By Ryan Kaczmarski
Magnificat High School, located in Rocky River, recently hired former Akron Racers National Professional Fastpitch softball pitcher Kasey Whitehead Reis to be the Blue Streaks’ new head softball coach.
The Georgia native has a long list of accomplishments from her years as a softball player. In high school, Reis was a three-time high school All-American, three-time All-State selection in Georgia, MVP of her U16 Nationals team, three-time All-Georgia team selection, three-time high school All-Star, the Nike Player of the Year, the 1997 state of Georgia Player of the Year and a member of the Georgia Girls Softball Hall of Fame.
While playing at Mississippi State University, where she graduated with a degree in sports/fitness and management, she was a Scholastic All-American, the SEC player of the week and a three-time invitee to the USA/ASA Olympic trials.
Ries is no rookie to coaching. She coached softball at North Greenville University, in Greenville, S.C., and Heritage Academy in Columbus, Miss. She is a strength and conditioning instructor with Velocity, in Mayfield Heights, and also is a pitching and hitting instructor at Explosive Fastpitch, in Strongsville.
Ries (KR) took time out of her busy schedule to talk to West Life (WL) and tell us a little more about herself and her plans for Magnificat softball.
WL: How does it feel to be chosen to lead the softball program at Magnificat High School?
KR: I feel extremely blessed to be able to take on a program such as Magnificat. I am excited for the challenge, but also think that the Lord places people in a specific position for a reason. It is no coincidence that the job came open at the time when I was looking for a high school coaching position. I feel that it was ordained by the Lord for these girls, parents, faculty and me to be able to work together.
WL: Magnificat is always expected to go deep into the postseason every year. How will your coaching style and experience get the most out of the roster you will be taking over?
KR: Not only is the Magnificat program expected to go far, but I have high expectations for myself as a coach as well. I feel that this is an opportunity and platform for our team to share the love of Jesus Christ through the sport of softball. We are putting ourselves in a position to train with the best trainers, and coaches in the offseason to prepare us for a great season. In fact, the girls will start an optional training program at Black Flag Crossfit. This is a cross-fitness gym in Westlake with amazing trainers that are going to help take our kids strength and agility to the next level. I believe this will be a great way to get this new season started.
WL: In your opinion, what will be the major differences in coaching at the high school level, as opposed to the collegiate level?
KR: There are definitely going to be differences in coaching at the high school level and collegiate level, one of which will be the approach that you take with the athletes. I have always been a big believer in hard work and dedication, so I will have the same expectations for my high school athletes as I did with the college athletes. With a college athlete, they are basically getting their education paid for through the sport that they choose to play, so there is a little more of a push when it comes to the ins and outs of everyday life in college. For the high school athletes, it will be a little less of a stress, but we will still push to get the best out of each of our athletes. I also think that it is important, especially with female athletes, to put a lot of emphasis on them believing in my coaching style and believing in themselves as a team.
WL: How has working for Explosive Fastpitch changed or augmented your coaching and instructing style?
KR: I have been working with Explosive Fastpitch for a while, and coaching closely with Jeanette Howard, who is the founder and owner of Explosive Fastpitch. I have enjoyed working with Jeanette and all the girls and families that are a part of the organization. One of the greatest things about Explosive is that it provides the same coaching style that I believe in and a family atmosphere for all the girls. I think that more than anything our job as coaches is not only to implement a great teaching and coaching atmosphere, but to remember that we are influencing the lives of children and teaching them life lessons to move forward.
WL: How has the sport changed over the years, since your high school days in Georgia, then college in Mississippi, to your days of playing professionally in Akron?
KR: The sport has changed over the years and will continue to change as we grow and move forward. I was sad to see that softball was removed from the Olympics, because I think that took dreams and aspirations away from the young girls today. I can remember dreaming of wearing the USA uniform and working hard to get to the next level, and when I was given the opportunity to train with those girls, and try out for USA Softball, I was so blessed and in awe of the stage that softball was providing. I am in hopes that the sport will be entered back into the Olympic Games, so that the young generation today can have the same opportunities that I was given as a child and young athlete.
WL: How has the experience of playing professional ball helped you as an instructor?
KR: I had an amazing experience playing professional softball for the Akron Racers. I was so blessed to be given to opportunity to play for a great organization and a great owner, Joey Arrietta. I have the most respect for Joey, as she pushes athletes to be the best that they can be. She is truly like a mother to her athletes and works hard to allow the sport of softball to grow in Northeast Ohio. I believe that the Lord really placed me in the league to share my faith and show the love of Christ to so many little softball players and families. I am forever grateful for that opportunity and how it has impacted my coaching and softball career.
I would like to take the time to thank the faculty at Magnificat for this opportunity, and (Magnificat athletic director) Rhonda Rickleman for giving me the opportunity to part of a great program. I am excited for the upcoming season and look forward to the great things that the Lord is going to do through Magnificat softball and all the other programs they offer. It truly is a blessing to be a part of a program that recognizes that Christ is forever at the center of everything they do and are about.