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U-Hi coach Jon Schuh found his niche coaching softball

When Jon Schuh got into coaching, he wanted a baseball job.

It was the sport Schuh, in his 18th year as University High’s softball coach, played at Rogers and in college.

It never worked out, though. And likely for the better.

“I’ll be honest, when I was done playing I still wanted to play,” Schuh said. “It left a bad taste in my mouth.”

After finishing his baseball career, though, Schuh played modified fastpitch. That led to coaching the sport.

It’s become a family affair. Looking back now, Schuh wouldn’t change a thing.

He was the head coach for a year at Central Valley before moving over to University. His parents and in-laws got involved at U-Hi.

His dad is the scoreboard operator and mom runs concessions. His father-in-law, Jim Strom, has been a volunteer assistant all 18 years. His mother in law kept the scorebook more than 10 years.

The oldest of two daughters, Karly, played for Schuh.

“By the time our second daughter was born, I realized if I’m a baseball coach I might not see them in the spring,” Schuh said. “So softball seemed like the best sport to coach. My oldest daughter played all four years for me. We had plenty of dad time.”

U-Hi has flourished under Schuh. In fastpitch, his record, including his first season at CV, is 373-116-1. He’s had five Greater Spokane League championships at U-Hi, seven district titles, three regional titles, 12 state appearances and a state title in 2003.

Schuh has also coached slowpitch in the fall all 11 years the sport has been offered. His teams are a combined 201-9, winning the league title each year along with a district title in nine seasons.

He coached in his 700th combined game Tuesday.

A state tourney isn’t offered in slowpitch. While the sport requires less strategy than fastpitch, Schuh is no less competitive in his approach. If the girls put on a uniform and cleats and the score is kept, there’s something to play for, he said.

“If we’re going to play checkers, it means something,” Schuh said, smiling.

Schuh admits he’s intense. And he doesn’t apologize for it.

He would be intense no matter the sex of the athlete he coached.

“I probably rub people the wrong way, but at the end of the day all that matters is (the girls) know I care about them,” Schuh said. “Why shouldn’t things be competitive? They’re going to compete for jobs, college and spouses in the real world. It’s a life skill. They may not like their boss, but they’re going to have a boss.”

Senior Kirsten Anstrom has no problem with Schuh’s approach.

“He’s by far the best coach I have ever had,” Anstrom said. “He really showed me the game in a much more complex and higher level. He’s a very intense coach, but I think it’s a good thing. He tells you the truth and gives praise. He does a great job of making girls work hard and strive to play their very best.”

Schuh preaches fundamentals. If a player botches something, he points it out immediately.

Strom, 75, a U-Hi assistant who coached and taught for 32 years at Okanogan before retiring and moving to Spokane, appreciates Schuh’s attention to details.

“It pays off down the line,” Strom said. “The success is based on what we do in practice. The little things don’t get overlooked. Some teams don’t cover the little things like we do.”

Schuh’s other assistant is head wrestling coach Don Owen, who is in his 15th season with Schuh.

“I like his intensity,” Owen said. “He’s got a level of intensity that he brings to the ballpark that makes kids better than they would be without it.”

Schuh cares for the softball field better than his own yard.

“I want it to look immaculate. The girls deserve it,” Schuh said. “We start each practice by picking rocks out of the infield.”

The Titans have been known to pick rocks at other GSL fields before games.

After each practice or game, players do their assigned clean-up duties.

“Jon calls it ‘putting the field to bed’,” Strom said. “That kind of discipline helps the program be successful. The girls know they have to work, but they know they have a chance to be successful, too. I admire his philosophy. He does it the right way.”