July 22, 2013 11:36:33 PM
Nathan Ellis discovered Monday just how quickly the coaching carousel can turn, even at the high school level.
Ellis took a phone call from Oak Hill Academy Headmaster Yandell Harris at about 7:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later, he was meeting with Harris to discuss a promotion. Ellis, a former basketball and baseball player at Oak Hill Academy, had heard the rumors, so he knew fast-pitch softball coach Beth Thompson was considering leaving the school to take another teaching and coaching job. When Ellis sat down with Harris, he learned Thompson had accepted a job as fast-pitch softball coach at Ethel High School.
The next step wasn't a given, but Ellis knew where the conversation could go.
"I was thinking I might get the job and I was a little nervous," Ellis said. "Mr. Harris said if I wanted the job (as Oak Hill Academy fast-pitch coach) I could take it and I said, 'Yeah.'
"It still hasn't hit me. As the season starts, it will get there."
Ellis, the brother of Oak Hill Academy senior Maegen Ellis, doesn't have much time to adjust to his promotion. Oak Hill Academy is scheduled to open the 2013 season Friday at home against Starkville Academy. Ellis shouldn't need much time to transition from assistant to head coach, though. A few years ago, Ellis helped former fast-pitch softball coach Marion Bratton as a coach. This was to be his first season as an assistant coach until those plans changed Monday morning.
"Nathan is a good kid who wants to be a coach, and he already was helping with the basketball program (at Oak Hill Academy)," said Bratton, who will remain the school's baseball coach. "He was going to help me if they hadn't hired Beth (last year), or at least (they were going to) try to get him (to be coach).
"He knows the game because he has been following Maegen. ... He is fundamentally sound, and he knows how to reach out to players in situations like him and build them up."
Bratton coached Nathan Ellis on the Oak Hill Academy baseball team. Ellis graduated from Oak Hill Academy in 2008 and went on to get an associate's degree from East Mississippi Community College (Mayhew) before transferring to Mississippi State University. Ellis is a senior at MSU and is working to become certified to be a teacher and a coach. He said he will continue his studies at MSU in the mornings and travel to West Point to coach the Oak Hill Academy fast-pitch softball team in the afternoons.
Ellis and the Lady Raiders started preparations for the season three weeks ago. He said the team didn't know about Thompson's plans to leave the program until the end of practice Monday. He expects the coaching transition to go smoothly because he knows a lot of the players. Still, he knows he will be a little anxious in his first season as a head coach.
"It is not so much coaching because (Maegen) knows a little bit," Ellis said. "I like to use her because she is a senior and is probably the most experienced player out there as my student coach."
Bratton believes Ellis will do well because he will be able to relate to the players. He also feels Ellis knows the game well enough to work through the typical first-year learning curve new coaches experience.
"That is how it gets passed on," said Bratton, who has 38 years experience as a coach. "You hand it to somebody young and let them run with it."
Ellis said he plans to talk to Bratton about coaching and welcomes any insight or advice his former baseball coach will offer. He also is confident Thompson will do a fine job at Ethel High and wishes her the best.
As for his first team at Oak Hill Academy, which suffered key losses to graduation, including longtime pitcher Mamie Allen, Ellis knows he and the Lady Raiders could be in for some growing pains. But he said youth or low expectations won't stand in his or his team's way.
"We're a really young team," Ellis said. "At first we weren't doing too well, but we have really grown a lot in the past few weeks of practice. I am excited to see how they do. I think we were picked last in the district. We're going to fight hard and prove them wrong and prove we're better than a last-place team, that we will compete."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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