Jon Schuh occasionally thinks that he should have introduced himself twice to people connected with University High softball: once as coach of the team and once as parent of one of the players.
Schuh’s Titans are preparing for their 10th state tournament appearance since he took over the program in 2000. U-Hi (18-5) will open against Bainbridge at 9 a.m. Friday at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
The last four state excursions – counting this season – have held added importance for Schuh because of his opportunity to coach his daughter, Karly.
“It’s been great to be able to see her every day and it will be really weird not seeing her,” Schuh said. … “I can’t remember what it was like coaching when she wasn’t there.”
Schuh describes the experience and “rewarding” and “one of the tougher things I’ve done” in the same breath. Karly understands the feeling.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure being the coach’s daughter,” the Titans’ senior shortstop said.
“You know people are going to think things, but you have to let it go, and not let it affect you.”
Karly faced additional pressure because of U-Hi’s long history of success. She said the first two years were the hardest, but by her junior season she felt she had earned her spot.
Jon walked the tightrope between favoring his daughter and being extra hard on her. In the end, he tended to lean toward the latter.
“I think early on that people realized I wasn’t going to give her too many benefits of the doubt,” he said. “If I was hard on anybody, or over the top, it was on her.”
Schuh credits his daughter with tolerating his “hard-nosed and pretty intense” style when they’d arrive home from practices and immediately start working on certain skills.
“She had to deal with me 24/7 where some of the other girls just had to deal with me for a couple of hours at practice each day,” he said.
Jon said it helped the father/daughter relationship at practice to have assistant coach Don Owen work with the infielders while he coached the outfielders.
Karly was hardly pushed into softball. She and her sophomore sister, Jacey, grew up around the program and idolized the players. But Jacey, who plays volleyball for the Titans, decided early on that softball wasn’t her thing.
Karly witnessed U-Hi’s 2003 state championship team and announced to her father that she wanted to be a pitcher. Although she ended up as an infielder, Jon embraced the chance to coach her in summer leagues.
Jon comes from a college baseball background, having played at Community Colleges of Spokane, Eastern Washington and Gonzaga. He saw enough similarities between the sports to pour his efforts into coaching softball rather than baseball.
Jon coached Central Valley’s varsity softball team in 1999 before accepting the U-Hi position.
His first six teams advanced to state before the Titans went through a four-year run of not qualifying. They ended that streak during Karly’s freshman season of 2010.
U-Hi is a relatively young team with just four seniors: Schuh, pitcher Brittany Hecker (16-4), and outfielders Kendra Bruno and Ryelynn Mendoza. Schuh, Hecker and Mendoza have signed with North Idaho College and will room together.
Karly knows there will be adjustments and growing pains.
“I can’t imagine not having (Jon) as a coach,” she said. “He’s the best around and he knows what he’s talking about and it shows, because we’ve had so much success in the program.”
The prospect of the big change is hitting Dad, too.
“Literally, I can remember her first day as a freshman,” he said. “When people say it goes by quickly, it really does.”