Coach Kristin Rainbolt
High school: Sandalwood High School, Class of 1999 (Jacksonville, Florida)
College: Concordia College-NY, 2003
Residence: West Orange, New Jersey
Years coaching at Mo’ Motion: 7
Favorite Basketball Coaches: Pat Summitt and Bobby Knight
Occupation: Mo’ Motion Coach and school social worker in Hackensack, NJ.
When Kristin Rainbolt was in high school, she stuffed her dreams into envelopes and entrusted her basketball coach with them. Her coach was supposed to mail those letters to all the schools where Kristin hoped to play in college. Yet three weeks later, after Kristin’s coach asked her to retrieve something from her car before practice, Kristin saw that all the letters were still there.
“I remember being so let down that she had not done this for me,” Kristin said, “and I remember thinking that some of those letters needed to be at certain schools within a certain time frame.”
Kristin’s coach never mailed the letters.
Kristin didn’t realize it at the time, but this became her “why.” She asks this question of her player at the start of each year.
“Why are you here? Why do you want to play or get better at basketball?” she said. “My ‘why’ and reason for wanting to be a better basketball player after that was because my coach never sent the letters. My ‘why’ was to prove not only to myself, but to that coach that I could do this without her and, in the end, I did.”
Rainbolt never confronted her coach about not mailing the letters. Instead, she signed up for exposure camps and met the assistant coach of Brevard Community College.
“She actually gave me her number on a napkin that I still have to this day and told me that if I was serious about playing to call her within the week,” Kristin said. “I called her, tried out and landed a full scholarship to play.”
Kristin played at Brevard for two years but during her second season she took a charge and suffered a serious lower-back injury. She missed a lot of time and her coach advised her not to play anymore. She didn’t take that advice.
“I went out on a quest to play,” Rainbolt said.
On a trip to New York, she fell in love with the city. After getting back home and doing some research, she contacted several coaches in the New York area and their teams were already set. But one of the coaches told her that a friend of his had just taken over the coaching job at Concordia College and was looking for players.
Kristin contacted the coach, Monge Codio Jr., and he said that is she could get herself there from Florida for the tryout, he would love to see her play. She tried out, made the team, earned a partial scholarship and played with the Clippers for two years.
Kristin said she knew she loved the game since she was eight years old, and also knew that it would take her places. But she learned early that she’d have to battle for what she wanted. There weren’t any teams for girls in Jacksonville. She was the only girl in her league, and she endured the taunts of boys on the other teams.
“Playing basketball against boys taught me not only to be tough,” she said, “but that you have to fight for what you want if you want to go somewhere and be someone in life. I loved it. In the end, it made me a stronger person and taught me how to withstand adversity.”
Now Rainbolt gives back through her work as a school social worker at the Gateway/Venture Program(s) in Hackensack, NJ., where she works with students through school-based counseling on the behavior and psychiatric continuum. For the past six years, she has been commuting to Manhattan to coach players at every grade level of our program.
Kristin was one of the first coaches I interviewed in 2009. She’s served as head coach, assistant coach, administrative assistant and she also helps us out when we hit stumbling blocks with players and parents. Kristin has a great way about her when it comes to dealing with all children regardless of their background or circumstances. She’s also excellent at calming me down and keeping me focused during the busiest and most intense parts of the season. I cannot thank her enough for all she’s done for me, our kids and our program.
Here’s a quick Q&A with Coach Kristin.
What was the greatest moment of your career as a player? When I played in Amsterdam during my junior year of high school. Florida choose nine girls to represent the state in a European tournament. We went for three weeks and it was amazing. We ended up placing in the top five of the teams that represented the United States.
What did you like most about playing over there? Playing in Amsterdam was amazing. The thing I loved most about playing over there was the diversity among the people.
What was the biggest lesson you brought back? You can do anything you set your mind to do. Here I was this young girl growing up playing on boys teams to now playing with female athletes from all over the world.
What was the greatest moment of your career as a coach? Last season, I was coaching a third grade team in New Jersey for a Jewish league. Everyone in the league doubted our team could win more than few games. But we made it to the championship and ended up winning by six points. The kids went crazy and were crying. They were so happy. It was an amazing moment.
Why did everyone doubt them? Because they used to get beat all the time and usually the score was not pretty. The other teams were so used to beating us that they didn’t expect them to come out fighting the way they did.
How did you turn the team around? I got them to play together. They all had the skills but everyone wanted to do it on their own. After many, many practices on working as a unit, they began to see just what they were capable of once they worked together. They started to understand each other’s roles and that allowed them to play better as a unit.
Who is your favorite coach? Bobby Knight and Pat Summitt. They taught their players how to carry themselves on the court and off. They taught their players accountability and loyalty. Both are principles that I try to instill into my players as well as in my own life.
How do you instill accountability and loyalty in them? I try to teach that to my players by being a positive role model for them, and showing them that it is okay to make mistakes. The defining moment isn’t the mistake — it’s how you respond to the mistake. Are you going to blame someone else or are you going to step up and take responsibility? In regards to loyalty, I was taught by Coach Codio at Concordia that loyalty is the best attribute you can have. To me, it’s about providing your players with an open forum where they know without a doubt they can come to you with anything from basketball to what’s going on in their life.
What is your greatest challenge on the basketball court? Teaching kids that all it takes is the basics. The fancy stuff will come later.
Can you describe your first day at Mo’ Motion? I was nervous as could be. I had only met Mo one other time in a coffee shop for an interview and was intimidated by her. The first practice was a success, and I walked away thinking to myself, “Wow, the passion this woman has is awesome, and I am definitely going to learn a lot.”
If you were to describe Mo to someone, what would you say? Tough, but in a good way. She has the best interest of not only her coaches but, most importantly, her players. She’s not in it for money. She’s in it because it’s in her heart to see each player develop into excellent basketball players and also outstanding individuals.
What else do you do besides coach at Mo’ Motion? I work as a school social worker with Bergen County Special Services School District in an alternative high school with students who have behavioral and emotional difficulties. I also coach with The Bergen Broncos, an AAU program in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Does your work in the school system inform your coaching? The two are on opposite sides of the spectrum. It does teach me discipline and patience but the population I work with in the high school is an alternative placement. Many of the kids have been incarcerated, on probation, or school refusal. The kids I coach are totally the opposite. They are more goal driven and have the family supports to back them up.
Who influenced you the most in your basketball career, and in what ways? My pastor, Dr. Mary A. Jones. She was someone who instilled in me how to have faith and believe in the impossible. She taught me that if there was something you want in life, you go after it and trust God enough that it will happen. The faith she taught me to have is what has kept me and provided for me since I was a little girl.
See Kristin’s throwback and current photos below. Coach Kristin can be reached at [email protected].
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Director & Founder of Mo' Motion
Maureen Holohan is a former college and pro player, published author, teacher and journalist. Maureen started Mo’ Motion in Manhattan in 2009 with one team of boys. Today Mo’ Motion serves 650 players per year with its offices in Harlem, NY.Read More