Kevin Williams knew little about volleyball as a youth. Growing up in south Augusta, he played baseball and basketball. But volleyball?
“The only volleyball we played was at church functions,” he said. “There was a church league team my parents played on. That was my exposure before college.”
Williams became a quick study in the sport. This past season, he led Greenbrier to a 46-3 record, a region championship and an appearance in the Class AAAAAA Elite Eight. Williams is The Augusta Chronicle Volleyball Coach of the Year.
A mid-September tournament at River Bluff High School in Lexington, S.C., Williams said, served as the catalyst for the second half of the season. The Lady Wolfpack won four matches in one day, including the championship tilt over the host school, 2-1.
“That’s when the girls realized we had a pretty special group,” said Williams, who also works as a guidance counselor at Greenbrier. “They realized we could reach that next level that we’re always trying to reach.”
Coaching volleyball is quite a contrast to Williams’ youth, when he was a two-sport standout at Butler. In winter, he played shooting guard for the basketball team. In spring, he pitched and played infield for the baseball team.
He still tries to stay active, playing church league basketball once a week. He also juggles a busy family life. He and his wife, Tasha, have four sons: Jud, 10, Nate, 8, Everett, 4 and Davis 2. Tasha homeschools the boys.
“She does a good job with them,” Williams said, adding Friday evenings are family nights reserved for pizzas and movies. “The kids like to play outside and are into Star Wars.”
Well before marriage and kids, Williams graduated from Butler as valedictorian. He then attended Augusta College on an academic scholarship, graduating with a biology degree. He thought about going into pharmacy or physical therapy, but he started working with youth while in college – something that persuaded him to switch directions. So Williams got certified to become a science teacher.
After graduation, he started working at Lakeside, where he spent six years. Williams, 42, began coaching junior varsity volleyball, learning from varsity coach Keri Smith. When Smith stepped down after a few years, Williams coached the Lady Panthers for three seasons. He then went back to college to get his master’s degree in counseling, after which he moved to Greenbrier – he’s been at the school 10 years.
With coach Debbie Born leading the Lady Wolfpack volleyball program, Williams coached junior varsity basketball for seven years. When Born quit coaching, Nicole Abbott became the varsity volleyball coach, while Williams got back into the sport on the junior varsity level. After Abbott moved to Evans, Williams started coaching the varsity squad.
In Williams’ first season in 2016, Greenbrier made a 15-win improvement from the previous season, finishing with a 35-5 record.
“Last year, we had everyone coming back,” he said. “It was a lot of me learning from them and them realizing what they could do. This year, we put in a few new pieces. But we had a year together and six returning seniors and then Jillian (Lui), who had played a full year on varsity. So we had a lot of key pieces coming back.”
Williams now has the challenge of replacing those six seniors. He said he’s already taken some notes in preparation for 2018.
“We’ll start working out in January,” he said. “We’ll start working out and doing some conditioning and figuring out things for next year.”