Photo by Maddie Smiley
After returning to McPherson College to complete her degree in business and administration, JV softball coach Kristen Gustafson, or “G”, has returned from her year-long hiatus from East.
Five years ago, Gustafson decided to take a break from the difficult time she was having in college. She coached for three years previous to finishing her degree last year. Leaving McPherson to do something she knew she could find refuge from college in, coaching softball seemed like the perfect option.
Working in the SME office, her mother, Judy Gustafson, informed her of an opening for the JV softball coach. Given her extensive experience, for she had been involved in softball since she was a tee-ball playing child, G was officially a member of the team in 2012.
“With the break from college, coaching at East gave me the personal growth that I was needing,” Gustafson said.
Although coaching at East helped Gustafson take a break from McPherson, it also gave her the encouragement she needed to complete her college education. Along with the support of her family and fellow coaches, Gustafson completed her degree and graduated last May with the JV softball team in mind.
“The most important reason I went back was not only for myself, but for the girls that I was coaching at East,” Gustafson said. “I wanted to set an example and show [my team] that no matter the obstacles or struggles you are facing you can accomplish anything with the right amount of drive, support and faith.”
Using her past three years experience as a coach, Gustafson is able to create a welcoming environment for the players on her current team.
“She has a really good relationship with all the players,” returning JV player sophomore Laila Herrick said. “Everyone has a lot of respect for her and really listens to what she says.”
With some of them bouncing from JV to varsity, there are around 13 girls on Gustafson’s team. Sophomore Ashley Grills says that the players admire Gustafson’s experience in softball and hold a high regard for her.
“G makes it a different structure that’s better for JV, because JV is more easy going and not as intense,” Grills said. “She adds to [the team] and makes it good.”
While still wanting to continue coaching softball, Gustafson is studying to become a teacher and deciding between teaching elementary or higher education, where she would use her degree to teach business.
“Not only did the girls give me the drive to go back and finish school, but they have made me realize that I want to further my schooling and get a degree in teaching,” Gustafson said.