Apex softball reached the 4A East final this past season – the program has gone farther once, in 2003. But the team did not know at the time that it was providing a lasting memory for its retiring head coach.
Cougars coach Bonnie Hodge knew before the season this would be her last, but she didn’t tell her team of her retirement plans. Yet she still went out on top.
Hodge will end her 12-year coaching career at Apex with a 209-55 record. A former Apex High softball player herself, Hodge also posted a 162-47 record at Apex Middle over 17 seasons.
“I just felt like it was time,” Hodge said.
Hodge said she will teach one more year at Salem Middle School before retiring from teaching. Among the things she’s looking forward to is being a grandmother.
She called this year’s run to the “final four” a career highlight. Another highlight, she said, was being able to coach both of her daughters – Brittany and Lindsay.
Developing relationships with players made her a better coach, she said.
“(It was) just seeing with what they brought to the team and going with what they had,” Hodge said. “Instead of trying to change everything my way, I adapted to their way as well.”
Only three other Wake County softball head coaches can match Hodge’s longevity – Garner’s Moe Barbour, Middle Creek’s Robbie Wray and Fuquay-Varina’s Deb Clarke.
“I certainly was not out there for the money and I don’t think I would have ever coached for the money. It was for the love of the game.”
Hodge believes athletics play an important role in a young person’s life.
“It’s a huge part of education,” Hodge said. “Certainly their core classwork is very important, but having that extra – learning how to manage time and to prepare for different events – is just a huge part of growing up and learning how to deal with life.”