Coach relies on family, faith as team heads to World Series

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

ALBANY -- David Dews has every reason to gloat, to bask in the success that has followed him throughout his coaching career. But the Darton softball coach is humble.

And that's why they love him.

"He's the kind of coach that if you want to call him in the middle of the night, he will be there to answer," Darton sophomore Cara Law said.

Dews, who will guide his team in the NJCAA World Series this week at St. George, Utah, is more than just a coach to his players -- he is family.

Dews has coached at Darton for four years and already has 145 wins, two state titles and a sixth-place finish in nationals. The Lady Cavaliers admire their coach's statistics and knowledge of the game, but it's his down-to-earth personality that they can relate to so well. And that is exactly the way Dews wants it.

"I've had the compliment (of being one of the best young coaches in the game)," Dews said. "I think a lot of it has to do with the way I communicate. I communicate with my players professionally. I am more of a players' coach. They really enjoy playing for me."

That coaching style comes from his family and his faith, Dews said Monday while sitting in the school's dugout.

Dews, who was raised in Alabama and played baseball at Auburn University and Auburn University Montgomery, began his coaching career in 2001 as an assistant under his father, Gene Dews, at Wallace Community College in Dothan, Ala.

"Coaching with him, I learned a lot about how to manage and coach a ball club," said Dews, who helped lead Wallace CC to three consecutive NJCAA World Series appearances.

"I spent three years there with him, learning how to recruit and how to do things that it takes to run a program."

But more importantly, Dews said he learned how to relate to his players. His method is a little unorthodox in the athletic ranks, but he says teaching his players values and integrity has meant more than what he has taught them on the field.

"I am a Christian man, and we teach Christian values," he said. "That is something that I think a lot of people miss out on is teaching your kids more than just softball and more than just Xs and Os."

Darton assistant coach Sam White agreed that Dews' ability to teach the players about more than just softball is why he has had so much success.

"We have a family atmosphere," said White, who began coaching with Dews 10 years ago at Wallace CC. "We always let them know we care about them no matter what. Our chemistry has been the key to our success."

However, the Lady Cavaliers were quick to add that their head coach brings much more to the table, including a deep knowledge about the game.

Law, one of the team's starting pitchers, said her head coach knows what pitch to throw and when to throw it, while White concentrates on the mechanics.

"Both of them will coach from the dugout the entire game," Law said. "'Never take a pitch off' is their motto. Every game we learn something new, and it's because of them. We play hard for them because we respect them."

But it isn't just the pitching staff that raves about their coach's softball intelligence. Freshman Amanda Jaskoloski, who hits in the middle of the Lady Cavs lineup, said her coach has the ability to turn anyone into a good hitter by focusing on the fundamentals.

"Honestly, we can all say he is the best coach in the state of Georgia," Jaskoloski said. "He can take somebody who hasn't played softball and turn them into a great hitter. He is the smartest coach I have ever played for."

Darton (47-9) set school records this season for overall wins and Region XVII wins, and was seeded No. 1 in the state tournament, which the Lady Cavs eventually went undefeated in.

The 13th-seeded Lady Cavs open up the double-elimination national tournament against reigning NJCAA champ and fourth-seeded Miami Dade (33-20) at noon Thursday.

Amazingly, however, Dews has had all of his success on the softball field while coaching from a baseball player's perspective.

"I don't try to teach my kids softball, I teach them baseball," Dews said. "I teach them what I know. That's what I feel comfortable with, and we have had success doing that."

Dews' history in baseball and his winning tradition he has established on the softball field has raised some eyebrows from baseball programs looking for a head coach. Though he wasn't comfortable saying what baseball teams have offered him coaching opportunities, Dews said they have been available.

But his heart is in softball. He says coaching the Lady Cavs is his ministry -- what he has been called to do.

And his players couldn't be happier.