Sisters Crystal Mills and Keasa Bonds will be seeing a lot of each other as they were each hired to fill coaching vacancies at Elysian Fields.
Bonds will be the new head volleyball coach for the Lady Jackets while Mills will be the head girls basketball coach.
“I’m head volleyball coach and she’s going to be my assistant, and she’s head basketball and I’m her assistant, it’s very surreal,” Bonds said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m really excited. It doesn’t get better than that. Our kids will be going to the same school next year so we’ll probably be carpooling to work every now and then.”
Bonds was hired first and when the girls basketball coaching job opened up, she recommended Mills.
“She (Bonds) said, ‘Hey, you should interview my sister and at first I was hesitant but she really blew it away,” Elysian Fields athletic director Scott Ford said. “We were really impressed with her.”
“It’s really funny,” Mills recalls. “I was just scrolling and saw that the head basketball job was open. I was working in Tyler ISD and I was like, ‘I’m going to apply for it,’ because I had been coaching for 10 years and I had three years of head coaching experience, two years at Gladewater and one year at Daingerfield. I was like, ‘I’m ready to get back to head coaching. I’m going to apply for it.’ So she gave me coach Ford’s contact information and I contacted him for an interview and the rest is history. I’m really excited. I’m ready to get to work.”
The sisters are East Texas natives. Mills graduated from Kilgore High School in 2003. While there, she lettered in basketball for three years and became a team captain of a team that finished as district champs her senior year. From there she went on to play at Kilgore College, Southern Arkansas and University of Texas of the Permian Basin. She got her first coaching job in 2010 and has gained experience as both an assistant coach and a head coach at different stops.
Bonds graduated from Longview High School in 2007 before attending Cisco Junior College, then LeTourneau where she continued her volleyball career. She coached club volleyball in 2009 before landing a job as a volleyball coach at Foster Middle School. She coached this past season at Carlisle where she led her team to the first round of the playoffs.
Both sisters say they have high expectations for their squads.
“I expect us to continue to make the playoffs,” Bonds said. “Elysian Fields is known for always having athletes. I’m so excited about that. They have records for making the playoffs in both sports. We’re really looking forward to our goals, expectations and what we want to do, which is to make the playoffs and see how far we go.”
“My expectation is to continue the tradition,” Mills offered. “I know they have a very high tradition with their basketball program. They’re always making the playoffs and I want to continue that tradition, the winning tradition. I’m going to give all my effort to push every athlete and try to build something to where we can go far into the playoffs. That’s what my long term goal is. I want to get to that state tournament. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but I believe I’ve got a good group of girls who will help me get to that long-term goal.”
As high as their expectations are for on the court, they’re even higher for in the classroom.
“Academics are first,” Mills said. “You’ve got to be a student first. Athlete is second. It’s called, ‘student athlete’ so I push academics. We have study hall one day out of the week. I stay on top of grades. I do grade checks every other week. I push academics because you can’t get a scholarship in athletics if you don’t get it in academics. That’s what I push.”
“School comes first,” Bonds said, echoing her sister’s sentiments. “I’m a big believer in that education is everything. Once you get your diploma, nobody can take that away. Once you go to college and you earn a degree, you’re always going to have that degree, that piece of paper that you worked hard for. You can say, ‘I earned this. I did this on my own.’ For most schools, even if you get an athletic scholarship, they’ll go look at your grades and look at things other than athletics.”
Overall, the sisters say they’re excited to get to work, and doing it together as they expect big things in the near future, not just for themselves but their Lady Jackets.