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Coach Potter mentors team on and off the field

Coach Brian Potter stands in front of a limestone sign showing the softball team's state championship titles. Photo by Chandler Williams
Coach Brian Potter stands in front of a limestone sign showing the softball team’s state championship titles. Photo by Chandler Williams

The Chase County softball team won the last four 2A state championships. All six of the graduating seniors are going to college in the fall and received scholarships for academics and softball. Coach Brian Potter shares his experience as the coach of a championship team, giving the credit to the hard work of his players.

How long have you coached high school softball?  Five years.

How long have you lived in Chase County? My entire life; my family has lived in Chase County for at least four generations.

Why did you decide to start coaching? I played baseball growing up and a little bit in college. I have always been interested in helping kids, and so it kind of led into coaching.

What is your favorite part about coaching? The stuff I tell the kids is every time I see them succeed and watching them grow. I remember when they hit their first home run, when they strike out their first batter, when they pitch their first perfect game, when they make their first, as we call it, “ESPN play.” I remember the look on their faces and how they feel, and all of those memories are why I do it. Seeing them grow, succeed and turn into athletes that compete and win at the state level is why I do it. It is really exciting for me, and that’s why I coach.

Megan Jirak, Tori Burkhart and Brianna Potter celebrate winning four state championships during their high school softball career for Chase County Softball Team. All three girls plan on attending college in the fall. Photo by Chandler Williams
Megan Jirak, Tori Burkhart and Brianna Potter celebrate winning four state championships during their high school softball career for Chase County Softball Team. All three girls plan on attending college in the fall. Photo by Chandler Williams

What is a great coach? I don’t know because I don’t know if I’m a great coach; I just kind of go along for the ride. First of all, you have to have a passion to teach kids. You have to have a love of the game. You have to be willing to dedicate yourself to it. You have to have the ability to gain the respect of the kids you coach and their parents. And you have to have a lot of help from the guy upstairs, too. And you have got to have the support of the community you live in.

How has the community supported the softball team? Our fan base is huge for such a small town. There are so many members of the community who have no affiliation to any of the kids, but they are here at the field. They travel on the road just to watch, as well. We have at least four times the fan base the other teams have at the state tournament. This team would not be as successful as they are without the support of the community or their school district. The booster club feeds our girls at every game on the road. We broke the Kansas Hall of Fame record for the most consecutive wins, and (members of the community) sponsored the radio station and brought them, and it was the first-ever radio broadcast of a softball game during the regular season. We had three different TV stations there, as well. The community finances that…We have one of the best fields in the state and that’s because they are willing to put the money into having facilities for the kids.

What’s it like having your daughter on the team? Tough. She probably gets a little bit more critiquing. I know that she can accept me getting on her probably more than anybody else. Every parent would probably tell you, over the years I have been far tougher on her than any other player on the team. You really have to build that respect from the other parents and the other team members, and she understood that. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t trade it, the opportunity to spend all that time together and the state championship game was pretty special. She had a phenomenal game day, and it was pretty neat to be that close to it.

What challenges does the team face? As you win, the target on the back becomes even bigger, and you normally get everybody’s best game, and it is tough when you are playing to not let down even once because one let down turns into a loss, and then that streak would end… That’s a challenge for the kids to endure that every time they go out on the field.

How do you face those challenges? You take it for what it is, and you have to express the fact to those girls that it is fun. You are doing this because you love to play the game. And at the end of the day it is so much fun. So don’t forget that.

What do you tell the girls when they are not playing well? I’m notorious for when things are about to go bad, we have runners in scoring position, and I go out on the field and don’t even talk about softball. I pull them all together, and by the time I leave, they’re laughing. We are out here and having a good time doing this. Your athletic ability and what you have learned all these years will carry you through as long as you have a good time, play with energy and you stay aggressive. Don’t ever let yourself be disappointed in the performance you are about to give.

What do you do with the girls outside of softball off of the softball field? ….I also help plenty of the kids with their homework. For me, it’s really about the education, and it’s about the character of the girls. It’s not all about the game of softball; softball is a vehicle, and it’s about getting the kids to the next level so that they can take what they learn in the game of softball and apply that to their marriage, career, faith or their children.

What do you believe softball teaches you? It teaches you, one, to work hard. In order to be a four-time state champion team, you cannot do that without a ton of hard work. And that doesn’t just mean at practice; that means on your own and really dedicating yourself to the game. In the game of softball you learn to be a good teammate and you learn to make sacrifices for maybe what is not best for you but maybe best for the team. There are girls who started as sophomores as shortstop, but their senior year were in the outfield or vise-versa, and that’s because, based on that team, it is what was best for the team. They all have their favorite positions, but they have to able to to sacrifice for their teammates so they learn about that. They learn how to be a good teammate and a good team member to build a strong, united front.

They also learn about character and there is a right and a wrong way to win and there is a right and a wrong way to lose the game. They learn to respect the other team, to respect the authority of the umpires and of the coaches….

What is something you would like the girls to remember for the rest of their lives from what they learned playing softball?  I wrote this huge speech for them on senior night… Always keep that glove around because when you open that thing up there are a lot of memories that most people can only dream about. Those memories will come in handy when you need it. And remember what it felt like to be that successful, and know that being that successful, and all those things that are so important to you, you have already done it; you know how to get there; you know how to do it. Just make sure you do it. There is not necessarily going to be somebody right there pushing you, but now you have the tools to push yourself.

Megan Jirak plays short-stop for four-time state champions, Chase County Softball Team.  Jirak plans on playing volleyball for Barton County Community College in the fall.
Megan Jirak plays short-stop for four-time state champions, Chase County Softball Team. Jirak plans on playing volleyball for Barton County Community College in the fall.
Brianna Potter plays pitcher and firt base for Chase County Softball Team. Potter recieved a scholarship to play for Garden City Community College in the fall.
Brianna Potter plays pitcher and firt base for Chase County Softball Team. Potter recieved a scholarship to play for Garden City Community College in the fall.
Tori Burkhart plays first base and pitcher for the Chase County Softball Team. The girls won the past four state championships.
Tori Burkhart plays first base and pitcher for the Chase County Softball Team. The girls won the past four state championships.