High School Sports


Billings' Bad Bear sisters Kola and Courtney excel together and apart

Kola Courtney Bad Bear
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 24, 2023

BILLINGS — The gymnasium at Billings Senior is where high school excellence started for the Bad Bear sisters. Among the three, Kola and Courtney are still athletically excelling — both together and apart.

Courtney still very much bleeds orange. She’s Senior’s head volleyball coach, hired only a year ago when the Broncs took a chance on youth.

“I didn’t want to be overlooked because of how young I was,” Courtney explained to MTN Sports while overseeing a fall practice.

Only 22 years old at the time, she approached then Broncs' activities director Mark Susler wondering how she could avoid being overlooked.

“I had as much experience as I could at the time," Courtney said of being prepared for the moment. "I asked all the right coaches all the right questions."

Courtney applied for the Broncs' head coaching job, then sweated it out.

“I was a really composed player. I’m a really composed coach. I think it was one of the first times I was really nervous,” she said.

Ultimately, the Billings Senior graduate was hired. It was a move that instantly paid off with a heart-stopping State AA title win in 2022 as the Broncs rallied for a marathon five-set victory over crosstown rival Billings West.

“We played for seven hours straight on (that) Saturday," Courtney recalled. “All the extra toughness that I put on them and all the pressure I put on them … it paid off because we were built to last."

Fast forward to this season when another highlight arrived for Courtney as she talked Kola into joining her on the bench as a part-time assistant.

“I’m kind of like the hype man,” Kola said with a smile. “If they need help with drills, I’ll just toss a couple free balls or just give them some down balls.”

“She relates to them because she’s still playing right now,” Courtney added.

Kola is still playing college ball, just not volleyball.

She’s back in town hooping for Montana State Billings after four years of basketball at Montana State. Kola's return home marks her final year of eligibility and she is already creating a stronger presence for a Yellowjacket team picked by coaches to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“Honestly, I know we all see us making it far (this) postseason in March," Kola told MTN Sports in a quiet locker room. "I know I believe it, and I’m sure the girls do, seeing us finishing toward the end of March maybe pushing up for April.”

A run that deep would mean a trip to the Elite 8 and contending for a national title.

Somewhat comically on the volleyball front, a lot of Senior’s current players first pictured Kola only as a basketball star. They didn’t realize how explosive her volleyball skills once were.

“They all look at me like, you play college basketball. I’m like, I used to play (volleyball), I promise. I didn’t just play volleyball, but I was kind of good at it,” she said laughing.

Kola actually got to prove it to the high school players for a hot minute in the preseason.

“I did jump in for one practice in August and that was kind of fun… to go block them.”

Kola remembers watching Courtney coach in last year’s roller coaster state title match — or at least trying — on a Bobcats basketball trip.

“So, it was super cool because in the moment at BYU — we upset them, we weren’t projected to win — and there’s no service in the locker room, ever. So, I come outside and see on Twitter like, 'State champs!' I’m getting messages and group chats and I’m like, that’s so exciting,” Kola recalled.

Courtney now owns state titles as both a coach and player at Senior. Older sister Naomi also won as a player. But Kola was a three-year runner-up before tearing her ACL as a senior.

One of Courtney’s true wishes as the Broncs' new head coach was convincing both sisters to join her on the bench.

“I thought, how cool would it be to have three coach Bad Bears on staff,” Courtney said.

It turned out Naomi was too busy chasing a doctorate degree, plus she's recently a new mom.

But Kola was able to swing it.

"I’m like, yeah, it’s just a volunteer position. I could show up when I have time,” she said.

Now Kola, the youngest sister, is seeing firsthand how Courtney is exactly where she’s always belonged.

"It’s so cool to see it unfold, especially at such a young age,” Kola said.

This year Senior produced another 20-win season, narrowly missing the state tournament by a couple points in a Saturday morning match at the Eastern AA Divisional. And that’s okay because Courtney’s big picture is the same as it was in that job interview.

“Growing young, strong females,” she said. “Going on to potentially be mothers and have their own families one day.”

Courtney knows first-hand. At the young age of 19 she chose to adapt a 3-week-old infant named Kingston.

“I’m just at a different point in my life than most people my age,” she said.

Kingston is a lot bigger now and has a sweet tooth, as he dug into a bag of marshmallows while mom was coaching a late-season home match. And don’t let him fool you about his age. The 4-year-old is quick to tell you he’s five — much like mom, ahead of his years.