NAUGATUCK — Maribeth Ford can still remember when she told Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche she wanted to play for the softball team. It was 11 years ago.
“I was shy,” Ford recalled. “I think I said three words to him.”
After becoming a four-year varsity player and two-year captain for the Greyhounds, Ford has spent the last seven years as an assistant coach — and she continues to earn honors. Ford was named Assistant Coach of the Year by the Connecticut High School Softball Coaches Association.
“It’s a big deal,” Ford said. “I was humbled.”
Wesche presented Ford with the award on Monday night during the all-state dinner at the Aqua Turf in Southington before 700 coaches, players and peers.
“It made me very proud to give something so deserving,” said Wesche, who nominated Ford for the award. “I thought it was quite an honor.”
Making the immediate transition from player to coach, Ford has earned the respect of players and the coaching staff. Ford brought her passion from the field to the dugout as an instructor, mentor and friend.
“I think I still want to be an athlete,” Ford said. “I can’t stand still when I’m in the coach’s box. My energy is still there.”
As a player, Ford earned All-NVL and Academic All-State honors during her senior year. But even as a player, Ford had to overcome adversity.
Ford had only one hit during her junior season. As a senior, she led the team in that category.
The switch from player to coach has its challenges. Ford had to coach some of her former teammates during her first few seasons and dealt with being close in age.
She said she tries to make every word count when talking to a player.
“I try to be realistic with the kids,” Ford said. “When I say things, I’m not saying it just to talk. I want it to be meaningful.”
Ford gave credit to Wesche as her coaching role model and said she has learned a lot from him.
“I think the hardest part is just getting to know your players — trying to understand each athlete,” Ford said. “Kevin has mastered that. I couldn’t imagine coaching without him.”