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Solon’s Jim White coach of the year

Former Clear Creek Amana softball coach wins national honor
Solon coach Jim White was recognized for his 20-plus years of contributing to the softball programs at CCA and Solon Wednesday, June 14, in Oxford before his Lady Spartans and the Clippers squared off in a varsity doubleheader. Solon took the night, 8-4 and 8-5. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

SOLON– Fans of the Lady Spartan softball program are probably used to watching head coach Jim White pace the baseline in a black polo and khaki shorts.
But White donned a suit Wednesday, June 21, for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) Coach of the Year Awards Night Banquet in Peoria, Ill.
White, one of eight finalists, was the recipient of the 2017 National Softball Coach of the Year.
White has been skipper of the Solon softball program since 2013 after 18 years and 800 wins at Clear Creek Amana. According to the NHSACA, his teams have won seven state championships, finished as state runner-up three times, and have earned 17 regional titles. Over 30 of his players have gone on to play collegiately at the Division I level, the NHSACA noted in a brief release.
“As I’m getting toward the end of my career, I told myself to appreciate it ahead of time,” White said of the honor. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
According to the NHSACA, White has served in eight different positions at the national, state and district level in service to the sport of softball, is the Iowa head of the national fastpitch softball coaches association, and has served through the offices of the Iowa Girls’ Coaches Association as a softball officer as well as serving on its all-state committee.
“The neatest thing about it was having my 12-year old and 10-year old there, and their reaction,” White said of the awards banquet. “I did feel proud that they were getting to listen to the things I’d done.”
His youngest crossed the fingers of both hands as the award was being announced, and then pumped his fist as his dad’s name was read.
“Actually that’s what I’m going to remember about the whole thing is his reaction, because he was sitting right next to me,” White said.

A native of Iowa City, White moved to Burlington after his sophomore year at City High. His father, a football coach, was an early influence, and White found himself taking on a Babe Ruth team while playing junior college baseball.
It all started, he said, during his senior year in high school when the varsity baseball squad was an unbelievable team.
“We got upset in the final eight and the team that got second to us in our conference ended up being state champs, and that really gnawed on me for a long time,” he recalled.
The Burlington team had some good, young coaches, he said, but he was personally “dissatisfied with the result.”
“I just kind of wanted to get into it and compete,” he added.
So he became a Babe Ruth coach, and kept doing it.
“And just thoroughly loved that and did that the whole time I was playing college baseball,” he said.
He stuck with baseball, becoming an assistant coach at Cornell College before landing his first teaching job at Clear Creek. With some convincing from his Clear Creek students, he became the varsity baseball coach.
It wasn’t until he ascended to the position of athletic director at Clear Creek that he intersected professionally with softball.
“We had junior high fall softball, and they didn’t have a coach,” he said. “And so as athletic director, I ended up taking that over and just fell in love with the game of softball.
Because of a rule change made by the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference, junior varsity baseball doubleheaders had to go six innings, and the coaching responsibilities started to pile up.
White was coaching baseball, football, wrestling and softball in addition to his duties as athletic director, and those junior varsity doubleheaders weren’t getting over until midnight.
“That was a long summer,” he said.
Meanwhile, the junior high softball games were 55 minutes.
“And the field fit the kids,” he said. “At that point in time, Clear Creek was super-small, and it was really difficult to find a shortstop/third baseman that could throw it across the baseball diamond. At that time, Clear Creek had like 20 kids per class.”

Since then, it’s been all softball.
“I don’t know, it’s just a great game,” he explained.
White also thinks his coaching personality fits females better than males.
“I almost have too much patience for boys,” he said.
“Girls tend to get down on themselves so much,” he said. “They will play for the team, so sometimes you have to just focus their attention, if they get better, it’s going to best for the team, and to keep moving forward every day.”
It’s something he pushes consistently to his team: Look at the big picture.
“This year, it’s been a lot of work,” he admitted. “I’ve never wavered, I just really believe every day, well, we’ve got to fix these three or four things, then tomorrow we’ve got to fix these three or four things.
“I just think it’s gonna happen and I think it rubs off, eventually,” he continued. “I mean, they (the players) just think it’s going to happen.”
And while he enjoys the game of softball, White said he would coach his current roster doing anything.
“This is a really neat group of kids,” he said. “I view it as my responsibility to help these seniors go out the way they want.”
Other coaches can be very vocal, but White moves things ahead with quiet positivity, popping into the dugout with words of encouragement.
“I enjoy the practices more than the games, some people would be surprised by that,” he said. “I am totally invested in practice and what we do in trying to get improvement.”
Yet he knows his players need to be challenged, to face adversity and to understand how to deal with losing.
“There’s a fine line there,” he said. “My job is to schedule us so we will lose. That’s really hard on kids. They don’t want to lose. Then there’s a point where you lose too much, and then they get down, and think the whole world’s ending, and you know, it’s just softball. I mean, there’re more important things. A lot more important things.”
And with his children at age 10 and 12, those more important things may start pulling White away from high school coaching.
“Maybe I’m wearing out a little bit,” he observed, adding there’s a good chance he’ll be coaching his son’s youth baseball team at some point.
“We’ll see what happens in the near future,” he added.