Keys to success: Faron and Kayla Key use basketball to maintain strong bond
After talking with Hartselle boys basketball coach Faron Key throughout this past season, it became clear that the game was more than just a job in the Key household. It is a way of life. After speaking with his daughter Kayla, it is also clear that the passion and love for the game was definitely passed down from father to daughter.
Kayla Key – a former Hartselle guard who helped lead Faulkner to the NAIA National Championship Tournament this past week – just completed her sophomore season. It was a successful campaign that resulted in a tournament appearance for the first time in five seasons and a trip to Billings, Mont. for an opening round game against the third-ranked team in the country.
“This year was really just an awesome experience,” Kayla said. “This is just the seventh year that we have had a women’s basketball program at Faulkner so to advance to the National Championship Tournament and play at that level was great.”
While Kayla expresses that she is her toughest critic, she also acknowledges that her dad has played multiple roles in her basketball career. Depending on what type of game she had and how much work she needs to put in, her dad is always there to wear whatever hat that is needed.
“I would say when I was younger, he was definitely harder on me,” Kayla said. “Now that I am in college, it has turned into more conversations and critiquing the finer points of my game. It’s nice to have someone who has played college basketball and who has coached the game at a high level be there whenever I need them to be.”
As the oldest of four children, both Kayla and Faron recognize that her path impacts and can shape the future of her siblings. That is something she does not take for granted as she constantly works on how to handle adversity and bounce back from lackluster performances.
“I feel a responsibility to give my siblings something to look up to,” Kayla said. “I want to show them that they can do whatever they want to and if they want to play basketball in college, then they can.”
Faron Key also echoed those sentiments.
“We knew with Kayla and with her being the oldest, that for her to set a good example was important,” Faron stated. “I think just how she handles certain situations and how she responds to both the good and the bad are important. As she has grown and turned into the player she is, it became less about basketball and more about what college, and the sacrifices you have to make to play basketball in college, are all about.”
Coaching a top-tier program such as Hartselle and trying to follow his daughter’s playing career has been tough on Coach Key at times. The work that goes into trying to compete at a high level in 6A basketball can be grueling and it is easy to get wrapped up in the hectic nature of coaching. However, Kayla is an outlet for him to get back to the grassroots of why he loves the game and allows him to give feedback to his most important pupil, his daughter.
“I think the coolest thing for me is when I go home, maybe after a tough day, I can turn on her game and just be her biggest fan,” Faron said. “I always leave a text, that is waiting for her in the locker room, after the game and I facetime her and talk to her about her performance. It kind of reminds me and inspires me to move past that bad day.”
Both Kayla and Faron now embark on an offseason with each facing high expectations at their respective programs for next year. Both will continue to rely on each other as they look to set new program standards in 2018-2019.
“I’m a stubborn child, as he would tell you, so a lot of times I didn’t listen to him like I should have,” Kayla said. “As I have gotten older, I appreciate him and everything he has done to help me so much more. He is honest with me and gives me honest feedback. I know he is there for me after every game and that is an awesome feeling.”