Dawn Rister is anxious. Sad. Uncertain.
But she is happy.
After announcing that her 13th season as a head softball coach would be her last, Rister looks forward to just being “Mama” to her three children.
“It’s just time for me to go and be a full-time part of their lives,” said Rister, whose Irmo Yellow Jackets (17-4) closed her final season as Region 4-4A and District 4 champions Monday.
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This year seemed the right year to take a step back.
“Whenever I started at Irmo, we were kind of starting from scratch. My mom and Dad always raised me to leave somewhere better than you came and we’re there now with Irmo,” Rister said.
That does not mean she will miss it any less.
Rister was a softball coach before she was a mom.
She pitched a full batting practice the day before giving birth to her and husband Doug’s first child. When the baby, daughter Taylor, now 12, was five days old, Rister was back on the field.
With her husband’s support, plus a good bit of coordination and a lot of gasoline, Rister has juggled raising her family with coaching the sport she has loved since she was 13 years old.
Doug and the children have been fixtures in the softball stadium. Irmo’s team locker room has been littered with kids’ toys over the years, and Rister’s coaching bag has frequently been stocked with diapers and pacifiers.
“Doug is the one I couldn’t do without,” Rister said. “I don’t know how many husbands would do all the things that he has done over the years to make it possible for me to coach.”
Doug would not have had it any other way.
“We’ve always made it work and I never saw her coaching as stopping us from doing anything,” he said, en route to son Tucker’s baseball game in Chapin on Monday. “It’s sad to see her give up something that she loves to do.”
But coaching was keeping Rister from some of the things she wanted to do. As much as she loves softball and enjoys coaching, Rister has longed to be a more present mom, to pick up Taylor from drama practices and watch 10-year-old Tucker’s baseball games. Missing 5-year-old Cooper’s first four tee-ball games was excruciating.
So Rister has given herself a gift this Mother’s Day. She will do all those things she often thought about while she was at a practice or a game and her family was elsewhere.
Her children have mixed emotions.
“It’s cool with my mom being the coach, because we got to go to a lot of tournaments and do a lot of fun things,” said Tucker. “It will be nice to know that my mom is there more, and if I decide I want to do things, I won’t have to worry if it’s going to conflict with softball,” said Taylor, who is looking forward to showcasing her comedic talents in a school variety show later this month. She is happy to know that her mother will be in the audience.
The Irmo softball team will not cease to be a part of the Rister family though.
“I still consider all the players on the team like older sisters,” said Taylor. “I’m sure we’re still going to come out and watch their games. I know my mom is not going to just stop watching, and I don’t want her to.”
For a while, Rister will still say “we” when she talks about Irmo softball.
She put a lot of pride and sweat into the program, she said, and she remains vested in their success. She loved being the Yellow Jackets coach.
Being a mom will be just as gratifying.
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.