Honoring "Coach S"

To say that Kelsey Smither was destined from birth to coach and serve as an athletic administrator might be a bit of a stretch.
Not by much, though.

From 1990 until his passing November 13, 2004, at age 48, her dad Ed Smither was the athletic director and a physical education teacher and multi-sport coach at Lakeland High School in Suffolk, and Kelsey and her older sister Katelyn spent their formative years tagging along after him.

Many a day, they helped him line fields, clean out lockers, mow grass, and perform myriad other not-in-the-regular-job-description tasks that often fall to AD’s in many places.

They also developed a keen understanding of and appreciation for teamwork, competitive spirit, and fair play from observing the man whom the Southeastern District honors annually by bestowing the Edward S. Smither Jr. Sportsmanship Award and for whom Lakeland has named a scholarship as well as its stadium.

No wonder, then, that Kelsey became involved with competitive athletics at an early age.

No wonder that she became involved with coaching even before her playing days ended.

No wonder that when the opportunity arose to come to Collegiate as an assistant athletic director and assistant varsity field hockey coach, she readily accepted.

“My dad had a fun-loving personality,” Kelsey said. “He cared about his kids. He would pick them up and take them to practice if they couldn’t get there on their own. He did whatever he could to make things go ‘round. He wore so many hats. He was loved by so many.  He valued relationships.  He would do anything in the world for anyone. That’s something I’ve very much carried with me.”

At Lakeland, Kelsey was a three-time Southeastern District field hockey player of the year and Group AAA all-state selection. Her senior year, she led the Cavaliers to a 24-0 record and the state championship and finished her career with 124 assists, at the time a national high school record. A 2011 graduate, she selected Old Dominion University (where Katelyn had played from 2005-2009) from a lengthy list of programs that recruited her.

A center midfielder, Kelsey started all 86 games the Monarchs played during her career, a period when they won two Colonial Athletic Association titles, earned No. 1 ranking in the nation, and competed in the NCAA Final Four in 2011, Elite Eight in 2012, and Sweet Sixteen in 2013.

Twice a team captain, she was CAA and WomensFieldHockey.com national rookie of the year as well as first-team All-CAA in 2011, first-team All-Big East in 2013 and 2014, and first-team NFHCA All-South and Longstreth/NFHCA Division I All-American in both 2013 and 2014. In 2015, she was the ODU Alumni Association’s Female Athlete of the Year.

Throughout high school, she played on elite club teams and later earned spots on the USA U17, U 19 and U21 national teams.   From May 2011 until January 2016, she also served as an assistant coach for the Saints Field Hockey Club.

A Dean’s List student, Kelsey was on the NFHCA National Academic Squad three times and the NFHCA Division I Scholar Athlete of the Year and Scholar of Distinction in 2014. She earned a BS in physical education (sport management major, exercise science minor) in 2014 and an MS in Education (sport and recreation management) in 2016.

It was more than degrees, accomplishments, and accolades that she took from her ODU, however. It was the culture.

“I went to Old Dominion to play for Beth Anders,” Kelsey said referencing the Monarchs' highly successful veteran coach. “She’s been a huge mentor, and even now I still keep in touch with her. She put a huge emphasis on relationships. It was all about the people, getting to know each person, keeping a level playing field across the board by treating everybody the same. We focused on doing basic skills really, really well. She was huge on discipline.”

From January 2016 through February 2018, Kelsey served on the staff of Christy Longacre, an ODU hockey teammate, at Ball State (Muncie, IN) where she got a taste not just of on-field coaching but logistics, scouting, and the many details involved in a college program.

When Longacre moved to Georgetown, Kelsey joined her as an assistant and in 2019 became associate head coach.

Then came Covid, Georgetown went virtual, and Kelsey returned to Suffolk where she picked up a part-time job on the grounds crew at Lakeland with staff members who knew her dad, known to many as “Coach S,” and shared heartwarming stories of his kindness.

“That’s when I started thinking seriously about making the transition to high school,” she said. “I always admired everything my dad did and his work ethic. It was always in the back of my mind: Could I be a high school athletic director in some form? When I saw this opportunity (at Collegiate), it seemed like things were falling into place.”

She moved into her Jacobs Gym office July 1. 

“With Kelsey, there’s a down-to-earth relatability,” said athletic director Karen Doxey. “She comes from a coaching background, and she did a lot of the (administrative) detail work for teams she’d coached.  She has a passion for kids. You can see the teacher in her. References backed those things up. She’s just a quality person.”
  ~Weldon Bradshaw