Zach Kelley resigned from his position as PE coach and girls basketball coach on Feb. 17 ending a 10-year run as the Lady Hawks’ successful coach.
In his 10 years at the helm, Daleville went 160-89 with four area championships. Kelley said that his decision to step away from his coaching career is one that wasn’t easy but has been weighing on his mind for a few years.
“I had been talking to my wife about it for the last few years,” Kelley said. “My kids are playing sports now. My son was the only one playing for the longest time and then this year my daughter decided to play and so did my four-year old (son).
“They were all in sports and it was hard for me to get to all their games with my games going on.”
Additionally, Kelley’s mother-in-law passed away and both he and his wife came down with COVID-19 last year.
“We had a tough year,” Kelley said. “My mother-in-law passed away right when basketball season started and we’ve been so busy that we haven’t even had time to process it.
“Then we both caught COVID, which was terrible for my family. My wife had it and had a bad deal with it. It was just a bad year and this will give us the chance to take a step back and put everything into perspective. I just want to be able to support my family the way they’ve supported me the last 10-12 years.”
During the 2021 season, the Lady Hawks were sent into quarantine multiple times after players were in close contact with others that were diagnosed with COVID-19. That time gave Kelley the chance to coach his daughter’s youth league team some, which made his choice to step away easier.
“I got to come to a bunch of the games and help coach her team,” he said. “I really loved it and it was fun and coaching alongside my wife made it even more fun.
“It kind of put the cherry on the top so to speak. I want to be able to help (my daughter) be the best she can be and it’s special coaching your kid. I’ve always imagined it but never got a chance to do it. That really helped make my decision a lot easier.”
While it made the decision easier, Kelley said it was still a difficult decision to step away from his team.
“I’ve been saying for the last couple of years that I might get out but you get so attached to your players,” Kelley said. “It just felt like right now was the best time. There wasn’t ever going to be the perfect time because it’s so hard. You get attached to them and they’re like your own kids.
“It’s hard to say goodbye but I’ll still keep up with and be rooting for them and if they ever need anything I’ll be there.”
Over his 10 years with the Lady Hawks Kelley said he had a lot of great memories like winning the 2014 Southeast Sun Coach of the Year and Dale County Big X Coach of the Year, along with seeing his player La’Tia Fils-Aime earn runner-up at the Miss Basketball Banquet before going off to play at Troy.
“There’s just so many memories,” Kelley said. “My second year coaching we made it to the regional tournament for the time time in like 10 years.
“After that we made it four years in a row. In 2015-2016 we went 28-5 and set the school record for most wins in a season, after losing La’Tia the year before.
“When she went off to Troy everyone said we were going to really struggle but we had a really good group of role players and ended up going 28-5. That was really awesome.”
While the wins and accolades were great, Kelley said the relationships he built with his players and seeing them grow up is what meant the most to him.
“The wins aren’t what’s the most important, it’s the relationships I built with these kids,” he said. “Some of them are parents and have jobs and are grown ups now. It’s awesome to see them thriving as young adults and being good people.”
Kelley said that Daleville’s young girls basketball team has a lot of potential no matter who is at the helm.
“They have a really bright future,” he emphasized. “They still have Joye Anderson, Rickia Thomas and Tamiyah Johnson who will be seniors next year and have a lot of experience.
“There’s also a lot of eighth and ninth graders that have a lot of potential. There is a lot of young girls in that group that have the potential to be something special if they just keep working hard and putting in the time. The program is in good hands for sure.”
While Kelley is taking a break from high school basketball, he said it definitely isn’t a permanent break.
“I won’t rule it out for next year but I probably won’t coach next year,” Kelley said. “If something came up and it was the perfect scenario I would do it, though.
“I will definitely coach in the future. I’m still young and have plenty of time. I had a buddy of mine that moved to Atlanta and had a baby and his wife was pregnant again, so he stepped away and said that he was already itching to get back into (coaching). So, I imagine I’ll be the same way, itching to get back into it when I’ve been out for a little bit.”