College Softball Prepares UNC's Kianna Jones For Team Canada
To be a Division 1 softball player in the NCAA landscape is a tremendous accomplishment in itself. To simultaneously represent your country on a national team requires next-level athleticism.
For Kianna Jones, this is her reality. The rising redshirt junior at UNC is a transfer student-athlete from the University of Minnesota. She moved on to Chapel Hill after the 2021 season.
According to Jones, her journey from the Big Ten to ACC was all about development.
“(It was) an opportunity to understand myself better as a person and as a player,” Jones told Softball America. “I wanted to have a different role on the team, one where I can make an impact both on and off the field.”
It also helped that Jones was given the opportunity to be coached by the legendary Donna J. Papa, who recently retired from her position as head softball coach at UNC after 38 seasons at the helm of the program.
For Jones, having that kind of expertise on the coaching staff at UNC, along with a team culture that supported her, helped her feel prepared to perform at not just the collegiate level, but also for Team Canada.
Jones grew up in Canada and played softball for “A”-level teams on the west coast of British Columbia. She has been a member of the junior and senior Canadian national teams since 2019.
“(Playing for the Canadian national team) has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Jones said. “The coaching staff and players have truly changed softball for me. They have taught me so much about not only being a better player, but a better person.”
Jones adds that playing for Team Canada has helped her see what it’s like to be a selfless teammate.
“We work as a family and understand that each member of the family has a role that will help us succeed as a whole,” Jones said. “Playing against some of the best players in the world has allowed me to push myself to work even harder to compete at that level.”
Jones believes her decision to transfer from Minnesota to UNC has positively impacted her performance on the field at the international level of softball.
For instance, when UNC competes against Florida State in ACC play, Jones is able to observe the coaching styles of both FSU head coach Lonni Alameda and volunteer assistant coach Kaleigh Rafter, who are both members of the coaching staff for the Canadian women's national team.
Jones says that learning from Team Canada's coaching staff is like “drinking from a fire hose,” in the best possible way. And for someone who aspires to play on Canada's women's national team for many years to come, that is not a bad problem to have.
“It’s a lot of information to process, but any progress is a win,” Jones added. “This opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and make my country proud is a true honor that I am lucky to have.”