It's time for Whitbred's name to go upWe could wait until he retires, but no one knows when that will be.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
We could wait until he retires, but no one knows when that will be.
With the acknowledgement of his 500th career win as coach of the Park High School girls’ softball team, it’s appropriate that the new softball field be named “Charles Whitbred Field.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me plead my case.
Phil Kuemmel, athletic director for Park and ninth-graders at Oltman and Cottage Grove junior high schools, told me that it is district policy that schools not be named after people.
Obviously, the field is not a school so I don’t think that policy would be a problem.
The baseball field is named “Granville O. Smith Memorial Field” to honor Granny Smith who coached boys’ baseball for 30 years.
Charlie Whitbred has coached for 27 years.
It could be argued that this district shouldn’t name a field after a coach because there might be others coming to greatness that also deserve fields named after them.
I doubt we’ll see another coach with 27 years of service and 500 wins under his or her belt for some time.
I think these are sufficient reasons to dedicate the field.
But there are others.
His career also includes a stint as girls’ hockey coach. When the first girls to play sanctioned high school hockey were in their junior year, I wrote a column about my hockey experience. I had been goalie on my neighborhood rink but was told at age 11 “girls don’t play hockey.”
Because of that column, the team asked me to scrimmage with them and it was a great honor. It makes me teary just thinking about it.
As I backed into the net, Whitbred told me where to put the stick and a bunch of other instructions. It was then that I saw what makes him a great coach. He is first, a teacher.
His voice was gentle and re-assuring, something few observers can see from the sidelines, and I quickly got over my case of nerves.
I’ve also seen the other side of Whitbred, which can best be described as “exasperated.”
I remember a time when I was taking pictures of the girls’ hockey team. I was shooting from the penalty box so I could hear what Whitbred was saying to players.
After a girl stayed on the ice longer than she should have, she finally came to the bench. “Are you going to play the whole game by yourself?” he said.
She smiled but got the message that players need to play as a team and follow the game plan to win.
Ask any girl in Cottage Grove Athletic Association softball programs about her goals and she will say she wants to play for Park.
Part of having a winning softball program is that younger players strive to improve in order to have the chance to make the varsity team.
If you don’t ask him about his winning record, he doesn’t bring it up. If you do, he talks about good players, not his ability to coach.
Maybe his winning record is not about coaching but his high respect for young women and their abilities.
It’s time. Let’s name the field.
Judy Spooner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.