By Sam Parsons
After doing something for 45 years, it’s hard to imagine that deciding when to call it quits would be easy.
Oskaloosa legend and Iowa softball Hall of Famer Jay Harms announced his retirement last week after 45 years of coaching in Iowa, 37 of which were in Osky, and he said that this decision may have been a long time coming, but he knew it made sense to make it now.
“I think the last 3 years or so, I’ve kind of taken my time after each season to evaluate how things went and how much longer I really thought I had in the tank coaching girls softball,” Harms said. “We had a really good ballclub in 2021 and made a nice trip to the state tournament, and I thought we had a chance to do it again in 2022 so I thought maybe I’d go one more year and see what happens.”
A few different factors led to the Indians’ 2022 season not going as planned, but the incoming crop of young players led coach Harms to think that they deserved someone who would be locked into the future.
“We’ve got some good kids coming. I think there’s a very good 8th grade class coming in, and I think they need to have a new coach that’s maybe going to be there for them all 5 years, so I figured that this is probably a good time right now.”
45 years of coaching one sport gives one a lot to see and time to observe a lot of changes. Harms reflected on some of the changes that the sport of softball has undergone.
“For a long time, it was a pitcher’s game. You’d have a 1-0, 2-0 game, and if you got 3-4 hits in a game you were happy. Now, moving the mound back (from 38 feet) to 43, you’ve seen a lot more runs scored. It’s really a great game, and I just can’t believe how much faster and better the athletes are right now than what they were back in 1975.”
When asked about the year the Indians pulled through with a state championship victory in 2016, Harms applauded the level of commitment shown by the players.
“That was a group that was very committed. They were really, really bought into it and they were just very confident…that was a group that just gelled at the right time.”
“What a great feeling, you know,” he continued. “To win a state championship that year, for the community, for the kids…the pride and support we got after that state tournament was just unbelievable, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Harms said that he’s had people reach out to him from all different periods of his coaching career congratulating him on his retirement.
“They’ve been tremendous,” he said. “Former athletes, umpires, coaches I’ve coached against…it’s just been really neat to see the texts and getting the phone calls I’ve gotten showing the support I’ve had as I’ve been a coach for the last 45 years.”
Harms reflected on more memories, discussed the community and its response in greater depth, and more in our full conversation, which you can download or listen to here.