Longtime South Kitsap coach steps into retirement

Kathy Ballew coached several sports teams since 1989 at South Kitsap. - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
Kathy Ballew coached several sports teams since 1989 at South Kitsap.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

It is rare for someone to retire before the age of 50.

But South Kitsap co-track and field and cross-country coach Kathy Ballew said there are a couple of reasons behind that.

Ballew, 48, said her husband, Lyle, a longtime assistant football coach for the Wolves under Ed Fisher and D.J. Sigurdson, has been retired for a decade. In addition to that, Ballew said she was impacted by the death of legendary South baseball coach Elton Goodwin, who succumbed Nov. 7 to complications from hip surgery. He was 63 years old.

“You never know what life’s going to bring,” Ballew said.

For those reasons, Ballew decided to retire from her teaching and coaching positions at the high school. It will take multiple people to replace her. Athletic director Ed Santos said Erin Fraser, who ran cross country at Western Washington University, will succeed Ballew in that role. Santos said he still is searching for a co-track and field coach.

“Kathy has done a great job for 25 years in the school district,” said Santos, who mentored Ballew when she was a student-teacher in the late 1980s at East Port Orchard Elementary School. “She’s just done a lot of different things for kids. Kathy was always all about the kids.”

Ballew, a 1984 South graduate, returned to teach in the South Kitsap School District following her graduation from Pacific Lutheran University. She also played modified fastpitch at Tacoma Community College.

“I thought that 26 years would feel longer than this, but all of the sudden it’s like, ‘Where did the time go?’ ” Ballew said.

Ballew said she and her husband, who was raised in Bremerton, might downsize at some point but plan to remain in the area. They also own a 20-acre vacation home on Lake Roosevelt near Grand Coulee Dam they plan to visit more often in addition to other vacation destinations.

“We’re happy to start that next chapter,” Ballew said.

While Ballew is leaving her teaching position, she did not discount the possibility of returning to coaching or serving as an umpire in the future.

“It would be nice to coach after taking a break,” said Ballew, who also served as the event manager for South’s boys and girls basketball teams. “It would be neat to just coach something without having to teach and put your full effort into something like that.”

Prior to coaching track and field with Paul Zimmer, Ballew guided the Wolves’ softball teams — slowpitch and fastpitch since 1992 — from 1989 to 2011. She compiled a 320-127 record with eight league championships during her tenure. South also won a state championship in 1995. Ballew said she hopes that team will be enshrined into the Kitsap County Athletic Roundtable’s Hall of Fame. She also wants to organize a reunion to commemorate that team’s 20th anniversary since their title.

“They were so special,” Ballew said.

Another of Ballew’s proudest accomplishments was spearheading a campaign to construct a fastpitch field on campus. She believes the move from the old field off Baby Doll Road coincided with the program’s success during the 1990s. The Wolves won their first league title in 1993.

“We were instrumental in getting a field on campus, I think that gave us a little bit of a jump,” Ballew said.

While she won’t coach next season, Ballew said she plans to frequent Wolves’ athletic events — as a fan.

“This place is just awesome,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of places coaching out there. I know there’s no better place than South Kitsap. I’m just fortunate to spend my whole time here.”

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