MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s Women’s History Month, and one South Florida basketball coach has cemented herself in the history books.
Kayla Slovenec joined St. Thomas University’s men’s program as a graduate assistant last season, becoming one of the few female coaches in the sport.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
“It’s very special to me. I feel like honored I could even be in this position. It’s been an incredible, incredible opportunity for me to grow,” she said. “And I’ve really enjoyed it getting to know like how guys work, and the difference between, you know, players that are guys and players that are girls.”
Slovenec is 24 years old and just finished playing ball at Saint Vincent College. So, admittedly, breaking that wall from player to coach was one of her toughest challenges.
“It was hard to find that adjustment, in finding my voice and how to relate to the guys,” she explained. “And sometimes there was times where I felt like I had to hold back what I was saying maybe because they didn’t think I had enough experience.”
Head coach D.P. Harris may not agree with that assessment.
“I liked her courage. I’m not an easy person to stand up to. And in our staff meetings, she certainly gave her view,” he said.READ MORE: Leftover From Hurricane Dorian, 58 Strays From The Bahamas Make Their Way To South Florida
Harris coached the men’s team at St. Vincent at the same time Slovenec was playing there. He was encouraged by her authenticity, and says he wanted to see changes in the college game.
“We thought it was really important to get a woman around our players as we see so many things in society change,” he said. “And I think it taught them how to really respect a woman. And they did a great job and she did a great job.”
The players have taken to coach Slovenec. They said her ability to understand them both on and off the court has helped her transition to the men’s game.
“She has experience, so she knows what to do in those tough moments,” said guard Bryant Tallie. “We can look to her if coach doesn’t know what to do or if we don’t have an answer.”
Harris said Slovenec has set a standard, and going forward he’ll always have a female coach on his staff.
“My advice was just if you have a dream, to do it. Don’t be scared. Don’t hold back. Don’t think that your differences can hold you back at all,” she said.MORE NEWS: Fatal Tamarac Shooting Under Investigation
Slovenec isn’t just trying to move up the ranks in the basketball world as a coach. She’s also juggling school at the same time, working on getting her MBA from St. Thomas.