Drew Cleavinger is a softball coach for the Comanche Maidens. She’s a very successful coach if you look at the fact that she has been in Comanche for two years and taken the girls to the playoffs both years, this last season as far as the state semi-finals. It is obvious that her girls really like her, and that was good enough for me until today, when I decided I wanted to know more and that I wanted to share Drew Cleavinger with the rest of you.
“Coach Cleavinger is a great person and coach. She didn’t just coach us, she got to know us and cared for everyone of us. If we were having problems outside of school she was there to talk to and no matter how far I go I know I can always count on her! I will really miss her as I start a new chapter in my life but plan to keep in touch with her.” –Kendra Gillam, senior
I didn’t tell Drew, but within the first 30 seconds of our visit, I was nodding my head and thinking that Herm had known what he was doing when he hired this one! Of course, Herm is actually Stephen Hermesmeyer, athletic director for Comanche, and that he hired the beginner coach says a lot for his judge of character.
“Comanche is my first place to coach, and I was hired in Starbucks,” the coach who looks young enough to still be playing high school softball laughed.
Of course, anytime someone mentions Starbucks, he has my attention so I was all ears. Apparently Coach Herm did not know her, but he did have an opening, and he did NEED a softball coach. The fact that she was industrious enough to go to the boys’ coaching school to post her resume probably said something for her as well.
“I went with my husband to coaching school, and I posted my resume on the board there. The next day I received a call from Coach Hermesmeyer asking if I could meet him somewhere to talk.”
Picking Starbucks made perfect sense to me, but I was really interested in the hard question. “You had never coached before, and he didn’t know you…so why would he hire you?”
“He asked me about my coaching techniques, and I told him that I am hard, have high expectations, and that I am a positive person who believes that I can win the hearts of my players because I want to know every single one of them, who they are, and where they are in their lives. Then, we talked about the methods and philosophies I planned to use.”
Apparently he was impressed.
“I just try to be like my mom. She was very hard on my brother and me, but we respected her. She was tough but at the end of the day, we knew that she loved us and would do anything for us. She insisted that we have high expectations for ourselves, and we did not want to let her down. I try to do the same for my players. I let them know that I respect and appreciate them, but when they don’t meet my high expectations, they will be aware of it, I can assure you.”
So how was she able to come in here as a brand new coach and make the playoffs both years?
“The girls’ sheer will and fight was our key; they wanted to be the best. As a coach, it is hard to find kids who want to work, and all of my girls want to work all of the time, and they inspire me. They set their goals from the beginning, and this year they said, ‘Coach, we want to go to state, what do we do?’”
“So we walked through what it would take and the steps it would take to get there. And we did it! You can’t teach fight and heart, and these girls already had it when I got here.”
Cleavinger went on to explain how hard it is for a coach to come into a new program and figure out the dynamics of the team.
“Having a new coach and a new way of doing things is difficult for any team. They had to learn my ways, and I had to learn each one of them. That is always a difficult thing the first year, and it is very difficult to be successful the first year…and yet, we did well, and they enjoyed the game.”
“Coach C always found a way to make us have fun while on our journey to State! Everything became fun, bus rides, dinners, and practices, too. More than that she was a Coach who knew when we needed a shoulder to cry on and just someone to listen. I know I came to her tons throughout the year, and I’m very thankful for her!” –Kaylee Pickett, senior
After I raised the subject of the difficulties that come with the job, including sometimes having to put up with the fans, Cleavinger’s ponytail bobbed with her laughter.
“I’ve told my mom that I have to be crazy. I’m 27 and basing my livelihood on teenagers, but on the other side, I wouldn’t base my life on anyone else. These are the ones who will fight for me the most, who really don’t want to let me down, so who better to trust?”
The Comanche Maidens once viewed Drew Cleavinger’s Coahoma softball team as the enemy…”
“I was in the 8th grade that year so I didn’t actually play against the Maidens, but I was very fortunate to be on those teams. I actually got to play in the state tourney three times while I was in school at Coahoma. Our mindset was wasn’t IF, it was WHEN we were going to be at state. I want to bring that to Comanche.
“Every single day this year, my girls just knew they were going to be in the state tournament. I’ve been so blessed to be a part of it. Watching these girls grow has certainly changed my life…” and believe me, I knew exactly what she meant.
“Where so we go from here?” I asked.
“I don’t know. When they show up I’m gonna coach whoever is here. It’s going to be some rebuilding and reshaping, but we are going to give it our all. I honestly think that we have an opportunity to get ourselves back in the playoffs next year, but it will all be up to what they decide and how hard they want to work.
“We love Comanche. We’re just a mile away from the school, and we’ve made so many good friends here. It can really be hard for my mom to sit in the stands sometimes, but I’ve told her that coaches have to have short term memories because every day is a new day, no matter what happened yesterday in the bleachers. That’s just the way I have to look at it.”
Of course, she can say what she wants to say. I know how competitive she is. Drew Cleavinger is from a school system that won thirteen straight district titles, a school system that went years without losing a district game. Winners tend to breed winners; that’s just how it is.
“People often want their kids to be great, but they aren’t always willing to let them work as hard as they need to work in order to accomplish that greatness. A long time ago, I was told that if God doesn’t call you to coach, you should not be a coach. I fought my calling for six years, and then I had an opportunity to teach and fell in love with it.
“Then, I got into coaching, and my world absolutely changed. I am so lucky to be in these people’s lives every year. Most people have a child or two, but I have about 60 every single year, and each one of them touches me in some way. Sure, I could focus on the negative, and it would all be negative, but I don’t know how I could be negative with all of these beautiful faces in front of me. Comanche has stolen my heart; it is the first place that gave me a chance, and now I have a chance to be in so many lives. Amazing!”
Yes, it is, and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next year!