In five years as an assistant coach in the Prairie Ridge softball program, Jan Brown had former varsity coach Mike Buck's coaching knowledge at her disposal.
Now Brown will take over for Buck as varsity softball coach. Buck retired after the 2017 season after 20 years coaching Prairie Ridge and about 40 years in coaching.
Brown takes over a Prairie Ridge team this spring that went 23-8 last season.
“It’s an exciting time for me,” Brown said. “I’m happy that (Prairie Ridge athletic director) Mark Gilbert was confident enough to offer me the job. I’m excited. It will be a good season. It will be fun.”
Buck had been the softball coach since Prairie Ridge opened in 1997. The Wolves won three regional titles in his tenure, along with a sectional title in 2009, when they went 33-6.
Brown spent the past four seasons as a varsity assistant after serving as freshman coach her first year with the program. She said she is grateful for everything she learned under Buck and that his softball knowledge will be missed.
“He’s the best,” Brown said. “He’s taught me a lot. There’s so many strategies to the game. He’s synonymous with PR softball. He knows the game so well — so in-and-out. He’s been a very good role model for me. Big shoes to fill, for sure.”
Buck also was an umpire, which allowed him to really know the nuances of the rules.
Brown, 46, played softball growing up and at Division III Augustana College in Rock Island. She lives with her family in Crystal Lake. She works in District 155’s STRIVE program at Prairie Ridge, which assists students who need additional support beyond high school.
As far as softball goes, she hopes to keep doing things the way Buck did.
“I’m hoping to have it pretty much be status quo and keep it positive,” Brown said. “Not concentrate as much on the wins and losses because I think that will really take care of itself as long as they work hard at practice.”
A familiarity with the players already in the program will help make the transition smooth, too.
“I’m pretty familiar with the girls that will be on varsity,” Brown said. “I’m going to just emphasize keeping the good character and keeping a really positive atmosphere. I think if that’s the case, we will do well.”