Local Sports: Heather Chatwood is softball’s The Natural

It was a natural progression for Heather Chatwood to get into coaching softball.

After all the 34-year-old native of Saskatchewan grew up playing the game at a high level, including four years with the Canadian National team.

“I never thought about it until last year … but after having (a couple of) kids, the idea of coaching came up,” she explained.

She took over the U16 Rage this summer and led them to a provincial championship and a berth in the Canadians, which opened Wednesday in Calgary.

“It’s been a great experience working with an amazing group of girls and amazing group of parents,” she added.

Chatwood (nee Ebert) started playing softball in Rosthern, SK., and got on her first travel team in bantam while playing for Shellbrook.

“I played all the school sports and played hockey in the winter, but softball was always my passion,” said Chatwood, who got a scholarship to Colby Junior College in Kansas where she met her eventual husband, Jason Chatwood.

“We were only together there for the one year before I moved to Adams State in Colorado,” she said.

But the two stayed in touch and married in 2014, a year after she finished her time with the national program.

“I joined Team Canada in 2010 and played four years,” she said. “My first year we went to the World championships in Venezuela where we won bronze and the following year we won silver at the Pan Ams in Mexico. Those were the two big events.”

Heather, who played short stop in college, was a backup her first season with the national team, playing middle infield and eventually third base. The following season they moved her to the outfield.

“They said I had a good arm and wanted me in the lineup somewhere so they moved me to the outfield.”

But after four years Heather was getting married and found she needed time away from the game.

“I was burnt out after college and the national team so I took a year off,” she said. “When I moved to Red Deer I was still in the playing mode and played senior women before getting into the coaching.”

Heather has a full time teaching position at St. Thomas Junior High and is involved with the St. Joe’s baseball and softball academy.

The academy is run by director Scott Murray and head instructor Jason Chatwood with the softball portion led by Terry Hunter. Last year Heather was involved as a guest coach. She’ll spend a bit more time with the program this season as she’ll travel to the academy with the Grade 6 and 7s from St. Thomas.

Heather is a big push behind the academy.

“There was a big need for it,” she stressed. “It will really benefit the Central Alberta kids, so they can stay at home and develop their skills over the winter. You’ll see more kids going to college. It’s interesting to see the development of the kids, both in baseball and softball. To see where they’re at after getting to work on their game during the winter.”

Several girls off the U16 team will be involved with the academy and Heather will definitely benefit from that experience as she’s been named the head coach of the new U19A team.

“We talked during the winter about creating a U19A team, which we should have. We have a big association with a lot of talented girls and we were losing them to other places once they got older.

“With the girls coming up from U16 and those already in the U19 program and and getting the girls back who have been playing elsewhere we’ll have a strong team, like the B team.”

Heather has to smile when looking back.

“It’s kind of neat to come full circle and to give back to the game which has given me so much,” she said. “It’s neat to be able to share my experience and knowledge with an amazing group of kids. This year is unforgettable.”

Heather isn’t sure what will happen at the Nationals but just being there fulfilled their season goal.

“One paper we knew we had a good team and talked early on about setting a goal to win provincials and go to the Nationals. Fortunately it played out that way.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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