By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
With the high school sports season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Citizen’s News is highlighting longtime coaches at Naugatuck and Woodland high schools who patrol the sidelines during the spring. This week, we shine the spotlight on Naugatuck softball coach Kevin Wesche.
NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High coach Kevin Wesche has all the familiar coaching philosophies: there is strength in numbers, teamwork makes dream work, no substitution for hard work, embrace your opportunities, be humble, win and lose with class.
But the longtime coach and applied education teacher at the high school also sees the bigger picture beyond the wins and losses. He looks to teach the values of respect, kindness, building character and developing friendships through a family atmosphere that helps mold athletes into the leaders of tomorrow.
“I try and teach the kids to fear no one, but respect everyone. You try and teach them to be leaders, and in that family type of atmosphere they learn to become a member of something that is larger than themselves,” said Wesche, who coaches softball and volleyball for the Greyhounds. “That in itself is the most important lesson you can teach them.”
That family bond has been first and foremost for Wesche’s teams over the years, sometimes literally.
Wesche’s son, Brandon, a 2004 Naugatuck graduate, played basketball for his father. His youngest daughter, Alaina, played softball and graduated from Naugatuck in 2009. Wesche’s oldest daughter, Andrea, graduated from Seymour in 2001.
That family environment that Wesche builds breeds success. In all his time building that atmosphere, his teams have amassed over 500 wins.
Wesche began patrolling the sidelines on the basketball court 32 years ago as an assistant coach for then-boys head coach Joe DiStasio. After seven seasons, he took over as head coach and led the Greyhounds for 15 seasons until 2010.
In 1998 and 1999, the boys basketball team reached the Class LL quarterfinals with now-head coach Mike Wilson leading the team in scoring.
Wesche spent a dozen seasons as an assistant volleyball coach under the late Fred Scheithe before taking the helm in the 2013 season. Last season, the Greyhounds won the program’s first Naugatuck Valley League title in 21 years by knocking off top-seeded Seymour, 3-2, in a thrilling match.
Wesche has also had his share of success over 18 years coaching softball. The 2008 NVL champion softball team went all the way to the Class LL championship game, where the Greyhounds lost 1-0 to Masuk. The team finished the season 24-4. The following year, the Greyhounds made it back to the LL semifinals.
Armed with All-State pitcher Alyssa Roberts and All-State catcher Kendall Allen, the Greyhounds were looking forward to taking the field this season; two years removed from reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
“It’s unfortunate, especially for the seniors, that the spring sports seasons have been cancelled,” Wesche said. “But I’m a firm believer that if you can master the small things, the big things will take care of itself.”
Wesche credited the success over the years to the people around him.
“I’m a believer that if you surround yourself with great people, great things will happen,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to have had those kind of relationships in sports.”
Scheithe served as Wesche’s assistant softball coach for 10 seasons; a reversal in roles from the volleyball court.
“That is not the usual circumstance, but we worked well together and we developed some very good teams,” Wesche said.
“Maribeth Ford played four years of softball for me and has been my assistant coach for 13 seasons,” he added. “This would have been my 18th season, so she has been there from the start.”
Looking back on his years of coaching, Wesche said every sport presents its own unique challenges.
“I’m very competitive by nature, so I enjoy the different seasons and I don’t really have a favorite sport, per say,” he said. “I really enjoyed coaching my kids when they were growing up and we have a lot of cherished memories over the years.”