By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Two new coaches were introduced Tuesday during a ceremony at North Laurel High School. Haley Ratliff will become the sixth person to lead the North Laurel volleyball team. Brad Mink is the fifth softball coach since fast pitch softball was introduced.
“We are thrilled to have these two,” North Laurel Athletic Director Jimmy Durham said. “The first thing is longevity. We don’t want to do these hires again for a long time.”
Ratliff served as an assistant volleyball coach last season at North Middle. Varsity coach Ali Ray-Mahoney asked Ratliff to join her as an assistant at the high school this year. A July wedding and move to Atlanta by Mahoney made the job available for Ratliff.
“I know everybody has high expectations. All of these seniors went undefeated last year as juniors, so we’re pretty excited and don’t want to stop until we get to the state tournament,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff graduated from the University of the Cumberlands in December with an education degree. Ratliff played volleyball in high school, but chose a basketball scholarship at University of the Cumberlands. She also played softball, track, and soccer in high school.
“I did have some scholarship offers for volleyball, but I obviously took the full ride to Cumberland for a basketball scholarship,” Ratliff said.
Durham said he expects the new coach to bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the job.
“People talk about how enthusiastic I am around the girls and that draws the girls to me. I think being young and being more of a role model to them, they look up to me a lot more and listen to me more,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff will work as an assistant basketball coach for the Lady Jaguars as soon as the volleyball season ends. From there she goes directly into middle school volleyball. Ratliff says she only focuses on one sport at a time, giving it her complete attention until the season ends. She said she is already being called drill sergeant by her players because of tough workouts and practice discipline.
“I make them stand at attention with their hands behind their back,” Ratliff said. “When I want to coach something or get dedicated to it, I want the best.”
She inherits a team with seven seniors, which will make the coaching transition a little easier.
“This season I expect to go very far,” Ratliff said. “One of the girls asked me the other day, ‘When is the season over?’ I said after the state championship game is when my season is over.”
Since the inception of fast pitch softball in 1995, the Lady Jaguars have been coached by Marsha Tipton, Durham, Shane Weaver, Becky Osborne, and now Mink. Larry Bruner was the first softball coach at North Laurel when it was a slow pitch sport.
Mink comes to North Laurel via South Laurel where he was an assistant baseball coach the past two seasons. Durham said there were 12 applicants for the coaching vacancy with three selected for the final interviews.
“This is the first time we’ve had a softball coach in the building, head or assistant since I was softball coach. For us that means a lot when dealing with scheduling, contacts, academics requirements, and attendance requirements,” Durham said.
Durham said he is not concerned with Mink’s lack of softball experience with much of the same skills translating from his baseball background. Mink played at North Laurel and University of the Cumberlands.
“I had never coached softball either. I had always played softball. His knowledge base now I’m fine with and it’s only going to get better,” Durham said. “Kyle has youthful energy. He has a vision for the plan.”
North Laurel graduated six seniors from a team that failed to make the state tournament for the first time in six years. Mink plans to get the state’s winningest program back to Owensboro.
“I think my work ethic, enthusiasm, and motivation will be a good fit to get us back on track of winning state titles,” Mink said.
Mink replaces Osborne, who resigned the position due to a job transfer by her husband.