Central coach stresses building relationships, trust

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Members of the Central softball team are (front, left to right) Delaney Scherf, Katelyn Scherf; (middle) Payton Erickson, Reese Berns, Oakley Armstrong, Crystal Goodrich, Mackayla Vlazny; (back) Ayden Schutte, Ashlyn Scherf, Tori Sylvester, Gracie Cummer, Erin Hauser, Audrey Palas and Taylor Moser. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central softball season gets underway this week under the leadership of new head coach Ashley Funk, a Central graduate who spent last year teaching and coaching at Clayton Ridge, but decided to return home out of an affection for the people and community, and to pursue an opportunity as a special education teacher at the middle school level—something Central was able to provide. Everything else was an added bonus.


Arriving into the role of coach was a decision Funk made during her playing days in college, borne out of a love for sports and being active. After all, she was a multi-sport athlete in high school, participating in cross country, basketball, track and field and softball. 


“I was ready for the next step,” Funk said. 


The urge to coach was something she knew she would want to do at some point, and along the way, she has been inspired by numerous other coaches, including two current Central coaches in Mark Bauder and Mark Wiley. She replaces the latter at the helm of the Warrior softball program, and it’s who imbued a coaching philosophy that focuses not just on wins and losses, but on making the players better on and off the field, as both an athlete and as a person. It’s about sharing knowledge, both about life that occurs outside the diamond and at the plate. 


As a coach, Funk is focused on building meaningful relationships, while also instilling a drive for success in the players. It’s something Funk hopes is made easier in only her second year as a head coach due to her youth, which offers the ability to share similarities with the players and be more relatable, providing an environment where the players feel comfortable approaching her about almost anything. She is there to guide them in the right direction and promote a sense of trust between coach and player—something will make the athletes work harder when they know the coach is there for them. 


Funk would be considered something of a “player’s coach,” one who emphasizes building relationships and creating bonds, as well as encouraging an atmosphere where players are free to be themselves. It’s about enjoying the game as a game, not as a job. Funk, who openly admitted to projecting a bubbly personality, has a coaching style that includes having fun but also getting players to reach their full potential in the process. 


However, while Funk will be there every step of the way for the athletes, the motivation to be successful “has to come from within them,” she said. That starts by showing up to practice, working on the fundamentals and being supportive. 


Being around that motivation is one thing Funk enjoys about coaching, along with seeing the growth of the players from the first practice to the final game of the season. Witnessing their success gets her “hyped.” There is a joy from the dugout watching the impact of being a positive influence. 


But it’s a new season, a new team, a new school, and Funk is still a relatively new head coach. While navigating and learning the processes might seem daunting to some, Funk finds it to be “kind of fun,” especially when it comes to putting her vision into place. It’s a vision that includes always building the athletes up and building character, while putting together a competitive team and getting some wins. In this area, she expressed a profound amount of support from Central and coach Wiley, which has made the transition from Clayton Ridge to Central a lot easier. 


In terms of the team’s strengths and weaknesses this season, Funk was limited in responses, mostly due to not being at Central and around the team last season. On the topic of strengths, the Warriors have a lot of players who are stepping up and wanting to try new positions, which is developing depth and versatility. 


As for weaknesses, Funk simply stated, it’s a “waiting game,” given the season hasn’t officially started, making it difficult to determine. But with a talented crop of young players and a committed group of upperclassmen, the Warriors will not just be competitive, they will also be having fun. 


The Warriors’ season begins Friday, May 26, against the Edgewood-Colesburg Vikings. 

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