A winning legacy for Laine

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The recent conclusion of the Randolph-Henry High School varsity softball team’s 2016 season signaled the end of a storied career for Lady Statesmen Head Softball Coach Deborah Laine.

Laine is retiring after 36 years of coaching softball at Randolph-Henry and 38 years of teaching at the school.

“I just had kind of been thinking about it the last couple years,” Laine said. “I’ve had some wonderful assistants in the last year or so that (were) a lot of help. I’ve had some problems with my knees, so a little bit of that kind of figured into it that I just wasn’t a spring chicken anymore. And so I just made the decision at the beginning of this school year that this was going to probably be my last year.”

Additionally, “I had a good group of seniors that I wanted to finish out this year, so it just seemed like everything kind of fell in place, and this was the year to go ahead and retire from teaching and coaching,” she said.

Laine noted she does not have complete records from throughout her time as coach of the Lady Statesmen, but the vast majority of those years featured winning seasons.

In terms of her career win-total, she echoed a statement made recently by Randolph-Henry Principal Robbie Mason regarding the number.

“I don’t know where he got his information from, but I agree with him — it’s well over 400 wins,” she said.

During Laine’s time as head coach, the Lady Statesmen reached three state championship games, they won multiple regional championships and several James River District championships.

Further speaking to Laine’s impact is the success of her players. She has had several girls sign to play softball at the collegiate level, one of which was Mary Dunlap.

“She went on to receive the first Division I scholarship in softball from Randolph-Henry,” Laine said.

Dunlap described Laine as approachable and always prepared.

“She was never a coach who really yelled, but when she needed to get her point across, you knew, and we all respected her,” Dunlap said. “She was just a woman who loved the game of softball, but she also just loved the girls.”

“For some reason, I’ve had really good girls through the years,” Laine said. “I’ve just been very lucky and fortunate. … And so it’s been, I have to say, a very successful program at Randolph-Henry, not due to me, by any means, but it’s due to a lot of people.”

Her father was a semi-professional baseball player who passed along his passion for the game to her.

She attended Randolph-Henry for all four years of high school, but the only sports available to girls at that time were basketball and cheerleading.

Later in life, after two years of coaching softball at Kenston Forest School, she came to Randolph-Henry, and when she took the reins of the softball program, “we started out on a field with barely a fence,” she said. “It certainly was not the popular sport that it is now.”

She expressed gratitude to Larry Dunn, the Randolph-Henry Principal at the time, for helping her start her career, and she praised Dick Bankston, the then-baseball coach and later-athletics director who helped her start her coaching career on the right foot and also improved the school’s softball facilities.

She also noted she was thankful for supportive administration over the years, and Mason made it clear many are thankful for Laine.

“Coach Laine has been the face of female sports at RHHS for nearly four decades,” he said. “She has been an incredible advocate for female athletes and an incredible supporter of RHHS athletics, in general. She will definitely be missed, but she has left quite a legacy.”

In addition to coaching softball, she estimates she coached Lady Statesmen cheerleading for well over 15 years, she has coached basketball, tennis and even middle school volleyball one year.

Most of her time in the classroom has been spent teaching Algebra.

Looking back on her time at Randolph-Henry, she said, “It’s probably the best experience of my life as far as teaching and coaching.”

Though she has grandchildren to help take care of, she and her husband do not plan to be strangers to Randolph-Henry athletics.