Softball All-Area Coach of Year is West Lincoln’s Thornton

Published 10:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2021

In just her second season of her second stint as head softball coach at West Lincoln, Anita Thornton led the Lady Bears to the second round of the MHSAA 2A playoffs as they finished runners-up in Region 7-2A behind Loyd Star.

With a young team that had just two seniors and two juniors, West Lincoln made the second round of the postseason for just the second time since going up to 2A in 2014 and won their first playoff series since 2015 with a first-round sweep of Philadelphia.

For her efforts Thornton has been named The Daily Leader All-Area Coach of the Year.

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Thornton has been at the school for 22 years, but much of that time was spent as strictly as teacher.

In 1999 she began the West Lincoln fastpitch program. She also served as an assistant on the slow-pitch side at that time with then head coach Andrew Redd.

The team began playing fastpitch competitively in 2000 and a few years later in 2003, Thornton gave up her coaching duties when her daughter Bailey Wilson was born.

Redd led the program until 2019 as he got to coach his daughters Micah, Makennah and Maddox through their careers of wearing the green and white.

The chance to coach her own daughter Bailey as a senior was one that Thornton couldn’t pass up as she pursued the job upon Redd’s retirement.

The pair wouldn’t get much time together on the field though as COVID-19 ended the 2020 season for West Lincoln after just four games.

That draw of coaching Bailey wasn’t the only thing that Thornton saw that attracted her to the job though.

“I could see that we’ve got kids coming up through the program that are hungry to improve their game,” said Thornton. “If you talk to them you can see they’ve got a drive and a passion to win. West Lincoln is a school that’s known for basketball success and I think our girls want to have that same kind of recognition for softball in the future.”

Thornton is no stranger to success on the basketball court. She was part of a state championship team at Mendenhall High in 1990.

After that she played at hoops Co-Lin and then Nicholls State before finishing up her career at Belhaven University.

Her assistant in softball this year was Corey Myers.

“Corey and his wife Courtney have both been a great help to me,” said Thornton. “They’re willing to give whatever they can to help the team and the school and that’s the type of parents and supporters we’ve been blessed with since I got the job.”

For Thornton, the wins are nice, and the postseason is always a goal, but she views her job as much more than what happens between the chalked lines of a field.

“I don’t look at coaching as just being about sports,” said Thornton. “Coaches are given the chance to make an impact that’s so much more than how to run a play or swing a bat. I tell my girls that they are my future. The women they grow up to be, the faith that gets them through hard times in life and the lessons that they learn while playing — that’s the legacy that will decide if I’ve done my job.”