By Dejay Meredith
The fans of HACC basketball know Coach Michele Kieff’s signature pacing up and down the sideline. As she would stare at her players each game demanding them to play with more intensity. Her body language told the whole game’s audience she was all about winning while mentally pushing her players to better themselves in the game as well as in life.
Kieff coached women’s basketball team for thirteen seasons before she left. Last February, she decided to hang up her whistle. While she was coaching, Kieff helped students reach a potential that they were not aware they had.
Kieff had to work hard taking in the important traits that she would later use in her coaching career. Coaching greatness does not simply fall from the sky. She understood the game from playing four years of varsity basketball for Trinity High School before playing four more at Boston College. Kieff didn’t really come into coaching until she became the assistant basketball coach of her high school after six years of college. Kieff was then was hired as the head coach for the HACC women’s basketball team.
“She always had a way of making players better; players would join the program with good skills and would leave better than they started” said Lisa Cleveland, HACC Athletics Director. “Michele was intense; she was direct and up front with what she wanted from her players.”
Players say Kieff knew the game so well that she always used what talents she could fine in each individual and use it to the team’s advantage. Kieff always had a unique approach to building a team no matter who was playing for her.
“I played with the hand I was dealt and I wanted each player to know no matter what their talent level was, they had an important role to play” said Kieff. “Every season was a new team; I always felt I could prepare my team to be competitive no matter what kind of talent I had.”
There were certain lessons Michele wanted her players to learn that would stay with them for life while they play for her. She wanted each of her players to go beyond their own expectations.
“What you put in, is what you’ll get out; Nothing is ever handed to you; Persistence will get you somewhere” Kieff said. “Leave everything on the court. So whether you win or lose, you know you did everything possible to help your team win; it takes a team to win.”
Kieff was also big on communication, whether it was with coaches or players. “One piece of advice would be communicate; Communication is the key to being successful, everything else will fall into place.” Said Kieff.
At times there were defining moments where what Kieff taught her players wasn’t enough. There were times she wanted to put on a jersey and play to motivate her team. All she could do was stay on the sideline and give them words of encouragement.
“The times my teams were struggling was when I wish I could have gone on the court to help them.” Said Kieff. “But as a coach, you need to motivate them to play better—encourage them to push a little harder; I would say to them ‘I can’t play for you, this is your game.’ ”
Kieff always had great relationships with her players while letting the players know they could do great thing with what talent they had.
“She pushed me to be better” said Ashlan Clark, who played 2010-2012. “I’m so glad I had her as my coach, she taught me so many things and helped me take my game to a higher level.”
Kieff worked with all kinds of young women throughout her years at HACC, some of those women never played organized ball on an actual team.
Tawni Ruby who played 2010-2012 had this to say, “Coach always found a way to make people better, didn’t matter who was on the team or if they ever played.”
Kieff connected with her players as well as the next coach but she had a special way of challenging a player to do better. For instance, Kieff once came to practice dressed to play ball and personally guarded one of her players the entire time the team ran the floor just to make her hustle more. Michele didn’t mind lacing up the basketball kicks to help one person so that one person could help the team.
Within her style of coaching, Kieff always seem to know what she was doing whether it was with the team or with an individual.
“It was great watching her, you know she was great at giving her all and she expected the players to do the same” said Cleveland. “Michele demanded that everyone who puts on a jersey to give it their all, to do the best they can.”
Michele Kieff will always be known as one of best coaches in Harrisburg Area Community College history without a doubt. It is what she did with the players individually and as a team that everyone who knows her personally will remember. Kieff wanted her players to remember the lessons that would help them on the court as well as in life.