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Either Win or Learn - from The Messenger

February 27, 2019


Andi Adams, FDSH coach and Jean Berger, IGHSAU directorAndi Adams still subscribes to the tried and true principles that helped her become a Hall of Fame-level softball coach.

Fort Dodge's all-time leader in career victories doesn't look back much these days, though. Adams readily admits that in order for her program to remain a true contender, she has to embrace all of the ways the game has evolved on the field and even changed away from the action.

"I still believe in the most important aspects of softball and what it teaches you: the value of hard work, discipline, commitment and relationships," said Adams, who was formally recognized last week as both the Iowa Coach of the Year and the Central Region National Coach of the Year. "In sports, you never lose. You either win or you learn. If I had to choose a mantra for our program, that would be it.

"I've also had to do my fair share of changing, both strategically and in the way players are treated. It's a new world, with social media, smart phones and travel ball being so prevalent. A lot has changed just in the last five to 10 years."

Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Jean Berger visited Fort Dodge for an all-school assembly to honor Adams, the state wrestling team and the girls state champion bowling squad in the Dodger gym last Friday. Adams' FDSH squad went 36-8 last summer and reached the state quarterfinals in Class 5A - the ninth time the Dodgers have advanced to Rogers Park during her 18-year tenure.

Known in the past for her grinding practices and unrelenting competitiveness, Adams is more about "finding a balance and making sure players know you have their back if they're putting in the effort" in 2019.

"I'm still convinced that kids want to be coached and held accountable for their actions," said Adams, who has a 571-262 record at FDSH and is 624-295 overall. "But you have to do that in different ways now. There isn't a 'one size fits all' approach. And if you're going to push them, you also have to know when to praise them.

"(Young athletes) have to be so much more aware of their actions and words these days, and you really have to include that as part of how you prepare them as a coach. People are always watching, and the wrong response to a situation can spread like wildfire on social media. You could be a hero one minute, and out of the game altogether the next."

Adams, a member of both the Webster City High School and Buena Vista University Hall of Fame, appreciates her peers and mentors now more than ever as she enters the third decade of her coaching career.

"When I was young, I thought I had all the answers," Adams said. "But the older I got, the more I listened to what people like Dave Hilton (of Webster City), Tom Bakey (of West Des Moines Valley), Dave Lee (of BCLUW), or Steve Schlafke (of Dallas Center-Grimes) had to say in the way they treated and approached the game.

"It's great to get a different perspective, and you also see how many ways the game is respected. So that's what you want to pass along to your players: to respect the game, officials, and other coaches and players. You never know when you might cross paths again."

Adams was "incredibly honored" to have Berger in attendance and presenting the awards.

"For her to come up here just for that ... there's just something about her passion and enthusiasm for the Iowa girl that pulls me in," Adams said. "I want to be a part of that momentum. She is a role model to all of us. We've had quite a few conversations about how I could help (the IGHSAU) inspire the next generation of female coaches, officials and administrators, and I'm more than willing to try. There's nothing I love more than getting kids to believe in themselves."

Adams, who currently ranks as the third-winningest female coach in Iowa, "can't thank those who have supported our program from this community enough."

"I'm a Dodger at my core," Adams said. "I love this town and what it represents. The parents who believe in us and trust us to take care of their child and help them reach their full potential ... nothing motivates me more.

"This isn't just about teaching softball. This is about learning how to be a leader in life: a strong young woman who isn't making excuses, but taking ownership of her actions. I hope that's something our players take with them for the rest of their lives after they graduate (from FDSH)."

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