I Spy Someone making a difference.
Samantha Kost: Helping to guide successful athletesby Brian Druckenmiller
Samantha Kost demonstrates an important lesson every coach should understand: Success happens both on and off the court.
As an athletic academic advisor for Coastal Carolina University, Kost works with student athletes to ensure that their grades meet NCAA benchmarks, and, more importantly, that the students can graduate. Kost devises tutoring sessions and study programs, and adjusts them to each athlete’s academic progress.
“Our job should be a maintenance effort, not an emergency fix,” said Kost. “We want to prevent problems from ever happening, so we need to cater to the individual athlete’s academic progress.”
Kost advises more than 100 athletes in a variety of sports, including basketball and track and field. She develops close relationships with them, not only to ensure success at every level, but to be there during crises and other times of need.
“Her dedication and caring attitude has created an atmosphere for student-athletes to succeed in the classroom,” said Alan LeForce, head women’s basketball coach at CCU. “I’ve talked to coaches at other universities, and the academic services she has helped create for our student-athletes are second to none.”
Kost’s knack for aiding the student athlete is a product of her successful collegiate coaching career in women’s basketball. Before coming to CCU in 1997, Kost received two Ohio Valley Conference Championships with her alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University. There, she earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education and her master’s in sports administration. In addition to her degrees, she sat on the coach’s end of the bench serving as a graduate assistant.
She came to CCU as an assistant coach for the women’s squad, a position she held until 2003 when she accepted the head coaching position at Wofford College. After one season, she left to become the assistant head coach at East Carolina University of Conference USA—a so-called mid-major with a higher level of competition. After the 2006-2007 season, she needed a break.
“Coaching was a lot of fun,” said Kost, “but I was burnt out on the daily grind of the job.”
After ECU, Kost went back to her hometown of Pineville, Ky., and taught fourth- through eighth-grade health, physical education and life skills classes. Although she only did this for two years, it was this experience that gave her the perspective she needed to alter her career.
“It was an eye-opener,” said Kost. “I loved working with these kids, seeing them grow and develop in the short time I was with them. This was my ‘ah-ha’ moment. I always enjoyed working with student athletes and watching them become adults. Through teaching, I learned that I wanted to make sure these athletes grow outside of their sport.”
In 2009, she came back to CCU, and took on her new role of athletic academic advisor. Thus far, the transition seems to have been the right move for her; at an April banquet, Kost received the Department of Athletics’ Staff Member of the Year award. While the award signifies a job well done, the fact that the recipient is chosen by student athletes affirms the impact she has on her students’ lives.
“I just sat there and thought: ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Kost. “It was special. It means I am making a difference—that our student athletes trust me, and know that I’m here to help.”
Outside of CCU athletics, Kost enjoys volunteering with a girl’s summer youth basketball camp, and has helped out at the Shepherd’s Table in Conway, an organization that serves hot meals to Horry County residents in need. Of course, she likes to spend her down time relaxing on the beach.
As expected, Kost’s thirst for competition has her attending most CCU sporting events where she enjoys watching her students succeed in their element. She still has a soft spot for coaching too; she occasionally attends women’s basketball practices, doing her best to let her husband, Mark Kost— who replaced her as assistant women’s basketball coach when she left CCU in 2003—prepare the athletes for game-time without her input.
“Sam is very tough on Mark when it comes to coaching,” LeForce said, jokingly. “She asks many questions, and she wants answers. All in fun, of course!”
The goal of CCU Athletics is to develop our athletes into “Champions for Life.” Kost devotes her life to guiding student athletes to conceive the champion within themselves. Behind every Chanticleer, there is a drive to achieve greatness in their desired profession, and behind that drive is Samantha Kost, looking on with satisfaction.
“When I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel like I am going to work,” said Kost. “I am here to foster the growth of our athletes, and their success, no matter the field, is as gratifying as anything life could offer.”