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The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Breaking boundaries her way

Coach Kelli takes Tigers’ baseball to a new level
CAUGHT+COACHING-+Kelliann+Jenkins+stands+among+members+of+the+boys%E2%80%99+varsity+baseball+team+during+a+game.+Jenkins+is+the+team%E2%80%99s+new+pitching+coach.
Eli Schwartz
CAUGHT COACHING- Kelliann Jenkins stands among members of the boys’ varsity baseball team during a game. Jenkins is the team’s new pitching coach.

Breaking barriers is something Kelliann Jenkins has done her whole life. From little league all the way up to collegiate ball, the pitcher-turned-coach has experienced, and broke, all barriers set against her. Now as varsity pitching coach for JR’s baseball team, she’s continuing to change the game. 

Jenkins grew up doing something different for her respective sport: playing baseball, instead of softball, something peculiar when looked upon. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play under some extremely great coaches during my baseball career. One of them being my dad,” said Jenkins. “When thinking about my identity as a coach, I’ve definitely picked and chosen certain aspects about their coaching style and applied it to my own.” 

Known to her players as coach Kelli, she played baseball, but also basketball, at St. John’s College HS where she graduated in 2018. She became one of 24 women in the NCAA to play men’s college baseball at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Chatham University. Additionally, Jenkins became the first women in NCAA history to win both a women’s college basketball and men’s baseball game. On the baseball side, she threw three scoreless innings, winning her start on the mound in 2022 against Waynesburg University. 

TRAILBLAZING: Coach Kelli on the mound pitching at Chatham University.

“I got to grow up playing baseball all the time with my brothers and sister. My dad taught me how to throw a knuckleball pretty early on, knowing I would need the pitch if I wanted to play past high school,” said Jenkins. “I followed in my older brother’s footsteps to play at St. John’s where I was able to learn a lot, and play under some amazing coaches. College baseball was an overall very positive experience. I knew I wanted to stay around the game after graduating, so I felt very fortunate to be a part of one of the best HS baseball programs in the city.” 

Those days of success translated into her next venture: coaching. “I had been looking around for potential coaching positions in the area. Ultimately a connection I had made through a previous coaching position had reached out to me about JR needing a pitching coach and I jumped on the opportunity,” said Kelli. “The adjustment process was fairly simple. I took some time to hear directly from the players about what they hoped to get out of this year, and we created a plan.” 

This spring, Jenkins became the first woman to ever be on staff as a coach for the JR baseball program. In her first year coaching the Tigers (17-6), the pitching plan has worked out. The Tigers’ pitching staff has held teams to only three runs per game. Opposing teams are collecting base hits 19% percent of the time, with a batting average of just .197. 

“She is very knowledgeable but also very respectful. Pitching coaches can be very hands on and stubborn, they feel that they constantly need to make changes and put their stamp on you,” said senior right-hander, captain Casey Edwards. “Coach Kelli has been extremely supportive, but she doesn’t force you to fit into the mold of what she thinks is a perfect pitcher. She allows you to work through your struggles and make adjustments in a way that you think feels right, and she gives suggestions and advice along the way,” he said. “Her background in psychology has helped our pitchers strengthen their mental game and feel confident on the mound.” 

Her coaching philosophy is influenced by the way she was coached while playing baseball. “I felt most of them really cared about me as a person and not just as a player, so I make it a point to ask my pitchers about their school day and whatever else may be going on.” 

“I am glad to have someone like her on my staff,” said head coach Robinson Mateo. “The pitchers have bought into her philosophy of throwing a lot of strikes, that’s her main focus. It’s not always about power, if you aren’t throwing strikes you cannot do much.”  

“The attitude on the team has shifted a lot, there [are more] positive vibe[s], and a positive approach to the game,” added junior catcher, co-captain Ethan Fox-Fernandez. “There’s much more of a routine, a stricter regiment that pitchers follow. Pitchers got a packet of expectations, that each of them have pregame and during practice, it’s a lot more uniform in how they approach their reps in game and out.” 

“Our practices are very structured. The guys get in, get their work done, and get out,” said coach Kelli. “Our captains have played a crucial part in the success of our practices so far this year. I’m very proud of the work these guys have put in so far.” 

In life, you never know what opportunities you may come across. “JR was actually the first team I pitched against as a freshman in HS, so it feels kind of like a full circle moment,” said coach Kelli reflectively. “While breaking down barriers may have been a motivating factor while playing, they aren’t anymore. Once you transition to being a coach your main motivation is to help your players be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”

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About the Contributors
Justin Glenn
Justin Glenn, Sports Editor
Justin is a sports fanatic.. you’ll most likely see him with a baseball cap of some sort throughout the hallways. If he isn’t writing about high school sports, he’s likely watching a D.C. sports team, NASCAR or some other professional league in his free time. Outside of sports, he enjoys the outdoors and watching Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, besides that, he’s an average out-going person.
  • 2023-24: Assistant Sports Editor
Eli Schwartz, Assistant Director of Art and Design
  • 2022-23: Senior Photo Editor
  • 2023-24: Assistant Director of Art and Design
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