An era came to an end at Cornersville High School on Monday night when longtime softball coach Spencer Mitchell announced his retirement from coaching during the team's awards banquet at Cornersville Methodist Church.
Mitchell has served as CHS' softball coach for a total of 16 years during two separate stints. After helping found Cornersville's softball program in 1989, Mitchell coached the Lady Bulldogs until 1992 before handing over the reins to Connie Campbell for the next six years.
In 1999, Mitchell returned to the dugout and led CHS' softball program to a very successful run over the last 12 years. During his second stint as the Lady Bulldogs' coach, Mitchell guided Cornersville to five regular season district titles, three district tournament championships, and two region tournament crowns en route to compiling an impressive 243-129-2 record and being named district Coach of the Year five times.
Mitchell experienced his greatest success at the tail end of his coaching career, as the Lady Bulldogs qualified for the Class A State Tournament three times (2008, 2009, and 2011) in the last four years while finishing third in the tourney each time.
"If you're going to go out, you might as well go out as high as you can. We've had a great run over the last five years because the 2007 team was really good too, but got upset in the District tournament," said Mitchell. "This year's team had to overcome some really big barriers because of all the injuries to accomplish what they accomplished. It seemed like someone got hurt every game, but once everyone came back they found a way to make it back to Murfreesboro."
Although he will no longer be coaching at Cornersville, Mitchell will continue to teach at the school and serve as CHS' athletic director, a post he has held for the last 16 years.
"Spencer has been a backbone for us because he handles our athletic program and its finances. He really loves the game of softball. He may not show it on the outside, but he's really passionate about the game and cares about his players," said Cornersville principal Bob Edens. "I've depended on him a lot since I've been principal here and I've been fortunate to have known him the last 12 years. He's a very knowledgeable person and I've gone to him for advice a number of times. It's been a pleasant and enjoyable experience."
Mitchell's coaching and teaching career spans 35 years overall. After graduating from Athens College, Mitchell began his teaching career in 1976 at Prospect High School in Giles County where he coached girls and boys basketball. Mitchell then moved to Elkton Middle School in 1978 before eventually settling down at Cornersville High School in 1980.
Along with coaching softball at CHS, Mitchell has also been head coach of the girls and boys high school and middle school basketball teams at various times during his tenure there and served as an assistant football coach in the early 1980's and 1990's.
"There comes a time when it's time to hang it up and it's time," said Mitchell. "Hopefully someone else can come in here and do better than third place. I think 35 years of coaching is enough. I've coached football, basketball, and softball during my career so it's time for someone else to take the reins."
Whoever takes over as the Lady Bulldogs' next softball coach will have a high standard to maintain.