Alumni Spotlight

Kayla Bandy, 08

By: Michelle Goff
March 15, 2016

For Kayla Bandy, the road to the University of Pikeville started not in her hometown in Danville, Va., but in Ohio.

“My parents took me to a bowling tournament in Ohio,” Bandy says. “April Ellis, LaDeanna Damron and Tracy Miller (members of the then-Pikeville College’s women’s bowling team) were there. LaDeanna came up and randomly said, ‘Have you ever heard of Pikeville College?’”

Although Bandy was unfamiliar with the college, she decided to visit the campus. She was impressed by what she saw.

“Women’s bowling coach Ron Damron was a good salesman for Pikeville,” recalls Bandy. “Obviously, the bowling team is one of the top in the country. With Ron, my parents, David and Pamela, saw someone who would look out for me in the classroom as well as in the lanes.”

Two other factors – one athletic and one personal – played a role in her decision to come to Pikeville.

“I got in touch with Coach Robert Staggs and he told me he’d let me play volleyball, too,” she says. “My dad was sick with colon cancer then and it didn’t look good. Pikeville was within driving distance, so going there turned out for the best.”
Despite his unfavorable prognosis, Bandy’s dad recovered and according to his daughter, “he’s in great health now.”

As for Bandy, she settled into college, initially majoring in pre-med.
“Every college student starts in pre-med,” she says with a laugh. “It was not for me.”

She was able, however, to switch to psychology without losing any time.

“Because of the class sizes and the one-on-one from the professors, I wasn’t put back,” she says. “At first, I wasn’t sold on Pikeville, where it was so small, but that smallness got me through college.”

Bandy adds, “I also had coaches who bought into my success.”

Describing Damron as a “second father figure,” Bandy credits him with instilling in the team a level of patience that led to their 2008 national championship.

“It was a cool last tournament of my collegiate career. Not everyone gets to go out like that. It was as if it was set up so we would go out on a high note,” she says.
Following graduation, Bandy obtained a job with the college’s Upward Bound program.

“It was a rewarding job. I worked with high school students to get them into college,” she says. “I didn’t know it would help me in the future when I transitioned into the residence life director position.”

Bandy describes her job as the residence life director as “awesome.”

“What could have been a stressful job was great because we had a great staff in student services,” she explains. “Ron was a great supervisor. Just being around him made you want to work harder. Britta Gibson was a mentor. Misty Ramey, the administrative assistant, was very hands-on. I got to see a number of students through their college careers. I was also assistant women’s bowling coach with Ron.”

Although Bandy had never planned on becoming a collegiate bowling coach, she began to think differently when the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) came calling. Still, she hesitated to take a chance.

“Ron said that I had more success and more fulfillment in my life through bowling, so why not build a career out of what made me happiest?” Bandy says. “I told him that Pikeville is where I thought I’d be forever. He said, ‘They’re calling you. You can build your own program.’”

Taking Damron’s advice, Bandy took the head women’s bowling coach position with UMES. She recently began her third season there. Although she’s enjoying this relatively-new role, she also misses Pikeville.

“In Pikeville, I loved to go to work every day,” Bandy says. “Here, I enjoy going to work just as much. We have a facility on campus and I recruit all over the world. We’re competing with NCAA bowling and it’s highly competitive. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Obviously, I wish I had my friends back from Pikeville. I have friends here, but there’s something about Pikeville and all the people I worked with. They made my day so much brighter. I wish I could see them every day. I wish I could move Maryland and Kentucky closer.”

She concludes, “I want to say thanks to everyone who started it all for me. Thanks to Pikeville for giving me a chance.”

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