Bracken County hires veteran coach Julie Clair Krift to lead volleyball team

Julie Clair Krift has been named the new head volleyball coach at Bracken County High School after long-time coach Wade Smith retired at the end of the season.

While new to the Bracken County staff, Krift is not new to playing and coaching volleyball in Kentucky.

Julie Clair graduated from Simon Kenton High School in 1995, where she played basketball and volleyball. She was named 2nd Team All-State for volleyball and Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division-1 Player of the Year in 1994.

She started her coaching career with Northern Kentucky Junior Volleyball in 1996, and a year later, was asked to be the head coach of her alma mater. She continued to coach NKJV during that time as well.

“I wouldn’t trade those years of coaching for one minute playing in college”, new head coach Julie Krift said, “now that I have met everyone I met, and was given those opportunities as a coach.”

Krift was the head coach at Simon Kenton for 11 seasons from 1997 to 2007 with a record of 248-118. She led Simon Kenton to 6 district championships and made it to the region championship game 4 times.

She was named Northern Kentucky’s Volleyball Coach of the Year in 1999 and was inducted into the Simon Kenton Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.

When Krift was a player and coach in the 1990s and 2000s, volleyball in Kentucky saw big changes and growth. Simon Kenton competed in a district with up to 14 teams until 2003 when districts were cut down to 7 and 8 teams. Districts were cut down to 4 or 5 teams a few seasons later.

Krift said about the changes in the sport, “Volleyball is an ever-changing sport, and I have seen a lot of change over the years.  When I started, we played side-out volleyball to 15. In 2003, the 25-point game with rally scoring was adopted, and since then, the libero, the first double, faster transition, etc. have all come into play.  Volleyball powerhouses were concentrated in Louisville and NKY then.  Now, it has spread well into Lexington, Western Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky.”

There were only 8 volleyball regions until 2003, when the KHSAA moved to the standard 16 regions. With 8 regions, the two region finalist advanced to the state tournament, allowing Simon Kenton to advance to the state semi-finals in 1999.

The Northern Kentucky region was typically won by the private schools of St. Henry, Newport Central Catholic, or Notre Dame. After 42 years of sanctioned volleyball, a public school has still never won the Kentucky state volleyball title since Villa Madonna won the first one in 1980. At Simon Kenton, Julie Krift entered her Lady Pioneers into the Jefferson County Invitational to compete with the best of the best. They played state powers from Louisville like 22-time state champion Assumption and 7-time state champion Sacred Heart.

Julie is married to Rob Krift, head baseball coach for the Polar bears. Their son, Hank, is a junior at Bracken County High School. They moved to Bracken County in 2010.

“I have enjoyed getting back into volleyball at Bracken County.  It was nice to start slow last year as an associate assistant with Coach Wade Smith.  This year, I was a little more involved as the JV coach, and next year I look forward to getting back into the game as a head coach.  I may be a little older now, but I think I can still keep up and help these girls reach their goals as players and as a team.”

Wade Smith will continue to be a health and PE teacher at the high school and will now be the middle school athletic director. Smith coached the Bracken County volleyball team for 16 seasons beginning in 2007 and won 230 games. The Lady Bears won five straight district titles in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Wade Smith’s tenure showed that Bracken County can compete at the district and region level in volleyball.

“Coach Smith has had Bracken at the top before,” said Krift, “and this team wants to get back there.  I expect us to become stronger, more aggressive, and more consistent.”

Coach Julie Krift has high expectations for the team. Right when the season ended, she already started working to find players spots on club volleyball teams.

“I expect every player to come to every practice with no fear and with the mentality to improve.  We will continue to sharpen these players’ individual skills and put them together as the best team we can put on the floor, day in and day out.”

Coach Krift is a 2000 graduate of NKU where she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography/History, and a 2012 Graduate of MCTC where she received her Associates of Science in Nursing. She is currently employed as an RN at Meadowview Regional Hospital.

“I believe these girls will enjoy a lot of volleyball in the future and can have a lot of success doing so. I want them to love volleyball the way I always have.”

Krift’s season-by-season coaching record at Simon Kenton:

Interview from Julie Clair Krift in the Courier-Journal after winning the 1998 Jefferson County Invitational Volleyball Tournament.