Diamond's not forever: SK softball coach shifts to track

After two  successful decades as South Kitsap’s softball coach, Kathy Ballew will be co-head coach of the high school’s track and field program this spring. - Brett Cihon/staff photo
After two successful decades as South Kitsap’s softball coach, Kathy Ballew will be co-head coach of the high school’s track and field program this spring.
— image credit: Brett Cihon/staff photo

A big decision.

That’s what Kathy Ballew called her move to step down as South Kitsap High School’s fastpitch coach and jump on as co-head coach of the Wolves track and field program.

“I have been doing fastpitch for so long,” she said. “I thought I kind of need to be energized at this point in my life. And I still want to work with kids and share my love for sports.”

Ballew, a South Kitsap grad and physical education teacher at the school, began coaching the girls softball program in 1989. Then a slowpitch team, she helped spearhead the team’s transformation to fastpitch in 1992.

She led her teams to a record of 320-127 in 22 years as head coach, including eight league championships and four district titles. She also led the Wolves to a state championship in 1995.

Ballew will now take her coaching talents to the track and field program, joining co-head coach Paul Zimmer this spring.

A track athlete throughout high school, Ballew became reinvigorated with running when she took the job as assistant cross country coach five years ago, she said. Running sparked her competitive side, and she soon began running in local races, including the Yukon Do It local marathon last winter.

“I started them for fun, but I’m a competitive person,” she said, chuckling. “5k’s and races keep me motivated. I go faster and faster, and I try to beat my time.”

Along Zimmer and four assistant coaches, Ballew said the SK track program will be able to specialize training for individuals depending on the coaches’ areas of expertise.

She is also looking forward to the variety of track an field. Ballew was a javelin thrower in high school, but could see her self continuing to specialize in distance running.

“I will put my expertise into the distance program,” she said. “But it will be everybody helping everybody.”

Bellow is also excited to try coaching a boys team. As a female co-head coach, she said she will be a figurehead in the girls’ lockerroom, But sharing the head coaching duties with Zimmer means she will get a chance to instruct the boys.

“There’s definitely a difference in coaching the different genders,” she said.

South Kitsap School District Athletic Director Ed Santos said Ballew’s time as fastpitch coach was instrumental to building the program.

“She’s done a great job (as coach),” he said. “She really started our program.”

Her time as assistant coach and as a track althlete in high school should serve her well, he said. He is sorry to see her leave the fastpitch program, but said she “got the bug” and wanted to get back into track.

Santos said he hoped to find a new fastpitch coach in the next few weeks.

Though Ballew has already been out on the track helping kids stay in shape during winter conditioning, she said it hasn’t totally sunk in that she won’t be headed back to the fastpitch diamond.

“It still hits me that, ‘boy, we’re not putting the cleats on this spring,’” she said. “I’ll be putting on a different pair of shoes.”

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