June 4, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. – As if moving to a new city and starting a new job didn’t present enough challenges on its own, try moving when you are eight-months pregnant and having a spouse that has as crazy of a schedule as you do.
For the women’s basketball staff duo of assistant coach Kenya and director of operations Michael Landers, they did just that.
They welcomed their second child, a daughter, Larkyn, on May 9, one month to the day after Kenya was officially named an assistant women’s basketball coach on April 9.
“It has been crazy. I say it’s been crazy but you know women we just kind of do it,” Kenya said. “We had no plans on moving anywhere, we had just won a national championship and were settled and everything was good in Athens, Texas. (Head coach) Adrian (Wiggins) called and we were very interested and excited to hear what he had to say and once we came to campus we knew it was a no-brainer.
Just to think about packing up and moving again was a lot because we had moved from Baton Rouge two weeks after (first daughter) Michaela was born so it was a very tiring to think about, especially being eight months pregnant. But, by the grace of God we were able to do everything and it has been a really smooth transition. Adrian has been really good about time off with the baby and letting me work from home. It’s funny though too, I think a couple days before my delivery date we had an official visit on campus and there I was eight months pregnant riding around campus on a golf cart.”
The Landers’ daughter was born at 2:25 p.m. on May 9 in Oxford. She weighed six pounds, 14 ounces and joins older sister, Michaela who turned two in March. Larkyn shares Kenya’s maiden name (although they spell it differently, Larkin) and they share the same middle name, Natae. Michaela was named after her dad, Michael.
As the daughter of two coaches, Michaela has grown up around basketball and being around several female athletes. Kenya sees what the positive influence of being around so many female athletes has done for Michaela and knows Larkyn will receive the same benefits.
“First and foremost for my kids, being around so many female athletes is amazing,” Kenya said. “For Michaela when she was around our players at Trinity Valley she thought she was 18 and she wanted to hang out with them and the players made her feel so special and gave her so much confidence. I think a lot of Michaela’s well-roundedness is because of the players because they would embrace her and are excited to see her. The girls came in today and saw Larykn and she just kind of looked up at them like ‘wow’ and I think it is a great example for the babies early on in life to see girls doing good things and being successful.”
While Michael and Kenya were co-head coaches at Trinity Valley Community College, Kenya said taking care of Michaela worked out fine because since they were co-head coaches they could pick and choose who went where when. At Ole Miss, Michael does not recruit so until the season starts, one of the Landers’ will always be home.
“We have a great support system,” Kenya said. “My mom has already volunteered to come down and babysit and his family has too. Our families are awesome. They know that we are going to need help and they all have volunteered to do that. Luckily because Michaela was always around so many people she is well adjusted she would sit in the gym and watch practice or watch a movie. I think it will be fine. Being in a new place there is so much unknown. We are blessed and hoping that some things fall in our laps but we know that it will all workout.”
Kenya has said her perspective on coaching has changed greatly since she has become a mother. Being a mother, she now looks at different situations and thinks about how she would want people to treat her daughters in the same situation.
“I was very hard on my players even as an assistant. I wanted them to do, I wanted them to do, because that is how I was taught. But, when I became a mother, it changed me in the fact that I now understand it’s more of a process and if they feel good they will do good and if they know that you care about them then they will care about what you know.
If was very eye-opening for me because I thought how would I want somebody to coach my daughter? How would I want my daughter motivated and how would I want her to be treated off the floor? It opened my eyes to a different relationship because you don’t know until you are a mother and it is hard to describe or explain but when I became a mother I could see that it was different.”
Both Kenya and Michael, being from Dallas and Houston respectively, grew up in big towns but have recently both coaches and lived in smaller college towns in Stillwater, OK, Baton Rouge, La. and most recently Athens, Texas. Kenya is very happy to be in Oxford and be able to raise her family in a place with a small-town feeling.
“We really love it here. It’s got a lot to do, lots of places to go but still has the small-town feeling and we are big family people so we are really into safety and wanting it to be OK if we accidently leave our door unlocked,” Kenya said. “That is the things that excite us the most. It’s an awesome town and with the college being here there is a lot going on. All the people are so nice and have been so welcoming we really like it. It’s easy to get around and it’s not very far to get to anything. We are really glad that we are here.”