Molly Anderson is no stranger to success as an athlete. Turns out she's got some game as a coach, too.
The 2008 Rock Falls graduate just finished her first full year out of college with a strong spring sports season. In her first season at Peotone, she led the softball team to a Class 3A regional title, the program's first since 2006 – when Anderson was a sophomore three-sport standout with the Rockets.
She earned sectional coach of the year honors after her team lost 1-0 in nine innings to LaSalle-Peru in the Coal City Sectional semifinals.
"It honestly took me by surprise," Anderson said of the honor, "but it speaks so loudly of this group of girls. You can tell someone to do something, and sometimes they'll do it and sometimes they won't. These girls listened every time, and their hard work showed how good they wanted to be. It was an awesome experience."
It didn't hurt that Peotone's pitcher is headed for Tennessee Tech on a Division I scholarship, and they had an all-area catcher.
But Anderson played a big part in it too.
After winning regional titles in basketball, softball and volleyball as a 4-year varsity player at Rock Falls – where she earned 12 varsity letters – Anderson played 4 years of softball at Olivet Nazarene.
As the starting third baseman in her junior and senior seasons, Anderson hit .325 with 25 home runs and 115 RBIs in 125 games, while also recording a .958 fielding percentage. During her 4 years, Olivet won three conference titles and advanced to nationals three times.
During Anderson's senior season, Olivet head coach Ritchie Richardson was doing some scouting at a Peotone game. While talking with Peotone athletic director Scott Maupin, Richardson heard that the softball coaching job would be open the next season. Richardson told Maupin about Anderson, a physical education and health major with the desire to get into coaching.
Anderson called Maupin the next day, and after two interviews, she had the job.
"I was very surprised it happened so quickly," Anderson said. "One of the two dreams I have is coaching high-school softball, and it came true basically even before I graduated. At graduation, they asked everyone who already knew what they were doing after college to raise their hands; it felt great to raise mine."
As a natural leader, coaching is the logical next step for Anderson. Upon getting the job, she called her former Rock Falls coaches Sheila Mammosser and Craig Mammosser, to pick their brains and get a feel for what she was getting into
Anderson, who said she "absolutely loved every second" of sports as a high schooler, found the adjustment from player to coach easier than she expected.
"You couldn't keep me away from the game, and when I got too old to compete, coaching was the best way to stay with it," Anderson said. "It's more nerve-racking as a coach, to be honest. As a player, you're living in the moment; as a coach, you have more time to take it in and experience it all.
"The biggest difference is that it's not your sweat put into it. I'm just conducting the girls' hard work and putting them in the best position I can to help them succeed. I'm the planner instead of the girl out there executing it, but you're still so into what's going on out there – even though you're not directly in control."
Anderson's tenure at Peotone will be one-and-done. After serving as a substitute teacher and homebound tutor this past year, Anderson went looking for a full-time teaching job for next year. There were no openings at Peotone, so she looked elsewhere; she's awaiting board approval after being offered a teaching job at Earlville.
So far, there are no coaching duties to go with that prospective position, but Anderson is happy to accomplish her other dream: teaching high school. To potentially do so about an hour from her hometown has her excited, and she's also happy to have this past spring on her resume for future reference.
"There couldn't have been a better random place to go on a job interview," Anderson said. "Nothing's permanent yet, but at least it's something, and I've already got a boost for the next time a coaching position opens up.
"It hurts to have to say goodbye to these [Peotone] girls, but I'll definitely follow them to see how they're doing next season."
Family: Parents Martha and Danny; brothers Bou, Chad and Troy; sister Haleigh
High school: Rock Falls (class of 2008)
College: Olivet Nazarene (class of 2012)
Degree: Physical education & health
FYI: Currently getting driver's ed teaching endorsement. … Earned 12 varsity letters at Rock Falls, and part of regional title teams in basketball, softball and volleyball. … Started all 125 games as junior and senior at Olivet Nazarene, playing mostly at third base and batting .325 with 25 HRs and 115 RBIs. … Won 3 conference titles and made 3 trips to nationals during 4 years at Olivet. … Coached Peotone softball team to regional title in first season this spring.