New head coach sets goals beyond outfield

IUS Horizon

To Joe Witten, recently hired IUS softball coach, the success his players have off the field is as important as the success they have on the field.

“I believe in making the student-athlete a priority for achieving greatness outside the foul lines, before inside,” Witten said.

Over the summer, Athletic Director Joe Glover hired Witten to fill the coaching position previously held by Todd Buckingham.

Buckingham resigned after accepting a head coach position for Saginaw Valley State, in Saginaw, Mich.

Witten spent the past 10 seasons as head coach of the softball team at Floyd Central High School.

He led them to the state finals last year, before agreeing to become the new coach at IU Southeast.

“IU Southeast is such a great school moving in the right direction,” Witten said. “This type of opportunity doesn’t show up but every 10 to 20 years. I was in the right place at the right time.”

Throughout the hiring process, Glover knew he needed to find someone who would provide a good balance of understanding the importance of academic success.

“Coaches help to teach their players to be successful,” Glover said.

During the interview process with Witten, Glover said he seemed to have found the right match.

“Witten presented the total package of what we were looking for during the interviews,” Glover said. “He had the total picture of what it is to have a successful program, both in graduation success and [softball] conditioning.”

Witten played baseball for Floyd Central High School and Eastern Kentucky University, and he briefly played in the minor leagues for the Harwich Mariners.

Throughout a variety of different coach positions in various sports, he was able to learn different ways of developing an athlete.

“I took all of my experiences and created an athletic model that pushed young people to do things that they may have not believed that they were capable of,” Witten said.

This model applies just as much off the field as on it.

“We will have mandatory study sessions, and we will stay on top of each athlete’s grade and class progress,” Witten said. “When [players] fail in the classroom, I fail.  Failing isn’t an option.”

Witten wants the athletes to be able to understand the importance of their roles as leaders and role models in the community.

“They will learn, they will give time to the community, local schools, their university and other events,” he said. “They have a civic duty to be in such a position of leadership that when they have their own family, they can show how giving is the greatest gift of life.”

As a part of a sports program, Witten also knows the team needs to be successful and understands how to make that happen.

“My coaching style is unique, different with each team,” Witten said. “However, all of my great teams have two traits in common — that they worked harder than the previous day and that they care for each other more than they care for themselves. When they learn the latter, winning is easy.”

While Witten wants the team to win and continue on their previous success, he said winning isn’t the focus.

“I don’t measure success on wins or losses,” he said. “I measure it on how we play the game and how we push through barriers that may make others quit.”