By Wil Crews
Kelvin Roberts is getting his first opportunity as a girls’ basketball head coach at Smiths Station High School.
“It kind of felt like one of those things that was meant to be,” Roberts said. “It just kind of felt like [Smiths Station] was where I was supposed to be. I’ve been basically preparing for this type of situation for the last couple of years and everything just fell into place.”
Announced as the Panthers’ new varsity girls’ head coach last week, Roberts is ready for a new challenge.
“This is my first girls’ coaching job,” he said.
Roberts’ basketball pedigree dates back to his own high school days; he won a state championship in 2001 with the Sidney Lanier Poets in Montgomery.
“We had a really good team,” Roberts said. “I began to learn and watch my coach and see how he was doing things, why he was doing things. And I developed a fondness toward coaching. It never left me from that point.”
From there, his journey to becoming a coach was anything but straightforward. When Roberts graduated high school, he enrolled in Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. He then transferred to Miles College, where he graduated before enlisting in the military.
Following that, he spent time in Missouri, Arizona and Texas before making his way back to the southeast. Soon after, Roberts got his teaching certification. He got his first teaching opportunity at Hardaway High School. There, he approached the basketball coach at the time, Alvin Davis (now the golf coach at Smiths Station), offering his service and expressing his interest in joining the coaching ranks.
Roberts was hired at Central Freshman Academy as a history teacher in 2017 and was given the opportunity to coach the seventh grade team, with the added bonus of assisting Central Phenix City’s varsity coach Bobby Wright (who retired this year after 45 years and over 500 wins with the Red Devils).
“I wanted to see how he does things.,” Roberts said. “You win 500 games you must know what you are doing.”
Roberts was then hired at Russell County High School in 2019. The head coach there, Ronnie Battle, has been a mentor for Roberts.
“He’s been mentoring me, grooming me, giving me every opportunity to see how things are as head coach,” Roberts said. “At the same time, I would also take time to work with the girls if I had the opportunity. Now I’m getting the chance to translate that stuff to my own team at Smiths Station.”
Roberts said he wants to have an “ever-evolving” coaching style with his basketball team.
“The game changes; and we have to change with the times,” Roberts said. “I like to be very aggressive and very fast paced. It’s going to take time of course, but I believe that just being in the gym, breaking things down to the fundamentals, all of that will translate in the fall.”
Despite this being his first official coaching experience with a girls’ team, Roberts is confident in his ability to translate his coaching knowledge on a universal level.
“There will be challenges in any aspect,” he said. “I believe that we can win at Smiths Station. All of that is going to come down to changing the culture and the mindset of this program.”
Since the announcement of his hiring, Roberts said he has felt the love of the Smiths Station community.
“The community support has been amazing; they have been extremely welcoming,” he said. “Almost to the point that it is still a bit of a shock to me. It’s a very warm and welcoming feeling.”
Roberts views this opportunity at Smiths Station as a clean slate and he is eager to start building the program from the ground up.
“I want to give everybody a fresh start,” he said. “I’ve coached boys in the past, so of course this is a new start for me. But whether its boys or girls, the game is still basketball. We’re going to start from the bare minimums, and build from there.”