Not long removed from his days as a Batavia football standout, Bai Kabba is back on the Bulldogs’ sideline this fall as a first-year assistant coach. Kabba was a standout running back at Batavia but will coach receivers, the position he played at North Central College, where he also runs track and field. Kabba, 22, spoke with Kane County Chronicle sports editor Jay Schwab about his new role at his alma mater in this week’s Weekend Chit-chat. The following is an edited transcript:
How did this come about?
I actually have one more semester at North Central to run track (in the spring), so I won’t have school in the fall, so I have time in my schedule and one of the other coaches who coached the wide receivers when I was there (Bill Kettering) is retiring. ... I told [Batavia coach Dennis Piron] I have time and I’m available and I’d love to coach those guys. A lot of the guys on the team are brothers of guys I went to school with so I already know them, so it’s just a lot of fun.
How comfortable are you coaching the wide receiver position?
Pretty [comfortable]. I learned a lot while I was at North Central. My wide receiver coach, Brad Spencer, taught me everything I know. I learned everything from him and it’s much easier relaying it to the high school level than college level. You don’t have to go so in-depth because you can only teach them so much and learn so much before it becomes ineffective because you’re throwing so much at them.
Did you enjoy the transition [from running back to wide receiver] at North Central?
It was tough because I didn’t really play wide receiver in high school, and I had phenomenal guys at wide receiver when I was in high school. … I played running back my entire life, so I can’t say my hands were anything special. It was tough … learning the concept of looking the ball into the hands and moreso learning [all the fundamentals] of the position.
Did you have to do a big sell job with coach Piron to get on board or was he right away enthused about it?
I helped out at camp before. It was more I had the time and availability and I was sort of looking for something to really do this summer. I always help out at camp and it just so happened this summer there was the vacancy there and I was just helping out over the summer, and I plan to continue to help out with the varsity and sophomores in the fall, just helping out anywhere I can basically.
Is it tough to find that coach’s voice with still being so young?
Actually, it works out in my favor in a sense. I know a lot of guys because I went to school with their older brothers or I’ve always known them when I was in high school, they were kids I was doing the Junior Bulldog camp with, playing around with them, so they got to see me play in high school, watch my track career a little, know about stuff I would do at North Central when I played football, so it makes it a little bit easier in the sense that I’m not a new person coming in. I’ve been in Batavia and been around them.
So what’s the sneak peek of the wide receiver corps this fall, with having to replace (Zach) Strittmatter?
… It’s going to different. The ball is going to be spread around. Everyone has been stepping up. It’s been really nice. We have so many offensive weapons. We have Michael Moffatt returning and Rourke Mullins returning and Jordan Zwart. … There’s really no one guy that’s going to be what Strittmatter was. We don’t have a Strittmatter or a Cole Gardner anymore, haven’t had him for two years, so it’s going to be spreading the ball around and have guys making plays. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
So your arrival makes it, what, about 50 North Central guys on the Batavia coaching staff now?
I don’t know – me, coach Gaspari, coach Piron, coach Holm. It might be more. I could be missing some guys, but it’s a good amount of us, that’s for sure.