Over the next few weeks, the Sun Conference will spotlight each of its 2019-2020 award winners. Each have been nominated by the league in consideration for the respective NAIA National Awards that will be announced in mid-September.
NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (July 1, 2020) – When most people think of coaching accolades, awards such as Coach of the Year, Winningest Coach in Program History, and National Championship Coach come to mind. These X's- and O's-type awards deal solely in wins and losses. However, a coach has a greater responsibility than what the final tally on the scoreboard says.
A coach is also responsible for molding, nurturing, and teaching their student-athletes.
On Thursday, June 25, Head Coach Kymberly Hope was named the 2019-2020 Sun Conference Coach of Character Award winner. Coach Hope became the first member of the Johnson & Wales (Fla.) athletics staff to garner such award after completing what was arguably the most successful season in Wildcat history.
"I'm truly honored and humbled by being named this year's award winner," Coach Hope said. "I always want to do the right thing regardless of what it is. And, I try to do the right thing consistently even when no one is watching. That's just who I am as a person. I am honored that someone would think highly enough of me as a person and coach with good character."
The Coach of Character Award is given to a head coach of an NAIA institution who has been outstanding in embracing the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character initiative by deliberately teaching character to his/her student-athletes through sport.
"I don't do it for the accolades," Coach Hope stated. "I like to think of myself as a very humble person. So, to know that someone would consider me as a person with good character in a conference with so many great coaches is an honor. It is nice to be recognized for the character that I model each day for my players. That is extremely rewarding because my biggest goal is to help these young women become individuals with integrity when they leave JWU."
During the 2019-2020 season, the Wildcats claimed the program's first Sun Conference title and the school's first berth into the NAIA National Tournament. The 2019-20 season was a year that saw the Wildcats reach the 20-win plateau, win a school-record 13 TSC games, and appear in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll – each of which had never been done before. But their success went further than on the court. It carried over into the community and on campus. The team was one of the most active in the JWU Athletic Department and was one of the most-galvanizing and unifying forces on the North Miami campus.
"My first year in (2009-2010), I wanted to get this program going," Coach Hope said. "I wanted to make this a place where someone could feel proud about being a part of. I wanted this to be a program that people respected; that people knew of; and a place that people could be proud of. I compare that to how much I love the University of Miami. I'm proud to be a Hurricane. I wanted to have a program that set that same standard."
Hope came to JWU 11 years ago, taking over a program that was trying to get off the ground. It was a program that started during the 2005-2006 school year, needing and waiting for someone special to take the helm.
"I remember sitting with Coach (David) Graham when I got to JWU – he was Director of Athletics then – and discussing with him that this process at JWU was going to be a long hall," Coach Hope recalls. "It was a program that was trying to get off the ground. So, my vision was to put Johnson & Wales on the map. I wanted people to know who and what we were all about. At that time, nobody knew anything about this school outside of being a culinary school."
A former All-BIG EAST selection at the University of Miami, the UM Hall of Famer (Class of 2015) used her experiences as student-athlete as a blueprint for the JWU program. A three-year starter with the Hurricanes, she finished her career among Miami's all-time top ten in scoring (8th), rebounds ( 6th), field goals (10th), blocked shots (2nd), free throws (8th) and free throws attempted (5th). During her four years as a Hurricane, Hope averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds. As a senior, she averaged 17.2 points-per-game, 8.7 rebounds-per-game, 2.1 blocks-per-game, 1.9 steals-per-game, and 1.8 assists-per-game and shot 53 percent from the field and 81 percent from the line.
"Everything that I am, I've learned by being a student-athlete," Coach Hope said. "When you talk about accountability, having pride, working hard towards something, these are all things I learned by being a student-athlete. I tell my players all the time that I am not asking them to do anything that I have not already done. All the grit and all of the things that I have learned as a student-athlete helped me towards building what at wanted at JWU. Everything I am comes from who I was as a student-athlete at the University of Miami."
But, coaching wasn't always in the cards for Hope. After graduating UM with a degree in sociology in 1999, Hope continued her basketball career, professionally. She played both in the WNBA and internationally. In the WNBA, she spent time with the Orlando Miracle (1999), Utah Starzz (2000), and the San Antonio Silver Starzz (2003). Internationally, she played professionally in Spain (2000), Korea (2001), and Greece (2002). However, it was a chance encounter early in her professional career that changed her course.
"I never thought I would ever coach," Coach Hope said. "I was still playing in the WNBA and was on a break from being overseas and I decided (on the recommendation from my sister, who is a teacher) to go to my old high school (McArthur High School) and be a substitute teacher. During that process, I would go to the gym, after school, and train. One day, I was in the gym, to get some shots up, and the girls' basketball team was practicing. While I was at the other end, shooting, I was watching the team's practice. Seeing what they were doing, kind of pulled me in that day and I've been coaching ever since. I put my professional career on the back burner from that day on. I've always wanted to be looked at as something other than just an athlete and I think that was the moment when I found out who I really was."
And as "they" say, the rest is history. Hope used her love of the game and her newly-acquired passion for coaching to blaze a path that eventually guided her to JWU.
"What I love about coaching is having the ability to motivate young people to do the right things in life; to help them grow as an individual while getting them prepared for life after athletics," Hope said. "For me to be able to show them the right way of doing things and how to be a good person while watching them develop into the individuals that they will become is extremely gratifying. Basketball is my first love and I don't like to see anyone disrespect it by not being a hard worker and not putting forth enough energy. So, to be that person who can model the work ethic and the love of the game is what I enjoy the most about it."
The work ethic and "lead-by-example" model that Hope uses in the development of her team and student-athletes go beyond success on the court. Her focus has been, from Day One, for her players to go on and be successful and to use their time at JWU to reach their full potential.
"When you talk about character in general, there are so many levels to it," Hope stated. "For me, you need to build a foundation. You need to be a unit. Then you build on that foundation through commitment and work ethic. That groundwork and foundation then build towards greatness and excellence. Being passionate about what you are doing, having a positive mindset, being determined, doing the right thing even though it's not easy, maximizing your ability to reaching your full potential, these all lead to achieving greatness."
Follow women's basketball (@JWUWBBallNM) and all of JWU's 11 athletic teams on Twitter (@JWUAthleticsNM), YouTube (JWUAthletics), and Instagram (theWildcatWay).
About JWU Athletics: JWU Athletics is home to more than 150 student-athletes in 11 different sports. Established in 1998, JWU Athletics is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Sun Conference. Athletic events are held the Wildcat Center and the Miami Shores Recreation Complex (9825 NE 7th Ave., Miami Shores, FL 33138).
About JWU: Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with approximately 13,000 graduate, undergraduate and online students at its four campuses in Providence, Rhode Island; North Miami, Florida; Denver, Colorado; and Charlotte, North Carolina. An innovative educational leader, the university offers degree programs in arts and sciences, business, culinary arts, design and engineering, education, health and wellness, hospitality, nutrition and physician assistant studies. Its unique model integrates arts and sciences and industry-focused education with work experience and leadership opportunities, inspiring students to achieve professional success and lifelong personal and intellectual growth. The university's impact is global, with alumni from 125 countries pursuing careers worldwide. For more information, visit jwu.edu.
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