By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
GAYLESVILLE – Kaylee Brannon has learned from several of the area’s best high school volleyball coaches as a player and assistant the past few years, but when the 2023 season begins in August, she’ll be guiding her own varsity program.
Brannon was recently hired as the new head coach at Gaylesville. A 2014 Spring Garden graduate, Brannon has spent the past four years with Lyndsey Barker Mullins at Cedar Bluff.
Brannon joins her husband, boys basketball and baseball coach Kolby Brannon, at Gaylesville.
“I feel like it was time for me to be a head coach,” Brannon said. “It was very hard to leave (Cedar Bluff). The seniors and juniors there now were my first kids (as junior high and junior varsity coach), but they’re happy for me and I’m happy for them.
“I’m very excited to finally get to do this on my own. This is how you find out if you’re really good at what you think you’re good at. I’m really excited to start, especially with this group of girls. They’re witty, they’re funny, they’re sarcastic. They do whatever I ask them to do.”
Brannon isn’t just impressed with the Lady Trojans’ personality traits. She said she’s been surprised by their physical abilities on the court as well.
“I came in with no expectations, just because I didn’t know where I’d start, but they have all the skills. They have all of the fundamentals. I really don’t know why they haven’t been more successful,” Brannon said. “They’re serving. They’re hitting. They have their steps. They’re strong. I have two setters who are very skilled. The only thing I haven’t seen from them is the game play aspect and passing on the move, but I’m very happy with what I have seen so far.
“I think it is going to be a very strong season for them, and I hope it is for these seniors. There are a lot of them and they’ve put in a lot of work. I’m hoping it will be good for them.”
As mentioned, Brannon has learned the game from some of the area’s best coaches/officials. She was coached in high school by current volleyball official Ben Carroll at Spring Garden as well as played basketball for Ricky Austin. The past four years she’s been an assistant under Mullins.
Brannon said she still draws inspiration from all three.
“I still talk to them all the time. They’re still mentors to me,” Brannon said. “I talk to Coach Carroll every time he’s at a volleyball match he’s officiating for us. He’s one of the best officials out there right now. I also talk to Coach Rat (Austin) multiple times a year. He’s helped me so much. I’ve gone and watched him practice and watched his drills.
“I owe everything I know to Lyndsey (Mullins). These are her drills we’re running. She taught me everything from the moment I stepped in her gym four years ago. She was like ‘This is how I do things. Take notes.’ I did and here we are. She still helps me. I text her after practice every day. She’s my best friend and the best mentor I could possibly have.”
Brannon will also be the Lady Trojans’ junior high basketball coach as well as assist with the varsity squad this fall.
“I feel like I have a unique take on not just volleyball but basketball too,” she said. “I was not the star. I had a role. I sat the bench. I feel like if I wouldn’t have done that I wouldn’t be the coach that I am. I had to sit there and watch other people make mistakes and other people succeed when it wasn’t me. I tell the girls you have to do your time until it’s your time to shine.”
One thing Brannon hopes to help develop Gaylesville into is a winning culture.
“The buy-in is what we’ve got to get here,” she said. “I feel like the people in community are so supportive. They want a change. I’ve had nothing but positivity from them. They’re excited. I’m hoping everything will be good.”