Kevin Wise works with players at a December clinic. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Kevin Wise works with players at a December clinic. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

When Jeff Auvinen resigned from his post as head coach of the softball program early last fall, junior varsity coach Kevin Wise asked himself a question: Do I get out or dig in?

“There’s no way I could get out, I want to see these kids be successful,” said Wise. “I looked at the kids that were there. I didn’t want to see someone else come in and I love being part of this thing.”

Wise is taking over the reins and hoping to see the program progress to even greater levels of success than it has already experienced. Wise took up softball coaching a year after his then-8-year-old daughter joined a club league.

“After watching her first coach give most of his attention to his daughter and her friend, it drove me nuts. You have to coach the team,” Wise said.

The following season he did just that and then followed his daughter up through the ranks of ASA softball. In addition, he coached junior varsity teams at the high school level in addition to his duties as a learning resource center teacher.

Wise’s first varsity team as head coach will likely be heavy on youth as only two seniors are expected to return, but that doesn’t mean he’s expecting anything less than outstanding performance.

“For me, honestly, I want to win the conference, which should be our goal. Always. And, ultimately, win state,” he said. “We may come out a little slow, but if we keep building we’ll be peaking around the time the state tournament arrives.”

More than anything, he wants to see the Lady Celts coalesce as a team.

To help bolster the program in future years, he’s committed to working with the grassroots local clubs, like Keizer Youth Sports Association, and started by offering a clinic in late December.

“We’ve already had some talks about initiating a mentor program where the kids would come out and visit practices once a week. I want to strengthen the connection between KYSA and McNary. Even if those girls end up playing at another school, it helps our program because they’ll have some skills they may not have had otherwise and be tougher competition for the McNary teams,” Wise said.

While Wise wants the team to have success on the field, he also knows that options are limited for continuing in softball ranks beyond college. To that end, he hopes that the members of the teams leave the field with tools that are useful beyond the softball diamond.

“Sports, like other extracurricular activities, are a segue into the real world. The girls learn teamwork, dedication and how to confront and overcome failure. I want to have the girls be successful at whatever they put their minds to,” Wise said.