Former Lampeter-Strasburg Softball Head Coach Gene Charles reflects on his career
It still hasn't sunk in for recent retiree Coach Gene Charles, it probably won't for the month of March. While he is playing golf and spending time with kids and grand-kids, most spring athletes are battling the typically cold weather that March (and April) brings. “I don’t miss it now, I will miss it later in the year, it hasn’t sunk in yet” Coach Charles said.
For those that do not know, Gene Charles was the Head Coach for the Lady Pioneers for the past 5 seasons and retired after bringing LS their first state championship. While the Head Coach from 2017-2021 Gene was an assistant for over 17 years taking over for his good friend Tim Shoff and would go on to set a number of school records.
Coach Charles is an LS native who under his tutelage has sent numerous kids to college including Hannah and Julz Garber who are both playing at the University of Delaware. “I will be out there to watch them play this season, you can bet on that” Coach replied.
During his tenure as Head Softball Coach, the Lady Pioneers won three section titles (1 in Section 3, 2 in Section 2), one District championship and two State Championships in 2018 and 2021. Posting an overall record of 103 wins and 15 losses, Coach had nothing but praise for his squad “I had a lot of talent, that took instruction well, knew our system and they followed it”. Coach Charles learned from many in the LS community on how to lead, including Former Football Head Coach Jon Mannion who was an assistant with him back with their JV squad. “The main thing Coach Mannion taught me was how to lead different characters throughout my team”.
What Gene grew most tired of was the blowouts, obviously he did not want to show bad sportsmanship, but he also had to deal with parents of his own team. Many games he was being bothered by parents of his own team about the lack of at bats they were getting. “I was trying to not embarrass anyone and at the same time I would want our younger kids/backups to get some playing time too” Coach Charles said “I would have parents asking me how come so and so only had 1 at bat?” We would be up 10-0 after 1 or 2 innings. I wasn't about to have my starters in much longer. I certainly won't miss the parents coming up to me after a win asking those questions”.
Speaking with Gene last night, he won't miss the blowouts, bad March Weather or needy parents, he will miss the classic rivalries his Lady Pioneers gathered “I will miss facing the Hem11pfield’s, Penn Manors, Warwick, Solanco and Etown every year, we sure had some classic battles. I won't miss the blowouts, rough weather or everything else''. Coach Charles will also miss the decade long rivalry the Pioneers established with Donegal. Both teams won state championships during his tenure and had some classic battles that he will never forget.
Three straight years in the State Finals (excluding 2020 due to Covid, which Coach Charles believes may have been his best team) LS would send him off into retirement in style with their 2021 State Championship team. In the process the Lady Pioneers set a school record in wins (30) and won not only their Section, but the league and district titles as well. It all came together for Coach Charles in his final season, anchored by what he called his three amigos (Cam Byler, Daisy Frank and Chloe Blantz) the Pioneers were champions of all of Pennsylvania. “I'm proud of the fact we won everything, sections, leagues, districts and states”. Coach Charles said.
The three Amigos Byler, Frank and Blantz (playing for Delaware this Spring) started all four years for Coach, they were on the same journey with him for a title. All three played on Section winning, state finalist squads, unfortunately due to Covid their Junior seasons did not happen. Needless to say Coach Charles had this to say about the trio “How often can you say about that group you played in the state finals every year.” Regardless of whether the profession coach is right, how often can a group of freshmen say that they have played in a championship game every season, it rarely happens.
While retiring from coaching, Gene still maintains his full time Ceramic Title business, he is excited to play more golf, spending more time with his yard-work and enjoying being a grandpa. Coach Charles is the perfect message for staying committed to what you do best and good things will happen.