Jackie Knight 1

Livonia volleyball coach Jackie Knight talks to her players.

Jackie Knight made many speeches in 25 years of coaching at False River Academy.

Team meeting addresses, practice instructions, pre-game talks, post-game speeches, that all-important first address to new players.

So now, as the new volleyball coach at Livonia High, she gets to the point right way.

“I didn’t like doing that,” Smith said after she narrowed the 53 students who came out for the volleyball team to 29.

At the end of June, she made a second cut to about 23.

This would allow Smith to have the group work out together since the COVID-19 Phase 2 rule has a 25-person limit in a gathering.

Those same COVID-19 protocols prevent players from setting the ball for another player to spike, since a ball can only be handled by one player.

Before this, Smith had to working on conditioning and drills with two groups each morning.

Those workouts gave Smith a glimpse of what the Lady Wildcats could be this fall.

“Hitting. We’re very strong hitting,” Smith said. “We didn’t work much on it, but their power … Wow.

“We’re now evaluating passing to setters,” she added, focusing on setters and blockers.

Smith begins her fourth year this fall teaching high school PE and criminal justice at the STEM Academy.

Before that, she taught and coached at her alma mater, False River Academy.

Then there’s melding athletes from Livonia and STEM into one team.

“Some have never seen the other kids,” Smith said. “We want to bridge that since they will play together.”

“We’re a family and a team.”

Her plans are to have freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams so players can gain experience as they move to the next level.

Coaching the Wildcats on volleyball fundamentals has been Jaimie Knight, Smith’s daughter

The younger Knight teachers fourth-grade English Language Arts and social studies at Caneview School in Erwinville.

At her first meeting with her team in June, Smith said they would learn to compete, but also accept however the match finished.

Years ago, when Smith coached a junior high basketball team, her squad won, and the opposing team refused to shake hands.

“The kids wanted to fight. I pulled them aside,” she recalled.

“I said, ‘Don’t do it.’ We shake hands. We hold our heads up. We don’t get into arguments.”

Smith message is just as direct about academics: “You have to do well. I expect it.

“Look at the stats, it’s not all athletics in your life,” Smith said, about the small percentage of athletes who compete in college.

“You’re a player, you have skills, but an education can take you to your future.

“Life is based on everything they learn here,” she said. “You take to a job everything