After stepping down from coaching following a successful 13-year tenure at Kennesaw Mountain — a program she launched in 2000 when the school opened — playing tennis and traveling are two of the many things she now gets to do more often.
Kern-Honea, who is still teaching physical education at Kennesaw Mountain, is building a retirement home with her husband in St. Augustine, Fla.
Kern-Honea’s fellow coaches missed seeing her on the bench over the weekend at the county tournament. But they did recognize her between the first and second sets of Saturday’s championship match with a plaque in appreciation for her support of volleyball in Cobb County.
“After 35 years of coaching, the least we can do is honor a fantastic, classy lady and a wonderful coach,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said. “Kennesaw Mountain has been one of the top programs in the state for years, and that’s because of her. It was the least we can do.”
While Kern-Honea is enjoying the more stress-free environment of not coaching, she did say she will be involved with volleyball, “somehow, some way, some day.”
“I miss the kids and the wonderful parents,” she said. “Volleyball has provided 35 years of wonderful relationships. That’s the thing that was most important to me. It’s how we treat people and care for other people.
“I just felt it was time (to step down). I wanted more time for me to plan for my future.”
Kern-Honea retired with a 755-336 career coaching record, with 404 of those wins coming at Kennesaw Mountain. Early in her tenure with the Lady Mustangs, she coached such standouts as Jessica Curtis, who went on to play for Texas, and Jessie Nevitt, who had a stellar career at Cincinnati.
The highlight of Kern-Honea’s career came in 2007, when she guided the Lady Mustangs to a 50-7 record and a trip to the Class AAAAA state finals. Future Ohio State middle blocker Mariah Booth was on the roster, along with fellow blocker Lauren Hutchinson, who went on to play for Georgia and Samford.
Other highpoints of Kern-Honea’s time at Kennesaw Mountain came when she led the Lady Mustangs to area championships in 2005, ’07 and ’08, and a county championship in 2007.
“It was an honor to be able to start a program from the ground level, which I have never done in my career,” said Kern-Honea, whose strength as a coach was defense and team unity. “It was a new check-off on my bucket list to move in and create a new atmosphere and develop something, which was exciting for me.”
Kern-Honea has also been known to lend a hand to other coaches in the county who were rebuilding programs. She had advised both Taylor and North Cobb coach James Auld, who have turned their respective programs into perennial powers.
“A wise person told me, when you’re new, find someone who knows,” Auld said. “You can get a lot of information from someone else’s experience. What I take from Tonya is that off the floor is more important than on the floor.
“She was big in character development and working hard with her kids off the floor, and we’ve been working hard the last eight years to do the same thing.”
Other coaches, like former McEachern coach Patty Craven, spoke
highly of Kern-Honea’s professionalism.
“If she was your opponent, she was thoughtful and considerate of everyone she worked with,” said Craven, who retired in 2009, following a 35-year stint with the Lady Indians. “She was just a professional, and her teams were always nice.”