Brad Jaeger received a taste of high school coaching last spring when he assisted with the South Whidbey softball team; now he will get the full meal.
Jaeger is taking over the Falcon club this year, replacing interim coach Heather Collins.
Collins became head coach when Alexandra Walter stepped down shortly after the season started last year.
Jaeger joined Collins’ staff for the final month of the 2018 season and enjoyed working with Collins and assistant Jeff Hanson.
“I would have loved to continue working with Heather had she decided to continue coaching,” Jaeger said. “I know many of the girls and have a connection with their families from coaching them in Little League a few years back, and I hope to help them continue with success.”
Jaeger began coaching softball on Whidbey Island when his stepdaughters were taking part in the Little League program. He coached Major League and then Junior League for one year each.
“Many of these same girls that were on that (junior) team are on the current high school team,” he said. One is his stepdaughter Kayla Knauer.
Jaeger spent his younger years on Whidbey Island, then he moved to the Puyallup area when he was in the second grade and graduated from Fife High School in 1969.
He eventually moved back to Whidbey Island in 1990 as a single father to a 6-year-old daughter, thinking Whidbey “would be a good place to raise her.”
Jaeger continued his career in property management when he returned to Whidbey, eventually owning Tara Property Management South in Freeland with his wife.
He is now semi-retired, giving him time to coach the Falcons.
Jaeger picked up the softball bug after high school, playing and coaching in adult leagues for 20 years.
He was “fortunate enough to play all over the Western United States,” he said. “I created a lot of great lifelong friendships and lasting memories.”
He also coached Little League baseball right after high school and continued when he moved to Whidbey Island. After coaching junior and senior Little League boys (13 to 17 years old), he helped with the high school American League team in the late ’90s.
From then he took a break from coaching until joining his stepdaughters a few years ago.
He hopes to build success at South Whidbey High School through repetition and muscle memory.
“(They) are the cornerstones to improving defense, pitching and hitting,” he said.
Playing as one unit is also important for a team to succeed, he added.
“Teaching the kids what true team concept is takes time, but with the girls that we have and the relationships they all have with each other, it should make it easier for them to succeed and work together,” he said.
Another important element for a program to be successful over the long term is fielding a junior varsity team, Jaeger said.
“At this time, it is looking like it might be possible to have a JV team this year,” he said. “Currently, the participant numbers look like they’ll be high enough to do that this year.”
Success goes beyond winning, Jaeger said, and can be “measured in the satisfaction of the girls.”
“Did they enjoy their time? Have they improved? Did they make friends and memories? Did they tell their friends for next year?” Jaeger asked rhetorically.
“For all the years I played, I don’t remember the scores, but I remember the relationships that I had.”
One thing that will help the current team is the presence of a talented pitching coach, he said.
Jaeger will be joined on his staff by Christie (Robinson) Adragna, former Falcon pitching ace who went on to play for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
In addition to handling the pitchers, Adragna will serve as infield coach, according to Jaeger.
South Whidbey began spring practice Monday and will open the season at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Oak Harbor. The home opener follows at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 14, when Concrete visits Langley.