Anna Cole, a graduate of Blue Springs High School and member of the Wildcats’ 2008 undefeated state championship softball team, received the best birthday present ever this week.
Cole, who had served an assistant softball coach and junior varsity coach at Blue Springs since 2015, got a call from Blue Springs activities director Alan Hull Monday, which happened to be a day before her 28th birthday.
"Alan called me and said, ‘I’m looking at Coach (Jim) Brandner’s letter of resignation, would you be interested in interviewing for the interim head coaching position with the softball team?’" Cole said. "I couldn’t believe it. Being the head coach of the girls team has always been my dream job, so I actually interviewed on Tuesday, my birthday.
"I dressed nice, not my usual coach’s sweatpants, and went up for the interview. I jokingly told Alan that this could be the best birthday present I ever received."
And she received it on Thursday, as he called and asked her to come to his office.
"We’d been talking about a lot of things, since I am still a PE coach and the girls head tennis coach, so I didn't really go to his office with any expectations of getting the softball job," explained Cole, who played college softball at Iowa State and Minnesota State. "I knew they had listed the job opening, but since this all happened unexpectedly, they had to find a coach soon.
"When I got to the school, he offered me the head coaching job and I was so excited. I told him it was my best birthday present ever – even though it did come a couple of days after my birthday."
Brandner – who had been with the Wildcats softball program 25 years and the last three as head coach after replacing the retired Roger Lower – said it was time for a change.
"The bottom line is I have refocused my priorities and am going to put my family and myself first," Brander wrote in an email. "Coaching is such long hours and emotional energy. I am proud that I gave it my best effort.
"My health played into the equation but in a positive way. I lost 30 pounds and got my knees and back to the point I am not in pain. I still need to lose another 20 pounds and keep with the rehab. I was afraid the busy schedule would stop the progress.
"I am now more focused on my family and my faith. (The coronavirus) made us slow down and I enjoyed the extra time with the family. I will miss the girls but not the long hours."
And he will remain as a coach in the Blue Springs School District.
"I will still coach, just in a more relaxed environment," he wrote. "Wrestling was always my first love and I get to start up the new middle school wrestling program. It is only an eight-week season and the hours will not be bad.
"I am thankful for 25 years of great memories and relationships."
Cole said she is looking forward to next week, when practice will begin for area prep teams.
"I want to hit the ground running," Cole said. "It’s going to be a day-to-day thing with all the coronavirus things going on. We want to keep our players safe, first and foremost, but we want to get to practicing, and I can’t wait."