Keeping a familiar face in charge of one of the most successful teams in the county, Henry County High School Athletics Director Todd Gilley hired Matt Wright to head the school’s softball program.
Wright has been an assistant coach for the Ladycats for three seasons (2006-2008) and was the head football coach at Beth Haven for one season (2008). He takes over the program from Suzanne Cates, who resigned last June following her one year in charge. In what Gilley describes as an easy choice, Wright was hired just one month later.
“We thought it was the most logical decision considering his experience, track record with our kids and his knowledge,” Gilley said. “With all the factors, we thought it was an easy decision and one that would make for an easy transition for the players. We feel comfortable with this choice.”
Two seasons ago, while Jon Kasten was the head coach, both Cates and Wright were his assistants. Cates then moved into the head position for one season, and Wright will now take over. He officially started coaching the squad last month with the first game scheduled for next Monday versus Jeffersontown at home.
“I really wanted to be a part of this team,” said Wright, who is also an assistant coach for the football team. “It hasn’t been real stable here recently with three head coaches in three years, so I wanted to be here for the girls because they already know me.”
Wright graduated from Fairdale High School in 2000, and Campbellsville University in 2004. In high school, he lettered in football, baseball and track, while at Campbellsville he played all four years of football and was on the track team as a senior.
After graduation, he joined the Campbellsville coaching staff as a graduate assistant, then moved back to the Louisville area where he spent one season as an assistant football coach at Fairdale. In 2006, he was hired as the Youth Pastor at New Castle Christian Church, bringing him to the county.
Wright then took positions at Henry County High School as an assistant football coach under Chris Engstrand and an assistant softball coach under Kasten.
“I had been asked to coach baseball before but never softball. Coach Kasten was a good friend of mine, and he talked to me and asked if I would be an assistant,” Wright said of his road to coaching softball. “At that point, I had only coached football players so I was a little scared to coach girls. But after I coached that one year, I actually really enjoyed it. I don’t know if it’s girls in general or just the ones at Henry County, but they want to get better, work hard every day and do things you ask of them without question.”
After three seasons as the assistant, for the 2008-09 school year Wright became the head football coach at Beth Haven, leaving his coaching positions at Henry County. But after the football program was shut down due to economic problems, Wright decided to come back to Henry County the following year. The opportunity to coach the softball team fell into place quickly.
“Once they knew I was coming back, the interest built up and they started talking to me about the position,” Wright said. “I love the area. I feel like this is home now. The idea of helping the football team and becoming the head softball coach was really cool to me.”
Wright said he is currently a substitute teacher at the high school while looking for a full-time ministry position in the area.
As for the Henry County softball team, the program is coming off a 24-12 record in 2009 and has won the past four 31st District championships. The Ladycats also won the 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament last spring, and finished fifth at the All “A” State Tournament. They return a majority of their key players from last year, led by their lone senior Karie Powell.
“To take over a program that has been so successful means a lot,” Wright said. “There’s not a whole lot of changes I have to make.”
When Cates first stepped away from the head coach shortly after the season, she planned to stay on board as an assistant. But last month, she decided against that to focus on her family, which includes two young children. Cates is a former Ms. Kentucky in softball, played four years at Georgetown College and has been inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Softball Hall of Fame. In her only year as the head coach, she was selected to coach in the East-West All-Star Game.
“We can’t replace someone who has her knowledge but she did the right thing to be with her family,” Wright said. “Losing her was big. We all hurt a little while but we’ll move on.”
Assistants this season will include Tara Holstine, who is the new physical education teacher at the elementary schools, and Jody Powell. David Stanley will coach the freshman team.
The Wright era officially opens next week with Jeffersontown on Monday, Carroll County on Tuesday, Gallatin County on Thursday and Harrison County on Saturday. All four games are at home with the first three starting at 5:30 p.m. and the the fourth on Saturday starting at 11 a.m.
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