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St. Anthony head coach Makayla Walsh (left) and father, and assistant coach, Tim (right) watch during a softball game against Marissa (Coulterville) in the Class 1A Super-Sectionals, Monday, June 14, 2021, at Johnston City High School, in Johnston City, Illinois.

When Makayla Walsh became the head coach of the St. Anthony softball team, she never thought she would take her team through uncharted waters just a short period into her tenure.

Originally scheduled to take over in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on all of the goals that Walsh had in mind, along with her coaching debut.

Like every other spring coach awaiting the start of a new campaign, she had to wait.

Now, that wait is over, and Walsh and her team are the beneficiaries of the break.

In just two short months, Walsh has elevated the program into a new direction, but she won’t take all of the credit.

Sitting alongside her is one person that knows her better than most, her father.

“It’s so much fun. I love coaching with him more than when he was my coach, but I think that’s all part of it,” Walsh said. “He loves the game, and he’s shared that with me. Deep in my heart, I’m excited that he’s here with me.”

Whether it be sitting on buckets while their team is on defense or standing on opposing sides when they’re on offense, strategy is constant.

However, it doesn’t stop on the field.

“We talk after the games each night, any time we have a game. Sometimes, if we can break the game film down, we look at that,” Tim Walsh said. “We look at strike counts, ball counts, and we talk during the game, like if she sees something out of a batter that I don’t notice.”

As a younger coach, Makayla isn’t much older than her players, which Tim believes resonates with them.

“She’s got a special bond with them,” Tim said. “I guess it’s maybe due to her age, but it’s fantastic how they’ve connected throughout the season and the trust and the buy-in that she’s gotten from the girls. For me, I’m just sitting back and enjoying this whole thing. Just watching the smiles on their face is so great for me.”

Her rapid success didn’t start overnight, though.

At Parkland College, Makayla learned under a coach with over 700 wins in Chuck Clutts.

Over the years, Clutts said that he’s had multiple former players continue coaching, and to this day, it still means a lot to him.

“I’ve had about eight to 10 players that have either coached or are coaching high school ball,” Clutts said. “They loved the game when they played for Parkland, and now they want to give back to the student-athletes. You don’t make a lot of money coaching, but if you want to have some fun and get rewarded by seeing kids grow, coaching is what you need to get into.”

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or alex.wallner@effinghamdailynews.com

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