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Bruton Wrestling Coach Kyle Cowles is attempting to field a career curveball that was thrown his way late last year.
After spending last season as an assistant coach on Bruton’s softball team, his first season coaching softball, Cowles has been named the head softball coach at Bruton following the death of former softball coach Danny Williams in December.
“It was an unfortunate circumstance that got me to where I am today,” Cowles said.
In addition to being unfortunate, Cowles’ ascension into the head coaching role for softball was never part of his plan when he came to Bruton four years ago to coach wrestling.
Cowles had two goals when he came to Bruton: Rejuvenate the wrestling program and assist coaching the baseball program. The latter of the two goals he talked about frequently with former Bruton baseball coach Phil Houston.
“I told him I wanted to help with baseball once I got wrestling up and running,” Cowles said.
Unbeknownst to Cowles, Bruton’s baseball team was overloaded with assistant coaches and had no room to add more coaches. Elsewhere at Bruton, the softball program had recently lost a pair of assistants, leaving Williams to coach the team alone.
Cowles said he was encouraged by the baseball coaches to help Williams coach the softball team because the two sports were similar. Cowles agreed and helped Williams navigate the Panthers through a rough 2-18 season that ended with a 15-game losing streak.
Despite not getting to coach baseball and working through a losing season, Cowles said he enjoyed the experience of learning a new sport and teaching girls for the first time in his coaching career.
The joy Cowles felt from coaching softball was stifled shortly after the softball season ended when Williams revealed his diagnosis of prostate cancer.
While initial treatments seemed positive, Williams and Cowles spoke about plans for next season and how excited they were to bring back what Cowles called a “good core of girls.” But Williams’ condition deteriorated and he died in December.
After Williams’ death, Cowles made a deliberate decision to take leadership of the team.
“He and me had the same goals,” Cowles said. “I thought I should step up and go through with our plans. We were planning on doing a lot of things to build the team up to be better than we were last year.”
Now Cowles is not only tasked with carrying out Williams’ plans for the team, but he will have to do so while also serving as a head softball coach for the first time in his career.
And while Cowles is quick to admit he still has plenty to learn about the ins and outs of softball before the season begins, he does not believe he could potentially be in for more than be bargained for.
“I don’t think I’m in over my head, but I think it’s going to be a big challenge,” he said. “The game is pretty much about the same [as baseball], but softball is faster and I just have to learn different things.”
To aid in his transition as head coach, Cowles has solicited the help of what he called a “good assistant staff that’s been doing softball for years.” The goal is to have the assistants help fill in the knowledge gaps that currently exist for Cowles.
In time, Cowles hopes to have a solid grasp of the game just like Williams did before his death. Until then, Cowles expects to be in fine shape leaning on the solid core of returning players for whom he and Williams had big plans.
“I have a good core of girls that have been playing for years,” he said. “If the girls play like they are supposed to, I shouldn’t have to worry about much.”