Prep Softball

Coach of the Year: Shifting gears leads Eagles' Short to 'dream come true'

In his first season as the Knox County head softball coach, Zach Short led the Eagles to a third-place finish at the Class 1 state tournament. | Photo courtesy Tara Mason
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 8, 2019 1:20 am Updated: Jun. 8, 2019 1:28 am

EDINA, Mo.

The nights grew long.

Zach Short's move to Knox County and the start of his teaching career coincided with finishing his work on a master's degree in education. An assistant boys basketball coach at the time, Short traveled with the Eagles to all road games, leaving little time some nights for his own homework and other duties until the clock pushed past midnight.

He'd stay up late, grading papers for his students and writing papers for his master's courses with nary a complaint to be heard.

"I never felt it was too much," Short said. "I felt it was just where I needed to be and just what I wanted to do."

It's why he left the comforts of Hancock County -- he grew up in Hamilton and was the editor of the Hancock County Journal-Pilot before shifting gears -- and hauled his life across Highway 6 to be a teacher and a coach.

"I knew I wanted to be around young individuals academically and athletically and help support them and advocate for them and mold them the best I could," Short said. "It's been a dream come true."

And a leap of faith where he landed squarely on both feet.

Short is the head coach for two programs -- softball and boys basketball -- at Knox County and is leaving a lasting imprint on both.

Last fall, in his first season in charge of the softball program, Short guided the Eagles to a third-place finish in the Class 1 state tournament, one of the main reasons he's been named the 2019 Herald-Whig Coach of the year.

"To work with these kids every day, to spend time in the gym with them or get in the dirt with them, it's a blessing," Short said. "I count my blessings every day, and being a part of this district is one of the big ones."

Being a part of a trophy-winning team is another blessing.

The Eagles went 19-5-1 and the third-place finish was the best in program history after two previous state tournament appearances in 1981 and 2012 resulted in fourth-place trophies.

"There were so many different personalities and so many different kinds of skill sets, that no matter which way you looked at it or how you flipped a coin, they call came together really well," Short said. "This was a senior-led team, and I think they knew it was now or never.

"I don't think there was ever any sense of urgency. It was just determination."

The Eagles did whatever was needed to reach their goal.

"There was not one drill I threw at them or not one time I challenged them and pushed them where they really fought back," Short said. "They bowed their neck and said, ‘This is what we need to do and we're going to do it.'"

That's the legacy they leave behind.

"I'm already seeing it with the younger girls and the things we're doing in summer camps," Short said. "It's that impact, as much as the trophy in the trophy case, that will carry on."

And it fuels Short's desire to coach, teach, motivate and thrive.

"No one is going to say a bus trip to one of these conference games is the most comfortable thing in the world," Short said. "You tend not to notice it when you're preparing and playing. Whether you're successful with a win and learning from a loss, you don't mind it. When you love it and it's what you want to do, you don't look at it as a negative.

"Everything here is a positive. I get to see these kids in the classroom and in the hallways and when we're doing summer stuff. That just means the world to me."