By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Brian Kadel wasn’t supposed to come back to coach the Miami East softball team.
Not quite yet, at least.
Kadel — who coached the Vikings to the regional tournament twice during his first seven-year stint with the team from 2009-2015 — returned to Miami East after a two-year absence this season to coach a Viking squad that struggled after his departure, not winning a game in the 2017 season. And even though the season had special and odd challenges to deal with, like the weather to kick things off, the team showed improvements — and Kadel hopes to see even more in the coming years.
For Kadel, the plan was always to come back, just not this soon.
“I wasn’t thinking about coming back this quick,” he said. “But when I heard they were going to be moving in a different direction, my daughter is getting closer and closer to being in high school, I decided that now was the time. I had a conversation with my wife (Jennifer) and kids, and they all wanted me to go back. With their support, it kind of made it an easier decision.”
Kadel coached the Vikings from 2009-2015, winning two Cross County Conference championships in his first two seasons and coaching the team to the Division III regional semifinal round in 2010 and 2013. One of the reasons he left originally was to focus on coaching his daughters, Abigail and Jacqueline, on their travel teams. But with Abigail in sixth grade and Jacqueline in fifth, and the Vikings in need of a coach after a winless season, Kadel saw an opportunity to get a head start.
“It won’t be too long before they’re up there,” Kadel said. “And one of the other things I needed was Kevin Accurso, I wanted to make sure he could come back and coach with me. It took us a little bit to get back into the high school mindset. We’d coached together in the summer on my daughters’ travel teams — which was one of the main reasons I stopped coaching, so I could work with my son and two daughters more. High school’s a bit different game than travel ball. But after a few weeks, we kind of got settled in.”
But the way the 2018 season began made it even tougher. Cold temperatures and even snow that lasted throughout April caused an extraordinary number of cancellations, and it took almost two full weeks before the Vikings got their first game in — with their first seven games being postponed.
“It was interesting,” Kadel said. “Taking over a program, you’re kind of hoping to get some things in place, some routine. If you’ve been there a while, it’s a little bit easier to handle those situations. But everybody was in the same boat, couldn’t get outside and practice or play games, so you had to try to make the best of what you had. And that’s what we tried to do.”
And after a winless season, the team was extra anxious to get back on the field and work on erasing those memories.
“There were some different challenges that you might not expect,” Kadel said. “Working on the mental game of softball and trying to get them to come in expecting to compete in games but not worry about the scoreboard, getting them to focus on trying to play the game the right way, do their job and let the outcome take care of itself was kind of a challenge. We’d see them looking at the scoreboard and worrying about that, and softball is a game of failures. There’s a lot of adversity you’re going to face every game, and how you respond to that, we were trying to get them to understand, is more important than what the final outcome may be or anything else you’re going to do in a game.”
Once the Vikings did get onto the field, though, they showed improvements immediately, winning their first game against Tri-Village convincingly, 13-3. But to Kadel, the pressure didn’t ease there.
“I don’t know if it really took any weight off of me or coach Accurso,” he said. “We had the expectation that we wanted to come in and win that game. We thought we were prepared to win. The girls were thrilled and excited, but we went to Versailles the next game and didn’t play very well. From there, they knew it was going to be a journey, not a sprint to the finish and all of a sudden everything was going to change.
“But we made good progress throughout the season. After a tough loss to Bradford (12-2 Thursday night) where we were in it for four innings, we kind of thought that we’ve made a lot of progress that the scoreboard doesn’t always show. We’re making less errors, we’re completing plays, our pitching has gotten better. The girls wanted more wins, but we’re trying to get them to understand that it is a process, and we’re making good strides.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.