Young softball coach sliding into mentor’s role

headshot of Haley Colwell

March 21, 2023 —  DENTON —Haley Colwell doesn’t know a stranger.

The high school softball coach can walk into a coaching convention and leave with a few new friends, new drills for practice and a handful of new Twitter followers. 

But it’s not just about expanding her network. 

“I just want to be the best version of myself and find ways to help people,” Colwell said. “I’ve learned if you want something, you have to work for it. You have to seek out the best mentors. Approaching people you don’t know gets easier. You just have to put yourself in somewhat uncomfortable situations to get the best result.”

Since graduating from Texas Woman’s in 2015 with a kinesiology degree, Colwell has made several coaching stops at Texas high schools, including her most recent move to the Texas Panhandle. She is the first-ever softball head coach at West Plains High School in Canyon ISD, which opened its doors for the first time in 2022.

“I like to take on challenges and I like to challenge myself,” Colwell said. “I knew that I had built programs in the past at every school district that I had been at. And so, why not build this one at a new school? Canyon ISD is known for state titles, and I really want to be a part of that.”

For the last two years, she has been a part of a mentoring program run by the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA), aimed at keeping young coaches in the profession. The R.O.C.K. (Rare, Outstanding, Compelled and Knowledgeable) Coaches Mentoring program matches a coach new to the profession (mentee) with a veteran coach (mentor).

Haley Colwell in white hat and gray t-shirt stands next to softball player in batting helmet

Colwell, the mentee, was paired with Frisco ISD Athletic Director Grace McDowell. Their conversations ranged in topics from off-the-field situations like approaching the chain of command to navigating the coaching world as a female.

“Grace has been a strong influence,” Colwell said. “It was really uplifting to be able to learn and grow from a female in your profession.”

“My first impression of Haley was that she is a driven young coach who has a strong desire to be the best that she can be,” McDowell said. “As I got to know her, I realized how passionate she is about growing her student athletes on and off the field.” 

While being mentored, Colwell is also keen about helping the new generation of coaches.

“It’s rewarding for people to ask me questions,” Colwell said. “I’m somebody who is here to help. People will DM me on Twitter. If I don’t have the answer, I’ve always been taught to find the answer. That goes back to what Miss Brown used to tell us all the time - if you don’t have an answer, you have to seek out people who will help you find the answer.”

Miss Brown is Kathryn Brown, a Texas Woman’s senior lecturer who was one of Colwell’s first mentors. 

“Miss Brown definitely had a huge impact on me,” Colwell said. “She left her mark on me with her teaching philosophies and who she is as a person. She was constantly there, encouraging me. I definitely think I strive to be that person for my athletes that she was for me.”

Colwell is a sponge, soaking up all she can from her mentors and from coaches she meets at clinics and conventions. She will be passing along some of that wisdom when she gives a speech in front of a couple hundred people at the 2023 R.O.C.K. Mentoring Symposium at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on March 26-27.

Colwell was asked to talk to new mentors and mentees on what she wishes she had known as a young coach. She knows there are little nuggets of wisdom that she can pass on, things that she had to learn on the fly. One of the most important things that she wants to impress on her young audience is building relationships with your students and being able to show them your personality in return. 

“I want to encourage other young coaches to be who they are. Own your philosophy. At the end of the day, just be yourself.”

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Page last updated 1:09 PM, May 30, 2024