First-year W.F. West High School girls basketball coach Kyle Karnofski wasn’t born in the gym. However, he did come within a handful of hours of that happening.
Karnofski’s father was the athletic director at Castle Rock, while his mother is the long-time girls’ basketball coach for the Rockets. So, sports, particularly basketball, had been with him since the start.
“The day before I was born, my mom actually coached a summer league basketball game,” Karnofski said. “She coached that day and I was born 12 hours later. I’ve basically lived in the gym my whole life.”
A self-described “gym rat,” Karnofski figures he spent just as much time on the hardwood than he did in his own home growing up. Not much has changed.
After serving as an assistant coach for the Bearcats’ boys basketball team the last four seasons, Karnofski has taken over the helm for the W.F. West girls’ squad.
As if logging in the required hours to get your high school team ready for its season opener in early December wasn’t taxing enough, Karnofski has also spent the past few weekends putting on several youth girls’ basketball camps and leagues for local kindergarten through sixth-grade students.
He is hardly alone, however, as not only do members of his coaching staff help out but so do players on the W.F. West girls’ basketball team.
“Tradition is a big deal to our upperclassmen,” Karnofski said. “They want to make sure we continue with that same style and concept we’ve had around here for years. Culture breeds culture. They’re trying to really instill that with the younger kids. They want them playing the right way, so they keep that style and culture alive.”
The W.F. West girls’ basketball team practice at the high school from 10:00 a.m. until noon on this particular Saturday, then helped out with the youth camps and leagues as they coached and refereed games until 4:30 p.m.
“A lot of the girls on the team talk about how they remember coming here as little kids and learning from the players who were on some of those state championship teams of the past,” Karnofski said. “They’ve talked about how important that was to them and they wanted that to continue. They’re not selfish. They want to see this program continue to grow and develop. They’re all about Bearcat basketball.”
None of the players are required to be there. However, all wanted to participate, according to Karnofski.
“The team all remember being the little kids who came out to these camps at one point, and the (high school) players helped them out,” Karnofski said. “They want to do the same now that they are the high school players. They’ve been here a long time today and are still giving the kids all their energy and full attention.”
The youth camps and leagues, which started in mid-November, are available for girls between kindergarten and sixth grade. The “Little Dribblers” program is offered to kindergarten and first graders. The camp focuses on the basic fundamentals of basketball, including dribbling, passing and shooting.
Leagues are offered for girls between second and sixth grade. The three leagues are comprised of second and third graders, fourth graders and fifth and sixth graders. Remaining dates for league games include Sunday, December 8 and Sunday, December 15.
Players are still allowed to register for the final two weeks. More information can be found on the City of Chehalis website. According to Karnofski, approximately 80-85 girls have participated this year.
“Their jerseys might be a different color now, but they know they’re a Bearcat and that’s what’s important,” Karnofski said. “We also have the boys running leagues at the same time. So, we have about 200 kids total in here playing hoops and that’s what we want to see.”
The W.F. West girls’ basketball team will begin play at home on Thursday, December 5 against Washougal. The Bearcats are coming off a 19-9 season, where they advanced to the Class 2A state tournament.