Softball’s head coach reflects on wide- ranging career

Softball head coach Shae Wesley’s career has varied widely – and it’s brought her from the Special Olympics to Boone.

At Illinois State, Wesley earned All-American honors. At Heartland Community College, she was named NJCAA Coach of the Year in 2009 and led her team to a national championship.

But all success aside, Wesley chose at one point to leave the game she loved.

While Wesley was head coach at Heartland, she also served as Young Athletes Coordinator for Special Olympics-Illinois.

As coordinator, Wesley traveled around Illinois helping to coordinate events and train athletes. But the job was made difficult by the state’s geography, and Wesley found herself making five hour trips regularly.

She continued serving as Heartland’s head coach and the Special Olympics’ coordinator for around four months, but eventually realized there weren’t enough hours in the day.

“Unfortunately, either my athletes at Special Olympics would have to suffer a little bit, or my players that I coached at Heartland,” Wesley said. “And it wasn’t fair to either group.”

Upon this realization, Wesley had to decide between the two organizations she cared about most. She ultimately chose to quit coaching softball and dedicate her time to the Special Olympics.

Wesley loved many things about her time with the Special Olympics, but said she most enjoyed working with children and their parents.

“The best part about it was working with young individuals that have a disability, and also working with their parents – just for them to see that their child can do things, because a lot of times the parents have just been told what their children couldn’t do,” she said.

Eventually though, Wesley made her way to Boone. Though she loved working with the Special Olympics, the call from Appalachian to become head softball coach was too good to pass up.

“I missed coaching,” Wesley said. “It was not a decision made overnight. It took weeks and weeks of wrestling with it trying to find a way to make it work. Once coaching gets in your blood, it is really hard to get it out.”

Though softball has touched Wesley’s life in a variety of ways, nothing stands out more than the people she’s met.

“I had the opportunity to play against pretty much every national team there is on the globe,” she said. “Because of softball I have gone to Paris, to Holland and played. I was in New Zealand for six months where I lived and played there. It’s taken me to a national title and it is what has brought me to Boone, so to pinpoint which moment is hard to do. But I would say overall the thing that sticks out the most is the people I have met along the way and the friendships I have been able to develop.”

Story: ETHAN JOYCE, Intern Sports Reporter