Former Wildcat Anna Cole ready to take the reins

By Bill Althaus
Anna Cole, a graduate of Blue Springs High School who was a part of the Wildcats' 2008 state championship team, is the first-year head coach for her former program. She had served as an assistant softball coach at Blue Springs since 2015 and was named the head coach in June.

Anna Cole has one of the most refreshing outlooks on fall sports in Eastern Jackson County.

The first-year Blue Springs High School head softball coach, who had been an assistant coach in the program since 2015, is relishing every minute with her youthful team.

“I tell the girls to participate in every practice like it’s their last practice, the last time they will be together, and they have really responded,” said Cole, who was a starter on the 2008 Wildcats state championship softball team. “With the pandemic, who knows? It could be their last practice.

“They have developed their own personality and they are all so enthusiastic. They’re loving being together and I love coaching them. They just have a vibe that I love.”

It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to respond to their new coach.

“We have a deal where a girl has to do five pushups if she messes up,” Cole said. “Well, we have a girl doing her pushups and all her teammates suddenly drop to the ground and are out there doing pushups too.

“Is that the coolest thing ever! They love each other, and if they love each other, you know they’re going to play hard for each other and work hard for each other in practice.”

The Wildcats have just three returnees off last year’s squad – pitcher Abby Kinzler and utility standouts Cejai Holland and Presley Ziegenbein.

Returning senior starting pitcher Abby Kinzler is expected to be a leader this season for Anna Cole's Blue Springs High School softball team.

“It didn’t take long for all of us to fall in love with Coach Cole,” said Kinzler, who will play such a big role for the team, both on the mound and as senior leader. “She was my coach when I was a freshman and played for her on the JV team, and now she’s our head coach and she’s great. She knows the game and is so enthusiastic. She’s like one of us! I think she’s having as much fun as we are.”

Blue Springs' Cejai Holland smiles after hitting a double in last season's game against rival Blue Springs South. Holland is one of three returning starters this season for the Wildcats.

Cole replaced Jim Brandner – who had been with the Wildcats softball program 25 years, the last three as head coach after replacing the retired Roger Lower. Brandner said it was time for a change and resigned after last season.

Cole takes over Blue Springs softball program

“The bottom line is I have refocused my priorities and am going to put my family and myself first,” Brander wrote in an email to The Examiner. “Coaching is such long hours and emotional energy. I am proud that I gave it my best effort.”

Now, that’s what the Wildcats are getting from Cole, who is counting the hours and minutes until their season opener.

“We’re young, but we’re ready to go,” said Cole, who played softball at Iowa State and Minnesota State. The one thing that has really impressed me is that the girls are all so versatile. They can play any position on the field and they play it well.

“Abby is going to provide leadership and the girls are going to respond to her and all the leaders on this team.

“I couldn’t ask for a better way to start my first year as head coach of a program I love, I really couldn’t.”