National Coach of the Year

Ellis is national Coach of Year
The Arizona Republic / July 6, 2002

When Nancy Ellis started coaching high school softball in 1968, she never expected her career to end like this.

Ellis retired as coach of Mesa Dobson High's softball team June 18 after more than three decades as a coach. Ten days later she was named national Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association.

"It's more than I ever thought I'd get," Ellis said. "You just don't think about winning something like this. Probably the biggest is that I retired just 10 days before the presentation, but nobody knew I was
retiring. It was decided before I announced my retirement. It was cool, it wasn't a 'she's retiring, let's give it to her' thing.

"It's just a perfect finish to a great career. You can't get any higher than that. I was inducted into the Arizona coaches' Hall of Fame in 1996, and I thought that was as high as I would go. I hadn't thought about winning something for the entire country."

Ellis has been the association's Region 8 (representing Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah) Coach of the Year four times, including this year. Her teams at Dobson have won three region championships and one state title.

Overall her teams have a 570-334 record (340-230 at Dobson) and have won 10 region championships and state titles in 1970 and 1990.

Ellis caps career with top award

It wasn’t live, but a Memorex-type experience was just fine for retired Dobson High School softball coach Nancy Ellis.

Ellis, a longtime coach at Dobson, Mesa High and in
California, for the first time this summer missed a National High School Athletic Coaches Association coaching clinic and convention she faithfully attended. Ellis missed the gathering to care for her parents.

At the convention, she was announced on June 28 as the NHSACA coach of the year for 2002. Shortly afterward, she received a phone call with the news.

As one of eight region coaches of the year, Ellis was
automatically nominated for the national honor.

‘‘What’s outstanding is the award was decided before my retirement was announced,’’ Ellis, a 33-year coaching veteran, said. ‘‘The process begins in January. I have always told myself I would never retire during the middle of a season. I’d wait until the season was over, weigh the decision with no distractions. . . . Winning this is a fantastic thing to finish off my career in softball.’’

This year’s regional coaching award was Ellis’ fourth such honor (she also won region honors in 1993, 1996 and 1998). Her career coaching record is 570 wins and 334 losses; 340 of the wins coming at Dobson.

Ellis, whose teams won 10 region titles and two state
titles, has maintained the same exuberance for softball
and sports in general throughout her career. She said a
key to her longevity was not taking things too seriously.

‘‘If you’re going to stick around doing anything for 33 years you need to keep an even keel,’’ Ellis said. ‘‘Sometimes you forget about all the people you touched, and those who have touched you. But you look back and realize it and remember how much fun you had.’’

One concern Ellis has in her retirement is who will take
watch over Red Mountain softball coach Rich Pikosz.
Pikosz is known for getting animated on occasion during a game. Ellis wants to know a calming influence will be on hand when those occasions arise.

‘‘I know a few times when we played them he’d be close to blowing a gasket over a call,’’ Ellis said, tongue-in-cheek. ‘‘I'd walk over to the third-base coaching box and tell his girls in the dugout if it becomes an emergency situation, I know CPR. I’m there to help.’’

Just as she’s been for the last 33 years.

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