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Different paths to success for Kelly, Robinson

By TYLER CLIFTON tclifton@marshallnewsmessenger.com
June 22, 2012 at 10 p.m.

<p>Softball coaches Stephanie Robinson (Jefferson), left, and Kiley Kelly (Waskom) have established themselves in their profession and hope to one day have their daughters follow in their footsteps when it comes to success.</p>

Kiley Kelly and Stephanie Robinson do have a lot of maroon in their respective wardrobes and each have a young daughter they hope can one day be as successful as they are, but there are plenty of differences between the two when it comes to how they got into their current situations.

Kelly was born and raised in Hillsboro, where she played basketball and softball for Hillsboro High School before playing softball at LeTourneau University and graduating from UT Tyler. She feels more fortunate than most after securing a head coaching job right out of school at Union Grove.

There was one season with the Lady Lions, but the one-hour drive to and from work was too much to bear, and the Waskom position came open where Kelly has been ever since. She gives credit to the signing of Title IX in 1972 to helping her realize her dream.

"Union Grove was an awesome opportunity for me, because it gave me a chance to be a head coach right out of college," Kelly said. "I've had nothing but tremendous support from the Waskom administration, and we have more fans at our softball games than we did when I was in college."

Kelly points to Title IX for allowing her to do something she most likely wouldn't have been doing during a time her mother Cathy Justus was growing up, a time women were treated as inferior to men.

Those such as Justus helped pave the way for her daughter and other women of today by nurturing them in a manner which leads them to be positive, productive members of society.

"The way I was brought up allowed me to choose a career I enjoyed doing, and although I never wanted to stop playing, realizing my dream of coaching is the best alternative," Kelly said. "I love seeing my girls be successful on the field and in life, and now I prefer coaching over playing."

The women before her aren't forgotten, as their valiant efforts the last 40 years are only the beginning.

Kelly hopes to pass the torch and use the positive lessons she received from her mother.

"My mother is a very strong person who I couldn't have any more respect for, because she's been through a lot and taught me a great deal," Kelly said. "She's now one of my best friends as well as my mother, and Melinda Bowden (Waskom volleyball coach) is someone I also admire a lot, because we have so much in common, and I respect her aggressiveness and boldness when it comes to coaching."

Kelly missed a big part of the 2012 season while giving birth, and being a mother gives any woman an even larger perspective of life and what it's all about. Her daughter will one day realize efforts made 40 years before she was even born will allow her and future generations of women to reach for the stars.

"Title IX has allowed us to come so far, so fast," Kelly said. "Situations for women will probably be improved by leaps and bounds by the time my daughter's a teenager, and it's all right to dream."

HERE'S TO YOU MRS. ROBINSON

Robinson is not only Jefferson's softball coach but led the Lady Bulldog volleyball team to its first playoff match in school history last November.

The 2003 Hallsville graduate then known as Stephanie Beason began playing softball in the fifth grade and lettered in volleyball and softball for the Ladycats before playing two years each of softball at Bossier Parish and Southern Arkansas University.

Robinson, who played junior high ball for Coach Beth Anders-Kelsey, admits how she was aware of Title IX and its significance to women's athletics but was affected in a less heads-on way.

"I did take it for granted at times, because I really didn't think about it a lot growing up," Robinson said. "I've always respected what it stood for, but we had a lot of girls parents pushing the issue when I was at Hallsville, and coach (Paul) Moon and coaches Anders-Kelsey and Cheryl Bell all did a ton of stuff for us and got things done. We pushed each other to get better and earned the respect we got."

Robinson didn't even plan on coaching but was "recruited" in the same way she was as a player by Bill Galloway, who is now an assistant coach at East Texas Baptist University and is a man who had a knack of coaching to the tune of 934 victories as the softball coach at Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech.

The two had met while Robinson was at Bossier Parish, and she credits him as changing her career path for the better.

"I thought I was just going to teach," Robinson said. "Coach Galloway kept pushing me, and I came and assisted at ETBU for 1 ½ years. The rest is history."

Robinson went from the Division III assistant ranks to Jefferson, where she just completed her third season. Her situation can be compared with her high school days when it comes to a respect factor.

She has no second thoughts of what might have been had she not been coaching, as Robinson is a firm believer in how she's in the right situation personally and professionally.

"Title IX hasn't been an issue, and my time at Jefferson is like it was when I was a kid at Hallsville," Robinson said. "The girls were always treated equal to the boys. Whatever we need, Coach (Jerry) Bennett will get it for us the same way Coaches Moon, Anders-Kelsey and Bell would do for us."

Robinson will certainly not regret coaching at ETBU, as it's where she met her husband Cody, who coaches football and baseball at Jefferson. The two have a daughter Avery, and Robinson can appreciate the mother-daughter bond in the same way as Kelly.

There is the same joy of coaching her current players as Robinson hopes to possibly one day give her daughter, but she won't press the issue.

"Cody and I are fortunate in how we're both from families who enjoyed sports," Robinson said. "I'm going to let Avery choose her path, even though girls are pushed just as much as boys nowadays to get scholarships, because Title IX has helped make them available. I just want her to be God centered."

Robinson has witnessed such things as third baseman Robin Capps follow her lead to Bossier Parish and plenty of others succeed in athletics and life in general.

She has a much bigger thought process when it comes to Title IX she didn't necessarily realize when she was growing up.

"I'm so thankful, because athletics have been the biggest part of my life playing softball since the fifth grade to when I finished college," Robinson said. "Women haven't always been able to have the same success as men, but I can't imagine my life not based around coaching. I'm very grateful for the way Title IX and the women who helped make it possible have paved a path for myself and all the rest of us."

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