The Basketball Game Changer: Coach Kayla Tonucci

Karen Samuel '26, Contributing Writer

WHS’ newest addition to the girls basketball coaching team this year is Ms. Kayla Tonucci, during the 2022-2023 basketball season, she was an assistant coach for the girls Varsity team. “We wanted to win but create a good sense of a team”, were her biggest goals coming into the season. 

Coaching was always something Ms. Tonucci wanted to try and when the opportunity presented itself, she took it. In addition to coaching, she is a full time student. She is currently working to achieve her masters degree to become a school adjustment counselor in May! 

Ms. Tonucci grew up in Berkley, Massachusetts which is towards the south near Cape Cod, where she spent most of her summers, and still does. 

Basketball has been a part of her life since she can remember, playing since she was five-years-old. Growing up, her dad was the athletic director and would often hold plenty of basketball tournaments, which helped contribute to her love for basketball. She was a point guard during her basketball career, and she was also a competitive dancer in high school and continued in college. 

Ms. Tonucci’s plans were to continue playing basketball in college too, unfortunately, she tore her ACL twice during her high school career; Once as a sophomore and once as a senior. After the surgery, as a senior she had to take into account her chances of injury and the toll it would take on her. Because of her injuries she decided to continued doing competitive dance which she loved. 

She attended Westfield State University and graduated with a degree in psychology, communications, and a concentration in law in 2019. After earning her degree, Ms. Tonucci still wasn’t always sure what she would pursue after college, but knew it would be in psychology.

Ms. Tonucci is fascinated by the inner workings of the brain, “learning about mental illness and how brains work and operate and how they differentiate from person to person,” is what most immersed her into this field. 

After graduating she worked with students in an elementary school on a daily basis to adhere to their SEL, behavioral issues, or various mental health. She would recognize when problems arise and work with the student one on one to better their well-being. Having this experience in this field made her realize that she’d like to be a school counselor. 

Ms. Tonucci also wanted to expand her horizons regarding basketball. She knew that she wanted to coach one day too following her injury “I was ready to see the other side of it (basketball)”.

She incorporates her knowledge of psychology onto the court as well. As a coach, she understands that knowledge regarding basketball is important to lead the team to success, but taking into consideration they’re people with problems, likes and dislikes. She discusses, “How important it is to understand there’s more outside of being on the court and getting to know kids more on a personal level.”.

Part of her coaching philosophy is pushing her girls hard but also being a trusted adult for them in their lives. At the beginning of every practice the team would participate in team bonding activities to improve the team’s chemistry. 

Ms. Tonucci  wants her players  to understand that their hard work is needed but she will always  be willing to communicate if any problems arise. “You can be an incredible athlete but if you’ve got a lot going on in your head or in your home life it’s gonna come out eventually and you won’t perform at your best.”  This is something she stresses a lot and wants her players to understand. 

In addition to being a coach and full time student, Ms. Tonucci enjoys various hobbies. Such as regularly going to the cape where she spends time on her boat or at a beach house with friends and family. She also enjoys reading and shopping, as well as spending time with her two cats: Layla and Pasta.