Kianna Jones has a nifty resume, and she has found interesting ways to better herself for the next parts of her life. The fifth-year senior outfielder from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and also holds the distinction of being the first female coach in the Coastal Plain Baseball League. She opened her South Carolina softball career this past weekend by going 5-for-6 at the plate with a double and a grand slam. Whenever she is done with softball, she wants to stay on the diamond, perhaps the baseball diamond.
“I’m interested in working in baseball or professional sports in general,” said Jones, who started her career at Minnesota but left there after two years and played the last two seasons at North Carolina where she earned a degree exercise and sports science. “My brother used to play baseball and my dad used to play it as well. I grew up watching it.
“I want to start off in the player development realm. Swing development and swing analysis is probably my favorite thing. (South Carolina Assistant) Coach (Jake Epstein) Ep has been really cool about talking with me about that sort of stuff and the technology and terminology that he uses. That’s where I want to start my career, and later I’d like to go into the operations side of things.”
She took that love of the game to middle Georgia two summers ago when she served as the bench coach for the Macon Bacon baseball team in the Coastal Plain League.
“I created scouting reports for opposing teams that we were playing,” Jones said. “The Coastal Plain League is different because you have players coming and going all the time throughout the season. Each game was a different lineup, so you could get a new roster on game day, and I’d try to see what I could find out about them and create scouting reports to relay to our players and coaches to help with defensive shifts, what the pitchers were most likely to be throwing and their velocity.
“I appreciated the opportunity to represent women and maybe be a role model for the next generation of young girls.”
“It was an awesome opportunity. I appreciated the opportunity to represent women and maybe be a role model for the next generation of young girls. As far as being accepted by the guys, it was awesome. The coaching staff was great, and everyone was very welcoming. The players were a little hesitant at first, especially when I was in the locker room.”
Jones also spent time working with Cressey Sports Performance, which helped build on what she learned from her undergraduate degree.
“It’s basically a gym where athletes can come in if they have injuries or if they want a program built uniquely for their body type and position,” Jones explained. “I had a chance to see how those programs are built and also see how rehab is done for Tommy John surgery, or if they had knee or hip injuries.”
Jones learned the importance of discipline long ago and started studying martial arts in the third grade, practicing nearly every day for several years before hanging up her gi when she started high school.
“It taught me a lot about what it means to be an athlete; to have integrity and confidence,” said Jones. “Those are the key words we learned every day in class, working towards what we want to look like as athletes, being flexible, and being able to move certain ways, and the composure it takes to perform in that kind of sport. That all helped in other sports I played.”
As for her own playing experience, Jones played with the Canadian Junior National Team prior to starting her collegiate career at Minnesota. She started playing with the Senior National Team in 2022 and recently played with the team in the Pan American Games in Chile last fall. She hopes to play in the World Championships in Italy this summer.
“As a kid, I always dreamed of playing with the people I get to play with now,” Jones said of the experience. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s really neat to be playing with them. It’s one of the greatest experiences I could ask for.”
Jones is well-traveled with international playing experiences as well as her experiences while at Minnesota and North Carolina, and now she hopes her time at South Carolina will be mutually beneficial for her life after college as well as for the Gamecocks on the diamond.
“For what I wanted academically, this was the best program I could have been in,” said Jones, who is now working on her master’s degree in sport and entertainment management and an international MBA. “Softball-wise, Coach Bev (Smith) is awesome. She played for (North Carolina) Coach Donna Papa. Having the chance to play my fifth year here, get a great education, and be a part of a great softball program like we have here at South Carolina is awesome.
“For this season, I want to be the best teammate I can be. I want to be a key role in the lineup as much as I can be and be consistent in my attitude, my effort, and ability so I can be there for my team.”
Jones is also looking into becoming a graduate assistant at South Carolina next year to continue her professional education.