It was only fitting that senior Kody Newman was the final batter in the final South Whidbey High School baseball game this spring. Not only did it bring a close to an excellent season for the Falcons and an outstanding career for Newman, but it also ended one of the most remarkable chapters in the history South Whidbey High School athletics.
Kody is the youngest of Mike and Pam Newman’s seven children, and all left a lasting imprint on Falcon sports. The Newmans didn’t just play, they excelled.
Over a span of 19 years, beginning when Jenny entered high school in the fall to 2000, the Newmans earned 58 varsity letters, numerous state appearances (including four state titles) and a bushel of all-league honors.
Jenny (who graduated in 2004) was followed at South Whidbey High School by Caitie (2006), Lindsey (2009), Riley (2011), Hayley (2013), Carlie (2015) and Kody (2019).
Jenny and her two children currently live in Texas, while Caitie lives in Poulsbo with her husband and four children. Lindsey, Hayley and Riley all reside in Arizona, while Carlie and Kody are finishing up school in Washington.
Only seven percent of high school athletes go on to play in college, but five of the Newmans — and Kody should make it six — competed beyond high school. It is even more rare that a college athlete play more than one sport, but Caitie competed in three and Lindsey, Riley and Hayley two each.
In addition, Lindsey, Riley and Hayley are currently professional pickleball players, and Carlie and Kody may soon join them.
Lindsey and Riley are also collegiate basketball officials.
Mike and Pam estimate they attended 1,050 high school sporting events in support of their children and Falcon teammates. Throw in youth league and college contests, and the number easily doubles.
“It was certainly challenging when we had four or five kids participating in a sport at the same time,” Pam said. “My calendar was full. I put a lot of miles on the red van going from field to field and school to school. We were grateful for the help of other parents who helped with rides and glad that South Whidbey was a safe place for our kids to grow up. I didn’t worry about them at the playground while we were at games or running around the school while we were in the gym or at the courts.”
Safety was one of the reasons the Newmans enrolled their children in athletics in the first place.
“I believe being active in sports kept them away from drugs and alcohol and helped them to appreciate healthy, strong bodies,” she said.
Pam played basketball, softball, tennis and volleyball at Stanwood High School, and Mike competed in football and basketball while attending Langley High School.
Mike labeled himself an average high school athlete who “always wanted my kids to be the best.”
“I had a passion for coaching, no matter what sport,” he said. “When my kids were old enough, I signed them up for anything sports-related with me coaching as much as I could. I pushed my kids to work harder and practice more, and our kids were successful because of that.”
Beyond the trophies, Mike likes what his children have learned from athletics: being selfless, humble and good leaders.
“Their athletic abilities enabled them to play in college and travel more than they would have otherwise,” Mike said. “They appreciate the positive experiences that sports gave them, and all are still very active to this day. I’m very proud that they turned out to be happy, healthy, fun adults.”
The flurry of constant competition didn’t burn the kids out, Pam said, because they made sure to provide their children with a wide variety of activities.
She does wonder, however, if they would have been even more successful if they played on higher level select teams or received professional lessons.
“But through their determination and desire and legendary high school tennis coach Tom Kramer, among others, they did well and have fond memories of their time as Falcon athletes,” Pam said.
“They learned early on to support each other, and that continues today. We’re a close family who enjoy being together and still watch a lot of sports and play a lot of games.”
Though excellent in numerous sports at South Whidbey High School, the Newman children found their most success in tennis and basketball.
One constant among the crew is Kramer, who has ties to all seven children and Mike, who he coached for one year in basketball.
Kramer took over the school tennis program in 1978. He stepped down as head coach in 2011 but assisted his daughter Karyle, the new coach, since.
“As concerns the Newman kids, all of them were unique individuals requiring different approaches for each,” Kramer said. “One size does not fit all.”
Some were more difficult to coach and some worked harder, he said, but they did have several similarities. They all had good hands, were highly competitive and were athletic enough to be successful, he said.
“The family was very supportive of each other, but they also had high expectations,” Kramer said. “Their assessments of each other’s play, especially poor play, could be very honest. They were competitive with each other and everyone else. They put a great deal of time and energy into athletics.”
Kramer noted that the Newmans were success because they relished competition and the challenges athletics present.
“They were tenacious competitors,” he said. “You had to beat them; they were not going to give you anything. For that reason, many competitors did not look forward to playing them.”
Those competitors can now relax, at least for a few years.
“With six grandchildren, we’re looking forward to watching the next generation of athletes,” Pam said.
Better clear a little more space in the trophy case.
Here’s a summary of what each Newman child accomplished.
Jenny played basketball one season before concentrating on tennis for four. She earned four varsity letters and qualified for the state tennis tournament all four years, medaling in three.
She played three sports — basketball, volleyball and tennis — throughout high school and went on to play all three at Skagit Valley College. While at South Whidbey, she earned 10 varsity letters and qualified for state three times.
She was named Skagit’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2008.
“Being the second oldest meant I was one of the first to experience the different sporting opportunities available on the island,” Caitie said. “Jenny and I were the guinea pigs for my dad’s first coaching jobs.
“I enjoyed my own cheering section because my mom dragged all the younger kids along to my games. I even had my own personal water boy (or girl). I made great friends with my teammates and still keep in touch with my favorite basketball coach. I saw firsthand how valuable athletics was in my life and plan to pass that along to my own kids.”
She collected 11 varsity letters while participating in basketball, volleyball and tennis all four years at SWHS. Lindsey holds the South Whidbey girls single-game scoring record in basketball with 40, and she scored more than 1,000 points in her high school career.
In tennis, she qualified for state four times and won three singles titles.
After playing basketball and tennis at Skagit Valley College, she went on to play tennis at Seattle University.
In her two years at Skagit, she won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges singles tennis championship twice, adding a first and a second in doubles, and was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2011.
At Seattle U, she was the Great West Conference singles champion.
“Growing up in the Newman family was sort of like being a contestant on the reality show Survivor,” Lindsey said. “There were always competitions, always fighting for the last helping of food and always alliances being made and broken.
“Growing up, we would often hit tennis balls against the garage, shoot baskets in our indoor and outdoor hoop, play ping pong, play putt putt on the golf course and threw balls until our arms hurt.
“As we all got a little older, weekends were spent in gyms playing AAU basketball, at tennis courts playing USTA tennis tournaments and on the play fields playing select softball.
“While my siblings and parents made me the athlete I am today, my parents made me the person I am today, both of which I’m very proud of.”
He played basketball, baseball and tennis for four years at South Whidbey High School and received eight varsity letters. Like Lindsey, he holds the school single-game scoring record with 46 points, and like Lindsey he played basketball and tennis at Skagit Valley before competing in tennis at Seattle U.
He earned Most Valuable Player honors while helping the Falcon basketball team win the Seaside (Oregon) Holiday Tournament in 2010. Riley earned all-conference honors three times and was the league MVP and all-state as a senior.
He qualified for four high school state tennis tournaments, winning the singles title in 2011 after taking second in 2010
Riley was two-time NWAACC singles champion while playing tennis at Skagit; he also placed second and first in doubles during his two years there.
He was selected SVC’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2015.
“From as far back as I can remember, sports were everything in our family,” Riley said. “Every game or sport that was played was a competition with bets placed whether you wanted to bet or not.
“I remember always having a ball in my hand and shooting hoops in the gym during half time and after my older sisters’ games. I’m sure it helped me be a better athlete watching them play and me playing with them. The gym and park were like my second home. Sports helped me go to college and find a career.”
She played four sports — basketball, volleyball, soccer and tennis — in high school, earning 10 varsity letters. She went to state three times in tennis, and finished her high school career by placing second in singles in 2013. Hayley continued playing tennis at Skagit Valley College, where she also played golf.
“Being number five in the family meant I had older siblings and younger siblings to play with, and it helped me get a jump start on my sports skills,” Hayley said. “I had to play hard to keep up with my older siblings and was able to help teach my younger siblings. I liked spending time at the park on the weekend with my dad’s pitching machine shagging and hitting balls. We all helped each other by rebounding and hitting grounders and rounding up tennis balls. We made it fun and we still have fun together whether we are competing in sports or just hanging out.”
Carlie won four varsity letters while playing basketball and tennis for the Falcons. She followed her siblings to Skagit Valley College and played tennis for the Cardinals.
“Sports have always been a huge part of my life,” Carlie said. “Growing up, we would play ping pong or shoot hoops and the loser would have to do chores while the others watched and laughed. When someone lost, there were sometimes tears shed or rackets thrown. Even today, I don’t like playing anything for ‘fun.’
“What I learned from sports is that I have to win or else I might as well count my loss and head to the dishwasher to unload the dishes. We still bet on March Madness and TV holiday basketball games.”
Kody played five sports — football, baseball, basketball, tennis and soccer — and lettered in each, earning 11 total. After playing tennis for two years and placing fourth in singles at state, he switched to football and played two of the most difficult positions, quarterback and defensive back, and received all-conference honors at each. He was all-conference and all-state in basketball, earned league MVP honors and scored more than 1,000 points. In the spring, he switched from soccer to baseball and was an all-league shortstop.
Kody was recently named the Everett Herald’s Male Athlete of the Year.
Kody plans to play basketball in college; he has not chosen a school yet.
“I’m the baby of the family, so by the time I was old enough to compete, I knew that succeeding and making a name for myself was crucial,” Kody said. “So many people were helpful and encouraging and knew me because of my older siblings. I got called ‘Riley’ many times.
“Even though most of my siblings were out of the house by the time I got to high school, they all came back to different games or matches to cheer me on. They practiced and played with me and taught me how to be a team player. It is a great family to be a part of and I’m thankful that my mom wanted a brother for Riley so that I could be here today.”