Hankins enjoying retirement from LHHS scorer’s table

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By Keith Sparks

After spending 27 years as a softball coach, 25 of which as Liberty Hill’s head softball coach, recently retired Charice Hankins isn’t ready to step away from the game completely.

Every Liberty Hill home game, you’ll hear Hankins announcing the player names and working the scoreboard.

Although she doesn’t plan on doing that forever, Hankins said she feels like she has to finish watching the athletes she coached before they graduate.

“I just wanted to watch the kids that I had coached,” Hankins said. “I’d seen them through their high school careers, and doing the scoreboard and being there with the KMAC guys when they have questions about stats, home runs. When we have kids that graduated and come back to see us, I get to call them out in the crowd, do a little clapping, and just be a part of that history.”

In that case, why can’t she just watch from the stands? That simply isn’t the way Hankins is built. After spending so much time so heavily involved in the game, Hankins finds it nearly impossible to just sit and watch.

“I don’t think just sitting in the stands is something I’d like to do, although I do sit in the stands to watch my nieces play,” Hankins said. “At Liberty Hill, I kind of like not necessarily being hands-on anymore, but I love being a part of it by doing scoreboard, talking to kids, and congratulating them after each game. Just trying to be a part of the history and keep the history alive.”

After a home game last week that Liberty Hill won 17-0, Hankins spent a few minutes greeting parents, congratulating athletes, and small-talking with the coaching staff. One of her favorite aspects of retirement so far is being able to relate to athletes of the parents on a different level.

“It’s kind of nice, because I think now they kind of see that there was a method to our madness,” Hankins said. “A couple parents said that there’s a lot of things their kids miss. I was known for going hard and my expectations were always real high, but the kids always knew I cared about them. Now that I’m on that side of the fence getting to talk to parents, it seems like they really appreciate me supporting their kids.”

Although she’s no longer the Panthers’ head coach, Hankins said she’s invested too much in the kids she coached to walk away completely. Considering how much they invested in her program, she feels like she owes it to them to finish her investment.

“I’ve always said this sport is bigger than what we do,” Hankins said. “It’s all about the little things. Part of the little things when I was on the field side of it was execution, motivation, and skills, getting the little things right so we could win games and hit balls over the fence. Now that I’m on this side of the fence, the little things are supporting by trying to stay involved, trying to be present for those kids that you invested in. That was an investment. I always like to talk about that as an investment. If you invest in the team, the team wins. I’ve always felt like when you invest in players, I feel like I want to watch them continue to grow.”

As a head coach, it’s tough to separate work from home. Wins and losses stick with you, for better or worse. Now, although she still feels for the kids after a loss, Hankins said she’s able to better compartmentalize the emotions that come with wins and losses. Now, she’s able to look at “the bigger picture.”

“Last year when they lost the third playoff game, I was sad for those kids and I did think about that for a while, but it seems a little bit different, and I think it’s because of the hours spent,” Hankins said. “I used to spend so many hours a day invested in that, and nowadays my days aren’t filled with that, so I still don’t like to see my kids lose, but now I’m just looking at the bigger picture.”

Instead of dwelling on a loss, like she admittedly did with the 2016 State Championship, Hankins is able to focus on what can be learned from that loss, which she tries to relay to the girls, as well.

“Today, I just try to tell the kids, like they’ve had a couple losses, and my big message is still that you don’t lose as long as you’re learning,” Hankins said. “That’s winning, so what did we learn? What is it that we’re learning in this moment? What did you learn in this game and how can you use that to motivate you in the next game or the next practice?”

It’s clear that Hankins is still passionate about the game of softball and player development both on and off the field, so why doesn’t she get back into coaching? Well, she might, but only once her nieces and nephews are done with their respective sports. For Hankins, retirement is all about being able to watch the games that she was forced to miss for the better part of her 27-year career.

“I’ve had a couple offers to come back in (and coach), but my big thing is I have a niece that’s a senior this year and I’m seeing her play whenever Liberty Hill is away,” Hankins said. “I guess after 27 years of not getting to see nieces and nephews play a lot, the retired life is about seeing my family and seeing those kids in my family play, talking to them, so once those kids get through school, I’ve actually thought about getting back in in some capacity. I feel like I need to find a new place for my purpose, because I still feel like I’m motivated the same way I’ve always been, I just don’t have an outlet for that. I think coaching, player development, and skill development is something I was pretty good at. I would love to be able to, like any job, put that passion into something or someone. That’s always going to be on the table.”

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