Sisters Jinnae and Kennedy Williams have played basketball since second and first grade, respectively. Their love of the game stems from bonding with their dad through the sport. What started as a hobby at the Campo YMCA courts for the girls has now morphed into a player/coach relationship that has forged a rapport beyond the game.
Jinnae, 16, is currently a junior at Newsome High School and is a three-year player for the varsity Lady Wolves basketball team. She is a superb student, maintaining a 4.0-plus GPA while taking a heavy load of honors courses and participating in AVID and Rho Kappa clubs. She averages 5.7 points per game for the Lady Wolves.
Her younger sister, Kennedy, 12, has played basketball for two seasons at Barrington Middle School. The seventh-grader is an honors student as well. Both sisters play for The Compound travel ball organization in different age groups.
The two have always bonded over basketball, but an opportunity came about for Jinnae that would evolve the relationship to another level: as player and coach. Jinnae was appointed by administration as the head girls basketball coach of her alma mater, Barrington Middle School, where she played basketball for three seasons. She was also an assistant coach for the middle school for three years before she took over head coaching responsibilities.
“I am grateful that Ms. Clayton and Ms. Rappleyea of Barrington believed in me and gave me the opportunity to coach the team,” said Jinnae. “This was a wonderful opportunity to be able to enjoy the game I love from a different perspective.”
Kennedy asked her sister to consider taking the job when it became available because she felt like she would be a great fit to lead the team. Jinnae found the time to help her sister and her teammates become better while honoring her commitments to her high school team and taking honors courses. Jinnae has been coaching Kennedy her whole life and admits that she is hard on her because she knows the potential that her sister has.
“One of the first things she taught me was to dribble between my legs and behind my back,” said Kennedy. “When I was younger, she made me sit on the front of a power wheel and practice dribbling back and forth behind my legs, and now I can do it naturally.”
On some days, Jinnae would practice with the Lady Wolves in the morning before school—and after school, go right to the middle school to help the team practice. If she had a high school game on the same night that Barrington played, she would leave instructions with a starting lineup and a game plan with plays on it for the AP filling in for her. Barrington finished with a better record this season than the previous one.
“I liked that she was hard on us but still patient and understanding that we are still learning the game,” said Kennedy. “The dynamic was different because I never thought she would be my coach. She always helps me at home, but coaching made her my boss, which was weird at first.”
Jinnae and Kennedy continue to work together to achieve their goals. Kennedy looks to take on more of a leadership role as an eighth-grader next season, while being more confident in her abilities. She would like to average at least eight points per game and play great defense. Now that the middle school season is over, Jinnae can focus her efforts on helping her high school team finish the season strong.
“My ultimate goal for the high school season is to win a district championship and to be ranked for assists and/or three-pointers,” said Jinnae. “My goal for coaching next year is to win the Cluster Championship.”