Steve Howard is used to coaching his daughter.
During her softball career from the time she was in little league all the way through travel ball, he coached her.
Now, Brandi Jo Howard is the head coach at Pikeville.
Her coach and father Steve Howard is right by her side.
“It is a great feeling,” Brandi Jo Howard said. “It means a lot. I knew automatically in the interview for the head coaching position, who my first assistant coach would be. He’s been there with me through it all and I’m just glad to have him by my side. I heed his advice and he’s been a mentor to me.”
“It is a great feeling for a dad to see his daughter to come from being small all the way up,” Steve Howard said. “It has been a full circle. I’ve coached her (Brandi Jo Howard) in Little League and in travel ball. Almost every travel ball team she played on, I ended up coaching as head coach. We coached a travel ball team together and that helped her gain some experience to help her become a head coach. I knew when she was playing high school and then she got into travel ball and UPike, I knew she would be a coach. I told my brother that, ‘She’s going to be a coach and she’s going to be a good one.’ Not because she’s my girl, but she’s one heck of a coach. She’s a better coach than I’ll ever because she relates to these girls. She relates to the girls so much through her experiences. You can’t teach experience. It’s really a good feeling watching her coach.”
Softball is a love that both Brandi Jo Howard and Steve Howard share.
That love of softball has made their relationship stronger throughout the years.
“I feel like softball has made us closer,” Brandi Jo Howard said. “Even though he’s my dad, he’s one of my best friends. I can come to him for anything, but this year especially, we have spent a lot of time together. We’ve been on the road and back-and-forth, after practices and before practices, but it’s made us closer. Just having him there is helping us build our relationship stronger, but for me to see him build relationships with the players it means so much to me too.”
“Truthfully, I don’t know how many head coaches and assistant coaches have what we have,” Steve Howard said. “We always analyze together and it’s not just a meeting between a head coach and an assistant coach, it’s a family affair. She has the love of the game like I do. I just have a love for the game. I’ve been around softball my whole life. I started with slow pitch and it turned into fast pitch. When she started, it just rekindled everything that was in me. For us to be together, we are kind of intertwined. We think a whole lot alike. Sometimes we have some disagreements with how things should be handled, but we’re very honest with each other and most of the time, she gets her way.”
Pikeville finished with a 26-12 record and won the 59th District championship in Brandi Jo Howard’s first season as softball coach. The Lady Panthers advanced to the 15th Region semifinals.
“We had high expectations,” Brandi Jo Howard said. “We had that because we knew we would be dedicated to this team. I told the girls from day one that you have a coaching staff that’s here for you on and off the field no matter what and we just want that dedication back. I had high expectations because I believed in them and I knew from the start that their hard work would get us far. We didn’t meet the expectations that we wanted too, but it was a really successful season.”
“We are a softball family,” Steve Howard said. “Her mom hardly ever misses anything. My mother sponsored a softball softball team. We had our own softball team back when I played. My brother, who is on the coaching staff, he’s a softball minded guy. He knows it as well as anybody. We’re all just synced. I guess for a 78-year old woman, my mother, her grandmother, loves softball more than anything. She’d rather be on a softball field as anywhere. The family affair thing is good for the girls to see that your family can be in this thing also. It’s been a really good thing and we love it. I’m tickled to death that she is up here coaching. I’m 60 miles away and my brother is 60 miles away and we travel up here everyday to help her. She’s traveling from Prestonsburg too. But it’s worth it.”
That’s important to Brandi Jo Howard and Steve Howard and the rest of their family.
The importance of family is something that they’re teaching the Lady Panthers.
“It’s very important,” Brandi Jo Howard said. “Coming in as a first year coach, I knew that I had a lot to learn. I had a lot of experience from playing and coaching, but as a first year coach, I was excited and I was thrilled because I love the game. Having him and my uncle there and coach Ford, Emily Ford’s dad helps coach too, just having an awesome coaching staff there was great. Them being there, I feel like they’re good father figures too. When I played ball, there were some parents who put too much pressure on the kids, but just letting them play the sport they love and we’re coaches and we hold them accountable and have high expectations, but we really just want them to get out there and play the game they love.”
Brandi Jo Howard played with heart and passion. She was a talented player, but her effort and work ethic pushed her over the top.
Those qualities are displayed in her coaching as well.
“There are more similarities than there are differences,” Steve Howard said. “As a player, she was as hard-nosed as I’ve ever seen. She would run through a fence to catch a ball, she would do whatever it took to get on base and she found a way. She would work as hard as anybody and she hated losing worse than anybody.
“I still hate losing,” Brandi Jo Howard said.
Brandi Jo Howard first started coaching travel softball and then took over the Floyd Central Middle School team. She put together a team from scratch and that’s when Steve Howard knew she could be a high school coach one day.
“It didn’t matter if she was playing basketball, she played in middle school a season or two, but the coach would call her his spark plug,” Steve Howard said. “Her defense was unbelievable and she had a lot of offensive skills in basketball, but her defensive players are hard-nosed and that’s the way she is when she played and her coaching is the same way. I noticed this year, I think she learned a lot with these girls and she might’ve changed a little bit. That’s the sign of a good coach, you have to adapt to who got. You can’t be stuck with just one way to coach. She’s doing that and I’m proud. Her best coaching job is yet to come. The best job I’ve seen her do is with that Floyd Central Middle School team. That was her first team that she coached besides travel ball. She took a team that had just started and I told Stan, my brother, she’s going to be a good coach. I said that because the way she handled the different problems. She coaches like she plays. If she could have a lot of slappers, she’d probably have 10 of them.
“I didn’t want her to jump into the varsity level by herself without me by her side. She helped Robert Staggs at UPike and I thought she did a magnificent job as an assistant. I wanted to be around her and I told Stan, if she’ll have us, I want to be around round the rough edges off a little bit. She don’t need me. I know she’ll say she does, but all she needs me there for is to say, ‘You’re doing good.’She’s got it. She’s a good coach.”
During her first season, her dad was right by her side.
She is following in his footsteps as a coach.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Brandi Jo Howard said. “I’m thankful to have great mentors and to have them by my side because I couldn’t do it without them. I’m definitely thankful to have them by my side.”
Whether it be on a softball field or just life in general, Brandi Jo Howard will have her dad right by her side.
Sports Editor’s Note: This is the second of three Father’s Day features this week. To see the full interview check out episode 34 of the Bank On It podcast.