cam’s was outlined to be vocally positive, a light-hearted energy, the bench cheerleader, the speaking captain for refs, the responsible decision maker, the outfit coordinator, and the ultimate liaison between coaches and the team. She knew on the court in the flow of the game, playing time wasn’t her focus. She accepted our outline and Cam was exceptional in her roles. The most amazing thing was the character she demonstrated with her leadership. She worked as hard as anybody. She was honest, selfless, and supportive. She was humble and enthusiastic. She maintained a priority of good grades and behavior. She has been a dream to coach. If every player will adopt her individual role established with our coaching staff to the degree Cam did, our kids will continue to experience fulfillment and success in our program in a big way.
Obviously, the Lady Hornets have had a lot of success the two past two seasons, both with you on the staff. Next season you will return all of your rotation. That rotation will have another year of experience and there will be clear expectations around this group of girls. After being defeated the past two postseasons by teams that are maybe more athletic and longer than what we’ve seen in the regular season, how do you prepare for that scenario going into next season?
Heidi – We slowly integrated offenses to match our strengths and our personnel. We didn’t over coach, we promoted learning to read the game and making decisions with instinct. While we pick back up on individual development, we hope the offensive end can become more sophisticated this year having established our sets, philosophy, and a better understanding of how to read the floor this season. Defensively we spent time working through a variety of options and we will hopefully hone into a more effective use of some of those defenses. Ultimately, we aren’t focused on the Bowling Green or Franklin Simpson teams out there. We will stay focused on Lady Hornet basketball and find a way to put the best product on the floor that we can create and hope that’s good enough to provide special experiences for our kids.
How challenging has it become for a Metcalfe County basketball program to compete with schools from Warren County, a county that is seeing their population approach 150,000, almost 15 times that of Metcalfe County?
Heidi – I think we are only seeing the beginning of the challenge if you track the direction of the game at all levels. With the NIL, transfer portals, and recruiting at all levels, surely there will be some consideration for how to level the playing field. Perhaps we are moving into a class structure being more firmly defined for basketball as well as football. We will see what happens, but as it is, we will keep showing up to work our way into being as competitive as we can.
The Lady Hornet program has really solidified its dominance over the 16th district, claiming three straight district titles for the first time in program history. What are your expectations for the program in the short-term, the next 2-4 years as the girls’ transition into upperclassman, as well as your vision of the program long-term, as you are involved with the younger Lady Hornets?
Heidi – I would love to say that earning a chance to go to Rupp will be in our future, but I will not shift my primary focus to results over the process and progress. The overall experience is what players will remember most and we want that to be special. We want to develop earlier at a higher level now. We have a great middle school feeder program, but we are pushing even below those ages now. We are moving into travel teams, advanced skill clinics, and more competitive play as a program in ways that haven’t been done before. If we can focus on giving our best effort across all ages and trying to learn fundamentals the right way, results will come down the road.
Sports, especially for girls, represents so much more than just winning games. It is the foundation of a lifestyle that can lead them to so much. The gifts received from competing at this level, in the grind I push them through, will far exceed the season record they will remember. This is a wonderfully caring and committed coaching staff. Our hope is not only that we develop the best girl basketball players ever to wear the Lady Hornet uniform, but that we impact lives of young women in such a way that the ripple effect changes the world.
What is one thing you want fans to know about Heidi Coleman and this group of girls?
Heidi – We saw, heard, read, and felt the community support and love for the Lady Hornets this season. Hundreds of fans said they enjoyed going to games again and identified the heart and enthusiasm on the floor. We will continue to grow and we will not take that support for granted. Hornet Nation is our ultimate 6th man and we can’t wait to show out together in the 2023-24 season.
Next week’s edition will include Coaches’ Court – part 2, a Q & A with Metcalfe County Boys’ Basketball Coach Brandon Brockman.