Gardendale has many of the tools in place to have a consistent championship level softball program. First year head coach, Kyndall White, now comes into a program surrounded by a community that deeply supports softball. She has the resume and experience to take a solid program and turn it into a championship program.
From high school softball at Clay-Chalkville to playing 4 years in the SEC at Auburn to college coach and now Gardendale High School, Coach White’s wealth of playing and coaching experience gives Gardendale a player’s coach. She has been where they are and she has also been where many of them want to go, to play college ball at the next level and to win big games.
This was a big hire for Gardendale High School. It was an important hire. It’s the kind of hire that says Gardendale High School wants to take the softball program to a championship level.
Treye Hanner: Tell our readers a little about you and your journey. You played volleyball, basketball and softball in high school at Clay-Chalkville, and you were awarded All State honors four times. When did you know softball would play the bigger role amongst all the sports you played in your life?
Kyndall White: I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I started playing sports around the age of three. My mom tried to enter me in pageants but that did not work out very well. I did place 2nd in one pageant but playing sports was all I ever wanted to do. I attended Clay-Chalkville where I played volleyball, basketball, and softball.
I wanted to play basketball at Tennessee for the legendary Pat Summit. My plan did not really work out because I ended up getting a scholarship to play softball at Auburn University. Softball became my passion. It became a safe space for me. It honestly saved me. So, softball is everything to me.
Sports in general can teach you so much. I knew my sophomore year in high school that softball was going to be the focus.
Treye Hanner: Today, a growing number of high school athletes are told they should only focus on one sport. How did your experience playing multiple sports help you develop as an athlete?
Kyndall White: I am not really sure why athletes are being told to focus only on one sport. Playing multiple sports can teach you life lessons because each sport brings something different to the table. By playing multiple sports, athletes open themselves up to new friends and new mental and physical challenges. In this way, multi-sport athletes may draw upon more diverse experiences to inform their sense of self. It can build confidence, allow you to learn from different coaches, and help you grow as a player.
Treye Hanner: You signed with the Auburn Tigers out of high school and had an impressive four year softball career. How big was the transition from high school softball to college and how did your time at Auburn help shape you as a future softball coach?
Kyndall White: Signing to Auburn was the best day of my life. The transition was definitely different from high school to college. The game was a lot faster than high school and there was a lot more preparation on the mental side of the game.
Starting my freshmen year was exciting but also came with a lot of adversity. I had to grow up and grow up fast. I was playing a different position, in a new environment, learning my teammates, and trusting my coaches. I think that year really showed me that I wanted to coach when I graduated. I wanted to have an impact on this sport and the girls that played the game.
My teammates and coaches at Auburn made me fall in love with the sport even more than I already had. I knew my heart wanted to continue to give to the game the way it had given to me.
Treye Hanner: In 2012, after helping coach at Auburn for a year after graduation, you moved straight into the head coaching position at East Mississippi Community College. How did your experience at EMCC help shape you as a young head coach?
Kyndall White: To be honest, when I got the phone call from the Athletic Director telling me they wanted to hire me as the head coach, I was at a loss for words. Becky Clark, head softball coach at South Alabama, was a mentor for me in the process of interviewing for jobs. She told me I should apply, I told her I did not think I was ready, but she convinced me. She said it would be a good experience for the interview process and she was right.
I think EMCC helped me figure out what kind of coach I wanted to be. I wanted to be a passionate coach with expectations and standards for my teams. Build a culture where the players knew we loved and cared about them but demanded our core values be brought to the field and classroom every day.
Having the right people around me as a young coach mattered as well. I believe as a head coach that your assistants are so important. My assistant was Taryn Gray. I grew up with her in the softball world and played two years at Auburn with her. At the time she was the assistant coach at Northwest Florida. I knew I needed someone beside me that could help me learn the administrative side of things and also help me find myself within coaching.
Coaching has a lot of highs and many lows but staying true to who you are as a coach has always helped me stay grounded.
Treye Hanner: Now you take your deep experience as a player and college head coach to Gardendale High School and a city and area that has a strong commitment to softball. What are you learning in your first season as the Gardendale Softball Head Coach and what do you plan to put in place to help bring a State Championship to Gardendale?
Kyndall White: This first season at Gardendale has been a lot of fun. I wanted to be somewhere that softball mattered, and I knew the passion for softball in the Gardendale community runs deep. Coming in after a coach that brought so much to the program at Gardendale can be a bit nerve racking. I think I have learned to really just trust the process and to trust myself as a coach.
Our motto for our team is to learn, serve, and care. We are building a culture of passion, competitiveness, and character. We work really hard, and I believe our motto can help us achieve a State Championship.