BOONVILLE - After 13 years as the face of the Starmount softball program, Heather Courts is starting a new career as a full-time mother.
Courts officially resigned from her position as the Lady Rams’ head softball coach Tuesday, saying she wants to spend more time with her 21-month-old daughter Cooper and her family.
“Ever since my daughter was born, it has been on my mind about what to do,” Courts explained. “When I got pregnant, everyone kept telling me that [doing both] was going to be too much and it was going to be too much time away. I kept saying ‘no, no, no…softball has been my life.’ I’ve been playing since I was eight years old and I actually started coaching when I was 16 with my dad, so this is all I’ve ever done.
“For my entire life, I just never thought that I would even think about making this decision until I was old and retired. But then ‘Miss Cooper’ came along,” she added.
Courts said the demanding practice and game schedule, combined with her husband’s work schedule, has led her to this decision.
“Last season was hard,” she said. “Cooper was smaller and my brother-in-law helped me in watching her, that way I didn’t have to take her to as many games. My husband’s work schedule wasn’t as busy last year either. It seems like every game this year, he had to work.
“He works in Thomasville, we live in Clemmons, my baby-sitter is in Ronda and I teach here, so I’ve been running myself to death for the past two years,” Courts continued. “But when I got to thinking about it and how fast times goes by, it was just too much.”
After informing athletic director Scott Carter of her decision, the West Virginia native had to break the news to the team, something she said was “awful.”
“When I told my girls Tuesday, I told them that I absolutely love softball and that I love them, but I love my daughter more,” she explained. “On practice days, we don’t get home until 7:00 and she goes to bed at 9:00, so there’s no time. And then you play two or three games a week. It was a decision that I never thought I would make until she came.
“It killed me when I had to tell them,” Courts added. “I don’t like to see them upset period, but when I’m the one who tells them something to make them upset, it just makes it awful. They’re a good group of kids.”
Since the program’s inception 15 years ago, Courts has been the head coach for 13 of those seasons. During her tenure, she has turned Starmount into a perennial softball power in the 2A playoffs, making her resignation even harder.
“[My time here] has gone by extremely fast,” she said. “I’ve been at Starmount for 14 years and the coach here for 13. We’ve only had fast-pitch here 15 years and I’ve been the coach for 13, so this program is really my program.
“It’s been an adventure,” Courts continued. “Our program has really grown over the years, and it’s all been because I’ve had great kids and great assistant coaches. That makes it hard to give it up.”
Before stepping down, Courts reflected on her time as the coach in Boonville. After reliving 13 seasons of games, players and championships, she was able to narrow it down to two of her greatest memories.
“There’s probably two,” she began to recite, as if the game was last week. “The first, in 2003, we played East Surry to go to the state finals. I had a little girl that year name Melia Pinnix. She had torn her ACL in basketball and didn’t get to play much that season, and had come back about a week before that playoff game. I had Yancy Moose on the mound and she pitched 12 innings.
“We had a runner on third and Melia comes up - had maybe one or two at-bats all season - and hits a single and we score to go to Raleigh for the first time,” Courts added. “It was awesome.”
The second centered around a friendly rivalry with county-foe Forbush and head coach Rachel Davis.
“Two years ago when we went to the state finals, we had to beat Forbush to get there,” Courts said. “Rachel and I are really good friends, but we always want to beat the crap out of each other; that is just the competitive nature we have. But two years ago when those girls beat Forbush to go back, that was pretty awesome.”
In her career, Courts compiled an impressive 230-111 mark at the helm, including the two trips to the state finals in 2003 and 2010. While never winning a state title, the Rams finished third and fourth, respectively, in those two seasons. Starmount captured a conference crown four times during her tenure.
This past season, Courts’ final squad racked up an 18-6 record en route to the top 2A seed from the Mountain Valley Conference. The Rams advanced into the second round of the 2A state playoffs, falling to West Stokes May 16 to cap their season. Starmount blew past Carver 25-0 in the opening round.
Also resigning are assistant coaches Kimberly Swisher and Chubby Cave. Swisher accepted a position at Elkin Middle School, while, according to Courts, Cave said he would step down when she did.
“We all made this decision for our families,” Courts said. “We told the girls that if you’ve learned absolutely nothing else from us, please learn that your family comes first.”
Courts will remain at Starmount and serve as the assistant athletic director and physical education teacher, but says she doesn’t even know she is without softball.
“It still hasn’t really sunk it yet. I’m going to miss it; I know I’m going to miss it,” she said. “In a few years, my little one will start to play sports and I’m not going to miss a minute of it. It’s just amazing how much she can change your world. I never listened to all those people talking until it hit home. I don’t even know who I am without softball - I know I’m Cooper’s mom - but other than that, I don’t know.
“This is the best thing for me and her. And of course, there’s my husband who has been on the back-burner since we’ve met,” Courts continued. “Every spring he doesn’t know who I am anyway, so we might actually get to see each other now.”
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.