In 2019, Darren Bryant took a break from coaching softball at Brownstown Central High School after being an assistant with Monte Ault for 10 years.
But Ault called Bryant one year later and asked him to come back on staff. Ault knew his lengthy coaching career with the Braves was nearing the end, so he wanted Bryant back on staff so that when Ault retires, Bryant can take over.
Bryant returned to the Braves’ staff in 2020 as a volunteer assistant, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and wiped out the softball season that spring.
Things returned to normal this past spring, and Brownstown finished the 2021 season with a 19-11 record. After the season concluded, Ault announced he would be retiring after 25 years of leading the Braves’ program.
Just like Bryant and Ault talked about two years ago, he was hoping to take over. This past week, Brownstown officially named Bryant as the new softball coach.
“I was hoping to get the position,” Bryant said. “I really enjoy the girls, I like the team we have now, so I’m excited to take it over.”
Bryant, a 1991 graduate of Purdue University, was looking to own a veterinarian practice out of college.
He graduated with Ron Harrison, who owned Brownstown Animal Hospital. Harrison contacted Bryant, and the two became partners in Brownstown in 1993.
From there, Bryant’s daughters started playing softball. He coached them in travel ball at first, but the time constraints with his job became too much to allow him to keep coaching travel ball.
“That got me excited and interested in it,” Bryant said of coaching softball.
By the time his youngest daughter, who is now 22 started playing softball, he was able to start coaching again because his schedule wasn’t as taxing.
It was shortly after that when Bryant joined Ault’s staff in 2009. After 12 years of coaching alongside Ault, Bryant is now ready to take over the program.
“I’m looking forward to it because one, I think we are going to have a pretty good team coming back,” Bryant said. “Two, just the excitement of the change and seeing what I can do with the program after he (Ault) had it and seeing if I can take off from there.”
One thing Bryant looks to add during his tenure is more coaches. Kirsten Beaver, who is Ault’s daughter and has been on the staff the past couple of years, will be remaining on staff with Bryant.
Bryant also hopes to add Catherine Caudill and Katelyn Gray to his staff. Both of them are former players he coached. Caudill was on the last Brownstown team to win a sectional title in 2010, and Gray graduated in 2016 and went on to play at St. Catharine’s College.
“I coached both of them, so they know what my coaching style is,” Bryant said.
Bryant thinks having more coaches on staff will help keep everyone on the team involved and busy throughout practice, allowing the team to get more reps in, as well.
Other than that, Bryant doesn’t think he’ll do things drastically differently than Ault. Ault won more than 300 games with the Braves, and his 2015 Braves team set the school record for wins with 22. He coached the Braves to sectional titles in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2010 and to Mid-Southern Conference titles in 2004 and 2005.
“There are a lot of drills he does in practice that I really like,” Bryant said of Ault. “He has been very excited and interested in softball for a number of years, so I’ll probably continue a number of those because I think they’re effective. His passion and dedication to it and how he cares so much about the girls, those are the examples I want to carry on with, too.”
Bryant joked about how he probably won’t continue to do hand signals in games because he isn’t nearly as good at it as Ault was.
Brownstown only had four seniors on the team last spring, so it has a lot of talented players coming back for next season.
Bryant said Brownstown is used to having two good pitchers every season, but next season, they’re going to have up to five with the likes of Rylin Huddleston and Kelsey Schneider, among others.
“That’s a good problem to have,” Bryant said.
He also believes the Braves will have a lot of speed with the Singleton twins (Erin and Emily), Schneider and some incoming freshmen.
All in all, Bryant is excited to be taking over the program at such a good time. He believes the team will have some serious depth.
“Lot of depth on this team, so there will be competition for playing time, which brings out the best in the players,” he said.