QUAPAW — This was an opportunity Kae Lani Bryan just couldn’t pass up.
Bryan, a 2006 graduate of Picher-Cardin High School and softball coach at Quapaw High School in 2017, has been named softball coach at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.
“That was the biggest thing for me: getting back into the Jayhawk,” Bryan said. “It’s huge for me that the door opened when it did.”
She spent five seasons in the KJCCC as an assistant at Labette (Kansas) Community College.
“I am very thankful for the time I had at Quapaw,” Bryan said. “The support I had from the community made the transition from Labette to Quapaw a lot easier. Maybe I put a little more structure in the program and I think I left things in pretty good shape for the next coach coming in.”
Bryan succeeds Lana Ross, who resigned after one season to accept a position at conference rival Kansas City Community College.
“We are really happy,” FSCC athletic director John Havron said. “The whole thing turned around pretty quickly. We were pretty happy to see her name come across my desk.”
Fort Scott is a National Junior College Athletic Association Division II member.
The Lady ‘Hounds were 28-22 overall and 9-13 in the conference this past season.
They went 1-2 in the Region IV Division II District D softball championships, being eliminated by Cloud County CC, 2-1.
“We are happy to have her,” Havron said.
Bryan, who also was middle school coach and physical education instructor, submitted her letter of resignation at Quapaw Monday morning, when she told her players about her decision that morning. The opening was posted on the school and Oklahoma Coaches Association websites that afternoon.
“She got it started,” Quapaw athletic director James Dawson said. “I always want to see people better themselves.”
Bryan’s past history in the league while at Labette will make the transition easier.
“That is one of the toughest conferences,” she said. “Being at Labette for five years, I developed some really good relationships with the coaches throughout the conference. For me it’s a big opportunity to pursue my dreams as a head coach. Ultimately your goal in coaching is to move up.
“This is a big opportunity for me. I am really excited. Really excited.”
The Lady Wildcats were 7-14 overall in ’17. They lost two straight games to Fairland in their Class 2A district tournament, 7-3 and 13-9.
“I knew getting the head coaching job at Quapaw would give me the opportunity to get a little bit of experience as far as head coaching,” Bryan said. “It was intense. Accepting the job it was with the understanding to stay there at least three or four years and kinda get my foot in the door, but this opportunity just fell in my lap. I am truly thankful that it did.”
Bryan, the most valuable player in the Lucky 7 Conference as a senior when the Lady Gorillas qualified for the Class A state tournament, went on to play at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for NJCAA hall of famer Eric Iverson from 2006-08.
During her time at NEO, the Lady Norse qualified for the national tournament twice, placing fourth in 2007.
Fort Scott lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 4-0 in the 2017 Crowder Bash, which was played at Joplin.
She approached some of her mentors to ask them about what they thought about her making the move.
“Probably the most common thing they said was ‘you don’t ever know if the opportunity is going to rise again,’” Bryan said. “I think its one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals. It’s really difficult to get a job in the Jayhawk. A lot of those coaches have been there for five, 10 years, if not longer. They are not leaving.”
Bryan’s hiring is pending approval of the FSCC Board of Trustees at their June 25 meeting, Havron said.