AUDUBON –Throughout the 17 seasons Erin Small has been the head softball coach at Audubon High School she has put the team’s interests ahead of her own accomplishments.
“I’ve never really thought about wins and losses or keeping records,” Small said. “I just love what I do. I want to make a difference in these kids’ lives – make it the best experience for them throughout their high school years.”
Still, while not necessarily coaching for her own success, Small has found a lot of it.
With the Green Wave’s 18-0 victory over Collingswood Tuesday, Small achieved her 300th coaching victory in a game that also clinched the Colonial Conference Liberty Division title.
Small’s initial reaction after the final out was characteristic of the way she has always understated her role over the years.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I don’t know.”
After the game, Small was presented with a homemade poster showing photos of teams she has coached over the years.
Her current players were joined by a number of alumni in taking photos and celebrating with the coach. A couple of the girls showered with water from a large Gatorade jug as others cheered.
News of the milestone might not even been known had long-time assistant Maddy Meehan not spread the word.
Small, herself, was not about to promote the event. Meehan recalled that when Small got her 200th win nobody was aware until a couple games after the milestone.
“I remember the game, but I didn’t tell anybody about it,” Small said. “Like I said, I don’t want to make it about myself.”
Meehan said Small’s modesty in that situation is typical of how the coach likes to handle herself.
“She’s awesome,” said Meehan. “She has such a great connection with the girls. We have fun, and she’s always exciting to be around. She’s a great all-around person, and as a coach she’s just so knowledgeable.”
As you would expect, Small’s players are extremely loyal to her.
“She’s extremely humble, which is the best part about her,” said senior Deanna Pineiro. “She’s just overall a great coach. She just lifts everyone up and she’s a great spirit.”
Pineiro recalled how the players always feel like Small is with them, looking out for their interests.
“She never gets down on us,” she said. “She’s just always positive and that makes us a better team.”
Fellow senior Mikalya Alkins spoke about how Small spends time getting to know her players, finding their strengths and weakness and giving them a chance to succeed.
“She just knows what we can do,” she said. “She always tries to make us better. She always wants us to do our best, and she wants us to win and go as far as possible.”
Small is doing her coaching at her Alma Mater. She played softball at Audubon under Diane Guida, the person she eventually replaced as the head coach. Small recalls that Guida played a role in her first game as head coach.
“She sent me flowers for my first game,” Small said. “It’s something I’ll always remember. It meant a lot to me back then to have taken over (her) program.”
As the years began to pass along, Small says she has developed a philosophy of coaching, and it’s aimed more at helping her girls than winning games.
“I just try to teach the girls respect for the game,” she said. “I try to teach them to be good people. I think you have to play hard, play with a lot of heart. Play with class and win or lose, leave it all out on the field.”