Kelli Howard Smith

Kelli Howard Smith

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 16, 2024) — The Baylor School's Kelli Smith, head girls' softball coach, is one of 23 high school coaches from across the country to be selected by the NFHS Coaches Association as 2022-23 National Coaches of the Year.

Kelli Smith has been girls' softball coach at her alma mater, the Baylor School in Chattanooga, since 2003 and has compiled an outstanding 622-144 record, including a 244-30 record the past 10 years. She has led her teams to 14 state championships, including eight consecutive titles and 11 in the past 12 years. The Baylor girls' softball team was ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today in 2013, and has been recognized by MaxPreps multiple times as the best team in the state of Tennessee.

In addition to success on the field, Smith’s teams have received the A.F. Bridges Sportsmanship Award from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on three occasions. Smith has been named Coach of the Year by the Chattanooga Times-Free Press three times and was inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Hall of Fame in 2022. Smith serves on the Tennessee Athletic Coaches Association Board and the TSSAA Softball Advisory Committee.

The NFHS, which has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982, honors coaches in the top 10 girls sports and top 10 boys sports (by participation numbers), and in two “other” sports – one for boys and one for girls – that are not included in the top 10 listings. The NFHS also recognizes a spirit coach as a separate award category. Winners of NFHS awards must be active coaches during the year for which they receive their award. This year’s awards recognize coaches for the 2022-23 school year.

Recipients of the 2022-23 national awards for boys sports are: Kim Nelson, baseball, Orem (Utah) Timpanogos High School; Steve Hall, basketball, Detroit (Michigan) Cass Technical High School; Joe Tribble, cross country, Atlanta (Georgia) Westminster Schools; Mike Goebel, 11-player football, Evansville (Indiana) Mater Dei High School; Tim Cram, golf, Benton (Louisiana) High School; Rey Ramirez-Alvarez, soccer, Wichita (Kansas) Maize South High School; Paul Winkeler, swimming and diving, Kansas City (Missouri) Rockhurst High School; Darby Norman, tennis, Amarillo (Texas) Randall High School; Spencer Huls, track and field, Corvallis (Montana) High School; and Klel Carson, wrestling, La Grande (Oregon) High School.

The recipients of the 2022-23 national awards for girls sports are: Jan Azar, basketball, Dacula (Georgia) Hebron Christian Academy; Charles Covington, cross country, Saltillo (Mississippi) High School; Vicky Kowalski, golf, Farmington Hills (Michigan) Mercy High School; Patricia Alexander, lacrosse, Raleigh (North Carolina) Cardinal Gibbons High School; Angie Lensing, soccer, Evansville (Indiana) Reitz Memorial High School; Kelli Smith, softball, Chattanooga (Tennessee) The Baylor School; Milton “Butch” Briggs, swimming and diving, East Grand Rapids (Michigan) High School; Donna Roisom, tennis, Portland (Oregon) Grant High School; Shaun Hardt, track and field, Queen Creek (Arizona) High School; and Jessica Burke, volleyball, Lafayette (Louisiana) St. Thomas More Catholic High School.

The recipient of the National Coach of the Year for spirit is Jennifer Marks of Raleigh (North Carolina) Cardinal Gibbons High School. Travis White, an 8-player football coach from Tipton (Oklahoma) High School, was chosen in the “Others” category for boys sports, and Gerald Harris II, girls wrestling coach at Tulsa (Oklahoma) Union High School, was chosen in the “Others” category for girls sports.

The NFHS receives nominations from its member state associations, which often works with the state coaches’ association in its respective state. The state association then contacts the potential state award recipients to complete a coach profile form that requests information regarding the coach’s record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy. To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.

Visit the NFHS website for a full list of the award winners.