Kerri continues to build her program after coaching the team to a state championship victory in 2022
By Cooper Metts | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Despite intense pressure amid competition, head coach Kerri Snipes keeps her cool along the sidelines. Last year, the Northwood High School varsity girls basketball team trailed Terry Sanford High School late in the fourth quarter of the 3A North Carolina High School Athletic Association Regional Championship. A trip to the state championship was on the line. Some coaches might lose their composure, but Northwood athletic director Cameron Vernon remembers Kerri was “just being completely calm and cool.”
That’s just what the Chargers needed in their high-stakes regional thriller against the Bulldogs. “I think our girls looked at her on the sideline, saw she was calm, so in return, their demeanor and their behavior on the court was like, ‘We got this,’” Cameron says. “I think her demonstrating that in that playoff game helped us overcome that deficit and win.”
Kerri’s level head in her first season as head coach, coupled with her experience wearing the Northwood uniform, guided the team to a one-point win in the regional championship and then the school’s first-ever state championship victory, a 70-42 rout of Enka High School.
But her understanding of how her demeanor influenced the team wasn’t evident to her early on, and Kerri says that “trying to figure out how to keep them working together” was difficult at first. Her familiarity with the team after serving as an assistant coach for four years prior to taking the helm helped her quickly realize her own behavior would play an important role in Northwood’s success.
“It’s seeing where they’re at and trying to see how to tap into their potential,” Kerri says. “If I’m giving out negative energy and complaining about calls or yelling at the referees or yelling at them, at least with the players that we have, that’s going to make them not want to perform.”
A coach who’s simply collected in stressful times can only take a team so far in the playoffs, but as four-year veteran and senior Te’Keyah Bland says, “she’s kind of like the brains behind everything.”
Kerri played basketball growing up and was an all-conference performer at Northwood. In college, she played one year at St. Andrews University before transferring to Belmont Abbey for her remaining three years of eligibility. Her cumulative experience helped her develop an extensive knowledge of basketball, something Cameron says he saw in her as a high school player when he coached the team.
“She played a lot for me because I felt that she was the coach on the court,” he says. “She could see things that not necessarily other girls would see.”
Kerri uses that knowledge now, and it played an instrumental role during the Chargers’ championship run. But as a self-described servant leader, Kerri neither wanted nor took the credit for Northwood’s success in her first season. Rather, she gives the players all the credit. Te’Keyah disagrees.
“As a coach, she doesn’t want to take recognition, but she deserves all of it just because she’s a great coach and a great person at that,” Te’Keyah says. “She didn’t want me to talk about her today, but I got to give her all the credit.”