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A Different Kind of K.P.

Union Grove coach compelling tribute to moms everywhere

Kelly Plemons directs the Lady Wildcats volleyball team during last week’s Blount County tournament. Photo by Cindy Nowlin

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Kelly Plemons never played volleyball, high school or college.

Times were so tough growing up, she said, she never had much time for sports at all.

Three years ago, Union Grove Middle needed a volleyball coach. Plemons’ daughter, Dacey, was one of the players who’d have to look elsewhere if the program was forced to disband. Reluctantly, Plemons took the job. Assistant coach Veronica Caldwell, she said, has been invaluable in helping her find her way.

“I was scared,” Plemons said, “very scared. I was scared I would fail them.”

Fast forward three years, and the Lady Wildcats entered the 2016 Blount County Middle School Volleyball Tournament last week at Union Grove as the sixth seed. Entering with a 5-15 record, they weren’t expected to be around long. Dacey is in high school. Yet, there sat Plemons on the Union Grove bench, still coaching, still demanding the Lady Wildcats give it their best.

The all-tournament team is presented following last week's event. Named to the team, left to right, were Maryville Junior High's Evan Harper and Miranda Wyatt, Union Grove's Shea Hunt and Heritage Middle's Gabby Grant, Emma Whitehead and Kelsey Woods, the tournament's most valuable player.

The all-tournament team is presented following last week’s event. Named to the team, left to right, were Maryville Junior High’s Evan Harper and Miranda Wyatt, Carpenters Middle’s Jenna Foster, Union Grove’s Shea Hunt and Heritage Middle’s Gabby Grant, Emma Whitehead and Kelsey Woods, the tournament’s most valuable player.

“I just told them to get out there and do something and never, never give up,” Plemons said. “‘Don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the team.'”

Guess what happened?

One higher-seeded opponent after another, Union Grove hung in there, gaining confidence with every win. Before anyone knew what was happening, there were the Lady Wildcats, alongside top-seed Maryville Junior High and second-seeded Heritage Middle, the eventual champion, as one of the final three teams.

“I saw we had the potential throughout the season,” Plemons said. “(At the tournament) they (the Lady Wildcats) saw it. They saw what they could do. That’s what they needed. They knew they could do it.”

The Lady Rebels began the tournament 19-1. Surely they’d make quick work of Union Grove and move on to face the Lady Mustangs in the finals. In one last defiant burst, the Lady Wildcats pushed Maryville the full three sets before exiting stage left.

In the stands afterward, Plemons was asked how she felt about her team’s spirited charge through the tournament. Why had she continued to coach after Dacey had moved on?

She didn’t answer with words. She raised a finger to her left eye and wiped away a tear.

Happy Mother’s Day, coach.

Go Wildcats!


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