4 Kleines a’coachin’
Pair of head coach couples making impact on local athletics
Many families this week will sit down for a Thanksgiving feast and talk about any number of topics, but for the Kleine family, one topic in common tends to overtake all others — coaching.
The Kleines have a hefty footprint in Barry and Lawrence counties, as brothers Zack and Josh Kleine coach Cassville boys and Monett girls basketball, respectively, and their wives, Briana and Haley, coach volleyball at Cassville and Verona, respectively.
Josh said the coaching bug bit him and his brother from an early age, thanks mostly to their father, who — guess what — is also a coach.
“Our dad, Jim Kleine is the person that led me and Zack to basketball,” Josh said. “When we were little, he was Pierce City’s boys coach, and we were the gym rat kids at every practice. Since then, he has taught and coached at Mt. Vernon on both the boys’ and girls’ sides. Currently, he is the boys assistant coach. So, when we are together as a family, a lot of coaching conversation comes up.”
Josh played for Mt. Vernon in high school, graduating in 2006, then played at Evangel through 2011. Zack graduated from Mt. Vernon in 2010 and played at Southwest Baptist University before finishing at Evangel as an NAIA All-American.
“Me and Zack never got to play together,” Josh said. “He came into high school the year after I graduated, and then he also transferred form SBU to Evangel the year after I left. The only time we ever got to play with, or against, each other was on the court at our house growing up, which got very competitive at times.”
Josh said he took the Monett girls job because of several factors, including playing against the Cubs in high school and recognizing the district’s caliber of programs.
“Since Zack was the girls coach for a year, and had worked in the Monett district for five years, I had an understanding that it was a great school district, with great teachers and administration that always puts the students first,” he said. “I knew switching over to the girls side would be an adjustment, but it has been a good experience so far.”
While the brothers did have a rivalry on their home court in their younger days, coaching different genders means they still don’t share a sideline.
“I’m not disappointed that we don’t get to coach against each other,” Josh said. “This way, I can always root for him instead of coming up with a game plan to beat his team.”
Josh said the pair have their similarities and differences, but one thing is for sure, they love sports.
“I think we both like to run man to man defense when our team personnel allows it, but we also don’t always run the same types of offense and things like that,” he said. “Me and Zack talk quite a bit about situational basketball, and just basketball in general. There usually isn’t a family gathering without our specific teams or sports coming up in conversation.
“In our house, volleyball and basketball season are very busy. We spend a lot of time in the gym watching each others’ games and practices. Because basketball season is longer than most sports, its tough to find a lot of free time as a family during the winter.”
Josh said although they don’t play against one another and are too busy to get together very often, they do find ways to cheer one another on.
“I think that its great that we all get to teach and coach locally, so that we can support each other,” he said. “I know that my wife enjoys our two schools being so close and that she can come to most of our games.”
Along with the brothers, sisters-in-law Briana and Haley coach the same sport, but their teams have never met on the court either.
“We don’t play similar schedules because we are different sizes class-wise,” Briana said. “When I first got to Cassville, we were a Class 3 school playing a Class 1 and 2 schedule. I couldn’t change our schedule because it was already set when I came in in April, so we picked up a lot of wins my first year by playing those size schools. However, we were really unprepared for district play because the schools in our district were playing a much more competitive schedule. Since then, I have bumped our schedule up to play class 3, 4, and 5 schools. I build my schedule to help prepare us for high-level matches, so we really don’t play many smaller schools.”
Haley said when it comes to playing against one another, she’d love to compete against her fellow Kleine.
“I am a little disappointed that we have never played each other,” she said. “I think we are both very competitive, and it would be a fun time to have our teams go against each other, even if it was just for bragging rights.”
The only similarity running with all the Kleines is between Zack and Briana, who do coach at the same school.
“I love that Zack and I are at the same school because it means we are able to support the same kids,” Briana said. “We were both still really supportive of each other at differing schools, but it is much more convenient now being at the same school, not to mention just how well it now works with our daughter being as young as she is.”
Although they do different sports, Briana said some of the coaching tenets cross over.
“Zack and I talk a lot just about pinnacles of our program,” she said. “These are things that we believe are very important for kids to learn beyond the sport. Having a successful season is great, but at the end of the day, we are trying to teach kids to be good humans. We are trying to teach them how to communicate with others effectively and respectfully. We try to teach them to be punctual because that will be a job requirement one day. We try to teach them cause and effect and how to take responsibility. He and I share very similar opinions on those points, but of course we don’t coach the same sport, so we don’t really talk Xs and Os.”
Haley said the fall and winter seasons with so many coaches in the family can also get hectic.
“Coaching in two seasons back to back makes it pretty much impossible to have any order in our household,” she said. “Things are always chaotic and we are gone a lot, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Briana said running the house of head coaches can be challenging, but rewarding, especially with the couple’s new daughter.
“During our respective seasons, we really don’t see each other much — and that was even before we had a baby,” she said. “This past year was even more challenging. On game days, he would make every effort to stop by with our daughter so I got to see both of them. That was huge this season as I navigated how to also be a mom during season. He was the best father during season because he prioritized making time for me to see her.
“Now, we are about to start our second basketball season with a baby at home, and it is already going smoother than last year. I think people really forget that coaches are also spouses and parents. The amount of time we sacrifice with our own families to spend with other people’s kids is often taken for granted, but it really is so worth it. It’s hard, but we really do have the best jobs.”
Haley said although she and her husband are at different schools, there are plenty of positives to the setup.
“I love that Josh and I get to coach so close together,” she said. “Our schools do not play each other due to the difference in size so it is easy to be able to support one another’s team. We are lucky to have a short drive to catch games. It is great coaching locally but in different places, because we get to have an impact on a lot of kids in this area so close to where we grew up.”
While the brothers and sisters-in-law may talk Xs and Os in some fashion when they all manage to get together, there’s one bigger question their competitive natures may not allow them to answer — who is the toughest?
“Oh man, I think we all have different coaching styles, so it is hard to say,” Haley said. “It probably depends who you ask, as well. I think all our players would probably say they have the toughest coach, but I would say myself or Briana probably have the more tough love coaching style over the guys.”
Briana said it’s a tough question to answer.
“I think it’s important to remember that it is different when coaching girls versus boys,” she said. “In our household, I would say that Zack and I are tough in different ways. I would say that each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses.”
Josh said the answer is fluid.
“It probably depends who you are asking, and what day of the week it is,” he said.