BOWLING GREEN—During the most recent Bowling Green School Board meeting, two coaches were approved for the next academic year.
Craig Smith, who had been assistant basketball coach for the boys team was named the new head coach after Brandon McCann resigned from his teaching and coaching position with the school system. And Katie Splain was picked to be the head coach for the girl’s volleyball team.
Smith, who at one time was head basketball coach at Clopton High School, said he had applied for the head coaching position at Bowling Green three years ago—the same time Brandon applied.
Smith said he understood why the school named Brandon the coach back then.
“I was excited for him,” he said. Smith was supposed to be the assistant coach for the boys team, but the girl’s coach was leaving and Bowling Green Athletic Director Matt Chance asked him to step into that role.
“He told me if there was ever a chance that I could get back over to the boys side, he would certainly do it, and he lived up to what he told me,” Smith said.
Smith said he knew Brandon had been looking for a teaching position closer to where he lived in the Lake St. Louis area.
“It ended up working out that this was the right time to do it,” Smith said. “And now I’m in that role that I was expecting to get three years ago.
“I’m pretty excited,” he added. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to.”
Splain has worked at BGR-I for several years.
“I started working at Frankford Elementary then moved to the high school,” she said. She has also coached before, but had been out of the game for a while.
“When I stepped away from coaching a few years ago, I hoped it would not be for good,” she said. “I had planned to get back into it, and when I learned that the opening was available, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m extremely excited to work with this group of talented girls. I’m also thankful for the opportunity given to me by Matt Chance, Dr. Matt Fredrickson, and our school board to run the volleyball program. Volleyball has always been a passion of mine and I’m looking forward to sharing that with the athletes again.”
Splain said she had been coaching a club team, Pike County Crush, in the area with the help of some local parents, who wanted their daughters to be able to continue playing after the season finished.
“It seemed like a lot of the teams on the high school schedule had girls who had access to play year-round which made them extremely competitive. If BGHS wanted to be able to compete on that level, they had to start playing more than August-October. After a few years of coaching club, I coached the BGHS junior varsity team. Later, an opportunity came up for the head volleyball coach and I transitioned to that role for two years before stepping away to spend some time with my newborn.”
Smith said he graduated from Clopton in 1994. He played on the EMO teams when he was there, and grew up in the Clarksville and Eolia areas. He noted that the current Bowling Green High School gym was first used during his senior year in high school.
“That gym and that floor is about as old as I am,” he said.
Smith said he called his mom and dad with the news of being named head coach, then his wife, Julie, and then his children.
He has some high expectations for the basketball team this coming season, mainly because of the number of talented players that are returning for the next academic year.
“I’m going to try and move the team forward, so they are a top echelon team in the EMO. We’ve got so much talent. If we get the right combination of players playing, I don’t see why we couldn’t be one of the top three teams in the EMO playing for that top spot,” he said.
He also has high expectations for himself. It’s important to Smith that he works as hard or harder than the team. He knows he is helping to mold community members’ sons. During the basketball season he believes that the team members spend more time with him than they do with their own families.
Even though a lot of the players are in other sports right now, some are still keeping their skills sharp, Smith explained. He will have contact days during the summer and then pick up their regular training schedule—usually around the middle of June. At some point the team will compete at a shootout, where they can hone their skills against other teams.
But that means fitting in those practices within the football schedule, and Smith is also the head coach for the girl’s softball team, so he would have to work around that, too.
He wants to start them out practicing three days a week, working on various skills, including shooting free throws. Smith said he knows the team struggled a bit with that during the last season.
He’s also excited about some new technology they were recently able to obtain—the Shoot-A-Way gun. One has been delivered and one is on its way. He can design shooting workouts for individual players using the machine’s technology.
“It gives them immediate feedback,” he added. “The kids are excited about it, and I’m excited about it.” The system works on a player’s shot form, and Smith believes it will help the team out a lot.
Smith has not yet decided on an assistant coach yet.
“We have until April to make that decision,” he said, but they have a few names to consider for the position.
He appreciates the trust Chance and the school board has in him to move the team forward.
Splain said she hasn’t officially met the team, but added that, “I will hold a meeting this week for anyone who is interested in playing next year. I will encourage them to attend spring weight training and start having open gyms to get to know everyone who is interested in playing.”
Splain said, “I’m excited about the leadership that will be returning for next season. We will be able to build on the skills the team already has and focus on implementing plays. Once we strengthen our fundamentals we will strive to be aggressive at the net in both blocking and attacking the ball.”