Coach Candon’s positive approach leads to 300 wins
BRANDON — When Otter Valley Union High School softball player Taylor Aines’ towering eighth-inning pop-up dropped on Thursday between two confused Hartford infielders while teammate Brittany Bushey raced home with the decisive run, the celebration that followed was above and beyond what most dramatic walk-off wins receive.
Even more than capping a wild rally from a 5-0 deficit and producing a 6-5 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak, that play gave Coach Pattie Candon the 300th win of an OV softball coaching career that began in 1986.
After joining their teammates in a joyous knot of laughing, shouting players around Candon — and, of course, helping soak their coach with the team water bucket — Aines and Bushey, cousins who are both OV juniors, spoke about what it has been like to play for her.
Most of all, they talked about the positive way she treats her athletes.
“Miss Candon is always positive,” Aines said. “If someone messes up, she doesn’t tell them, ‘Don’t do that again.’ She says, ‘Next time do this.’ It’s always encouraging. She doesn’t like to have kids put their heads down. She’s very easy to talk to about things, and she just picks everybody up when they’re down.”
Bushey said her coach excels at fostering team chemistry.
“I love playing softball, and she’s a great coach,” Bushey said. “We always have fun in practice … She treats us all really good. She brings us all together as a team, and she makes sure we stay together as a team and we don’t break out as individuals.”
Both also said Candon’s Otters work hard at “little drills” that make them better softball players.
“They’re effective drills,” Aines said. “She keeps us busy at practice all the time. She works on the things we need to work on. She knows her stuff.”
One of Candon’s former athletes attended the game to see the moment, Marie-Eugair Newell. Eugair-Newell played in the 1990s for one of Candon’s championship teams, assisted Candon for several years, and went on to a successful run as the Middlebury Union softball coach.
Eugair-Newell found herself choking back tears while talking about a woman she called “a phenomenal coach” who “believes in every player” in her program.
“She’s just one of those people that no matter what situation that you’re put in with her, whether it’s a life situation or a situation on the field, she’s got the right answer for everything,” Eugair-Newell said. “She’s been a huge role model in my life.”
OVUHS Principal Jim Avery has worked with Candon, a physical education teacher at OV, for years. Avery emailed comments to the Independent earlier on Thursday, and after the game made a point about those remarks.
“Notice that none of them are about wins and losses,” Avery said.
Rather, Avery said, Candon’s record is a byproduct of larger lessons.
“Coach Candon’s teams find in themselves an inner core of commitment, determination, and resiliency,” he wrote. “Her athletes discover that they can do more than they thought. They learn that success in life comes with patience, with control, with discipline, and with the help of others.”
And one more thing.
“Good coaches, like good parents, care unconditionally about their athletes,” Avery wrote. “There are coaches that care as much about their players as Pattie does, but there are none who care more.”
Candon acknowledged afterward she was happy to have achieved the milestone victory.
“To get 300 wins in anybody’s life, in anybody’s career, it’s a monumental feat, you know,” Candon said. “But I don’t talk about wins. I just talk about who we’ve got to play, what we’ve got to do to accomplish it. And as I said before, it’s all the players who have come through since 1986, they’re the ones who picked up the wins. I just happened to be along for the ride most of the time. That’s the way I feel about it.”
If that’s the case, this group of players is happy to have given her the landmark win.
“Miss Candon has put in a lot of time here at Otter Valley,” Aines said. “And for us to win her 300th win just means a lot to us to thank her for all her hard work and effort. It just feels good.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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