Hollis column: Royals' former softball coach made the right choice, but she'll be missed

Published: Saturday, March 15 2014 2:45 p.m. MDT

ROY — When Roy High School's softball team takes the field this season, someone will be missing — someone who's been very special to the program for a long time. Someone who has played a huge role in all four of the school's state softball championships.

Mandy Koford, who pitched the Royals to their first state title in 1998 and coached them to three more state championships in a four-year span from 2009-12, won't be in the team's dugout this year.

After having her third child last year, she faced a dilemma: Should she continue coaching, where her father, Stan Flint, and older brother, Travis, had served as assistant coaches in a fun-filled family endeavor that had been so dang much fun — and so darned successful? Or should she devote more time to the needs of her growing family?

In the end, she knows she made the right choice.

"Last year, I just felt like I was being pulled in two directions," she said. "I had both these two great things in my life — a great opportunity to coach, and three great kids and a wonderful husband — and I felt like I was doing them both a disservice. I felt like I was not doing a good job at either one.

"I felt guilty doing both of them because I wasn't giving either one of them what they deserved. But I knew if I quit coaching, I could give the softball team an opportunity to have another coach they could love and someone who would be the coach they deserved to have."

So, after piling up a glossy record of 163-65 (.715) over a glory-filled, eight-year run that included state championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012, a state tournament runner-up showing in 2010, a third-place finish in 2007, four region titles and eight straight state tournament appearances, she stepped aside.

Yep, it was a great ride, getting to coach the Royals' proud program each year with the tremendous help of her knowledgeable dad, who was once one of the premier men's fast-pitch pitchers in the state, and her brother, a former all-conference baseball player at the University of Utah.

What's more, Mandy's niece, Travis' daughter Macauley Flint, helped make it even more of an "all in the family" atmosphere by pitching the Royals to state titles in 2009 and 2011, and to their second-place finish in 2010. She now pitches for Weber State after a junior college All-American career at Salt Lake Community College.

Mandy misses coaching already, especially those countless hours spent with her dad and brother. And, of course, the kids she got to coach.

"Growing up, I idolized Travis," she said of her brother, who's now the Royals' head baseball coach. "He was the smoothest talker in the world and he was brilliant. When I'd watch him coach, he would inspire greatness in kids and teach ’em all this wonderful stuff about the game.

"And then there's my father, who's a whirlwind of emotion and energy and knowledge himself. I feel like the smartest thing I ever did was knowing who to hire on as my coaching staff. When they were done, Kelly Aiken came on to help me, and she was great, too.

"So I was just a lucky person," Koford said. "By no means was this about me. I just got to reap the benefits of it all. I made so many awesome friends and I love these kids so much. I'm the luckiest person around."

But when it comes right down to it, there may not be anything more important in this world than being a good mom. And Mandy knew it.

"All season long last year, I felt this building up," she said. "I wanted to make it work, but I knew something had to give. I told the girls at the team banquet last year that it would be my last year, and it was rough. They were shocked, they didn't see it coming.