Kellie Jolly Harper - her perspective

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Kellie Jolly Harper

By Jerry Lowery

I had the opportunity to contact Lady Vols head coach Kellie Jolly Harper this past week and ask her some questions concerning the Lady Vols season and the shutdowns and cancellations that are taking place nationwide.  Coach Harper responded in a way that a leader would respond.  Keeping her players and her perspective above the normal reaction.  Her words should ring out to us all, “See the big picture.”

  • What are your thoughts on the shutdown?

The shutdown is necessary.  We don’t often have the ability to affect the community and world like we do now.  We need to look at this as an opportunity to re-think our priorities and come together as human beings to support one another.

  • What were the expectations of postseason play continuing after the SEC tournament?

Everything happened quickly after the SEC tournament.  We practiced on Wednesday, March 18.  We had a team meeting on Thursday, March 19, and found out that evening that the NCAA Tournament had been canceled.  The cancellation was not a shock.  I was not disappointed that the tournament was canceled, given the circumstances.  I was disappointed that the spread of COVID-19 has pushed our leaders to make that decision.

  • How did the team react to the shutdown?

The team was shocked and amazed.  But they had a good attitude and expressed their concern and understanding.

  • How did the seniors respond knowing that their basketball career is coming to an end due to the health crisis?

Our seniors didn’t get to have a normal ‘ending’ to their season.  The abrupt ending was hard to grasp.

  • How did you feel and respond to your players when you heard of the shutdown?

I felt concern and sadness for the situation.  We tried to be transparent and give them every piece of information that we had.

  • Moving forward, will your motivation to the future teams change some knowing that things can change quickly?

We sometimes have situations that put things into perspective.  No one knows what tomorrow holds, and we have to make each day the best we can possibly make it.  I am hopeful that we can move forward with a sense of urgency.

  • How are you preparing for the future and recruiting during this time period of the shutdown?

Our staff must continue working to support our student-athletes as well as recruit.  We have to be creative in how we approach these next few weeks as there will be a lot of virtual meetings.

  • What is your message to all the high school players across the state of Tennessee that were in the state tournament knowing that their hopes of a state title may never be played with the finish line in sight?

I know that everyone is disappointed in how the season ended.  Basketball and high school sports are a big part of our culture, and it is hard to let go of during this time.  I think we have to continue to look at the ‘big-picture’ and understand that this is bigger than sport.

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