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updated: 3/21/2013 4:53 PM

Maisto embraces changes in second go-round as a head coach

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  • Erica Maisto, right, is hugged by her sister Jordan after Erica set the Burlington Central career pitching wins record in 2008. At far left is their dad, Wade, an assistant coach then who has now taken over the program again that he was head coach of from 1984-1998.

       Erica Maisto, right, is hugged by her sister Jordan after Erica set the Burlington Central career pitching wins record in 2008. At far left is their dad, Wade, an assistant coach then who has now taken over the program again that he was head coach of from 1984-1998.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

A lot has changed since Wade Maisto "retired" as a head softball coach in 1998, including the jargon of today's student-athletes.

Like moxie being replaced by swag.

But don't think the "new" Burlington Central softball coach doesn't knows the game has changed.

"Some of the things he says and does are kind of from the older days, but he's modern too," says Rockets' senior Lauren King. "His drills are updated for what the game is now."

"He recognizes hitting has changed," added junior Bekah Harnish.

Maisto recognizes a lot has changed, especially since he first coached Central softball in 1984.

"My first go-round, kids played 14 games in an in-house league in the summer with moms and dads coaching and there was no travel ball," said Maisto, a Larkin and Illinois State graduate who took two BC teams downstate and then was Scot Sutherland's assistant in 2009 when the Rockets placed third in Class 3A.

"Now I don't know how many games they play and it's become a year-round sport. They've had a lot of coaching and it's a little more serious. Now we have girls who play year-round softball. When I started in the 80s, we had all two and three-sport athletes. The biggest thing now is you've got year-round players and it brings a different aspect to things. As a coach now, you have to earn their respect because they've had a lot of good coaching."

King and Harnish both agree that Maisto's 20-plus years of coaching softball is evident so far in this stay-inside-so-you-don't-freeze season.

"He's very knowledgeable and he has a lot of experience that's showing through at practices," King said. "We all go out there and work hard and in the end it will make us all better players."

"He focuses a lot on the mental side of the game," said Harnish, who has committed to NIU. "I like that he tells us how long practices are and we know how long it's going to be each day."

Maisto, who will retire at the end of the school year as a teacher after 33 years at Central, also realizes the head coaching position has changed since he left it 15 years ago, and he saw that first hand as Sutherland's assistant for five years from 2005-2009.

"When I was assisting Suds for those five years all I had to do was show up and coach," said Maisto, an Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Famer. "Now with being the head coach you have to plan, organize, set up fundraisers and be looking at all three levels. I enjoyed my time with Suds and I enjoyed being a head coach. I do like that the head coach has more of an influence on creating the atmosphere."

Maisto, who was also the Central girls basketball coach for four years in two different stints, taking the 1986-87 team to the sectional finals, has made sure to surround himself with assistant coaches who have knowledge and experience as well. He's brought in his daughter Erica, one of the most decorated pitchers and players in Central softball history, a 2008 BC grad who went on to play four years at Division II Upper Iowa University and who was Greg Dierks' assistant at Geneva last year. Also on staff is Bill Morrow, who has been a BC assistant the past several years and who coaches a highly successful Wasco Diamonds travel team, the same organization Wade Maisto coached in from 1998-2005, and Erica Maisto played in.

"Erica is stepping up," her dad said. "I'm very confident with her working with the pitchers and taking over that part of the game I did for so many years. I'll always answer her questions but I don't think she needs my help or guidance."

To which Erica stops dad in his tracks and says, "Oh, I don't know about that. This is a great time for me to learn all the stuff he can teach me. But it's nice to know I have the flexibility to be able to say something that's going to help the team."

Erica Maisto, the 2007-08 Daily Herald Female Athlete of the Year for the Fox Valley, is more than grateful she had a year under Dierks and Nick Ruittenberg at Geneva to get her feet wet as a coach, a position she wouldn't have walked away from had her dad not gotten the BC job and she a teaching job in District 301 (she teaches sixth grade math at Prairie Knolls Middle School).

"I loved it," she said of her year with the Vikings. "(Dierks) was awesome and so was Nick. It's different going from the mindset of a player to that of a coach. I got to work with the pitchers at Geneva and it was a great way to introduce me to coaching. (Dierks) didn't micromanage and I really appreciate him giving me the opportunity to do that."

Erica knew she'd like to coach with her dad someday, and that happening at her alma mater makes it all the more special.

"Deep down I always thought it would be cool to come back here and coach, but I had to get the teaching job," she said. "Everything just fell into place. It's always been my dream to coach with dad."

Wade Maisto also didn't hesitate to keep Morrow on his staff.

"We both appreciate what Bill brings to the staff," he said. "He has knowledge of the teams we'll be playing against and he's good with the girls and fundamentals."

"Our coaches are all working together really well," King said. "We can do anything as long as our minds are in it. We're all striving for the same goal."

After going 46-26 the last two years under Cray Allen and winning the program's 16th regional title last year (and first since 2009), the Rockets are hoping to get over the Marengo hump and advance even further this year while again contending for the Big Northern East championship.

And as they strive to do that, they'll get one strong message every day from their "new" Hall of Fame head coach.

"It's a sport and it's supposed to be fun," Wade Maisto said. "And above all, you can have fun and still be focused and play hard."

That part of high school softball has not changed.

jradtke@dailyherald.com

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