Columbus softball coach Braun stepping away to become a fan
After a decade in the dugout, and four daughters in the lineup during those 10 years of coaching, Paul Braun stepped down from Columbus High School softball this week with the announcement of new coach Kelsey Newman.
Braun led the Discoverers through ups and downs from 2009 until this past fall when Columbus closed his final year 11-20. In that time, he has seen dozens - and perhaps hundreds - of girls grow into young women from his time in youth programs up through varsity.
It’s that growth that Braun said he is most proud of today. On and off the field, his goal was always to shape his athletes not only as skilled players but good people who were more than just an arm, a glove or a bat.
“Thank you to Columbus High for the opportunity to coach the softball program. Thank you to all the coaches for their hard work over the last 10 years. But most of all, thank you to all previous and present players that have put a lot of time and effort in over the years to have a positive impact not only on the program but the school and the community,” Braun said, through a text conversation with The Telegram.
“I wish all players and coaches the best next year and for years to come.”
Braun took over when his oldest daughter, Melani, was a sophomore on the team coached by Jack Gutierrez, the current head coach at Central Community College-Columbus until he also steps down next month.
Melani for three years followed by Elizabeth for four, Alycin for four and Tayler this past fall as a freshman meant there was a constant family presence in the dugout.
It’s that family bond with the game that now has Braun stepping away. Alycin is a sophomore at Nebraska Wesleyan and Tayler has three more years for the Discoverers. Although Braun has been making practice plans, setting lineups and working with players throughout every month of the year for the past 16 years, he’ll now have the chance to be a fan and enjoy the game from a different seat.
But he won’t be completely removed from competition. That’s probably unlikely for someone so ingrained in the sport.
Braun will still coach Tayler during summertime for the Nebraska Swingers Fastpitch team out of Lincoln.
“I will miss coaching the other players and watching them grow,” he said. “I’m most proud of the young women that have come through the program and put a lot of hard work in for the team as well as the school and the community.
“They made the softball program, CHS and Columbus a better place.”
Braun can count his successes among former players that are now “teachers, nurses, business leaders, moms and wives.”
“They have defined themselves by what great people they are,” he said. “So many did things the right way, understood hard work and dedication, leadership and commitment.”
Braun and the 2010 team set the school record for wins, won the program’s first conference title that same season and beat at least one ranked opponent every season he patrolled the coach’s box.
The team that stands out most in his memory is the fall of 2011. He remembers not leaving Gerrard Park until 8 or 9 p.m. that fall because the team always wanted extra work.
Part of that group was Steward, as well as two assistant coaches on his final staff: Kortney Reidmiller and Kelsey Skinner.
Braun will be cheering for that group from the stands now, watching a program he said he hopes continues to grow and work to get to the state tournament in Hastings.
“Continue to play the game hard and the right way, but don’t allow the game to define who you are,” he said. “Rather, be defined by the energy and effort you put into whatever you do.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org