Departing Port Allen senior softball players traditionally left their cleats on the diamond after they played the last time, but one other person has relinquished the team footwear.
This time, it was the coach.
Head coach Alisha Butler Fairchild recently resigned as head coach of the Lady Pelicans after a five-year stint – and six years, including the assistant’s post -- which culminated with the District 8-2A Coach of the Year honor for the 2019 season.
Fairchild will teach English and serve as assistant softball coach at East Iberville High School in St. Gabriel, where she resides.
It’s a bittersweet move for Fairchild, who took the helm of a struggling program in 2014 and guided the Lady Pelicans to five winning seasons. She also led PAHS to four consecutive playoff berths, starting in 2016.
“When you’re a head coach, that’s your baby, that’s your project and the kids become like your own,” Fairchild said. “A coach does whatever they can do to see their players become successful not only in the classroom and on the field, but also in life.”
Fairchild compiled a 64-55 record during her tenure at Port Allen, but her proudest accomplishments extend beyond wins and losses.
She involved the Lady Pelicans in community service projects and spearheaded fundraisers to build the program.
It took some motivation the first year or two, but it became ingrained in the players by the 2019 season, whose sense of work ethic focused largely on fitness during the offseason drills.
“It was a very rewarding moment, one of those delayed gratification moments when you just think about where you started, where the program is,” Fairchild said. “The first year, I couldn’t get more than one kid to come every week to a summer workout, but even after I told them I wouldn’t be coaching anymore, they asked if we could have a practice every day and I said we could keep practicing until August."
“It’s rewarding to see how far the mentality has come and to see what happens when you change the thinking process in a program,” she said.
Ultimately, the decision hinged on having more time with the family, Fairchild said.
She learned plenty about that from assistant principal and longtime track coach John Williams.
“He told me at the end of the day your family is the number-one priority other than God and you have to do what’s best for your family,” Fairchild said. “When I told him about my new job, he was more than happy for me."
“That’s all you can as for from an athletic director – to be supportive and understand it’s not about the power you gain or the pay raise you can get,” she said. “It’s all about how you treat people.”
The program went from a $1,200 per year budget and generated $35,000 through fundraisers – with $10,000 left in the account, Fairchild said.
It’s all about leaving a program better than she found it.
“I pride myself in knowing that it’s in much better condition than it was when I started here,” she said. “I hope the next coach will do the same and maybe carry on some of the traditions we brought into the program, along with some from the days Josh Laborde and Kirby Loupe were there – and maybe instill some new traditions along the way.”