Changing of the guard

web hst soft After ten years on the softball field, Keith Jernigan is stepping off the baseline and heading back to the gym where he started his teaching and coaching career.

Jernigan began working for the Houston School District 15 years ago, teaching Physical Education at the Upper Elementary School, concentrating mainly on basketball. He moved to the Middle School, still teaching Physical Education and coaching some junior high basketball and assisting with high school under coach Bruce Franks, but his primary goal was building the girl’s softball program, both junior varsity and varsity.
He has met his personal goals, with his teams notching a State Championship, State Runners-Up nod and several division and North Half titles.
“I’ve had a good time with it and I’ve been praying about this a lot,” Jernigan said of the transition off the diamond and back into the gym.
He will head up the junior high basketball programs this fall and turn the softball program over to Assistant Coach Jeffrey Mann.
“He’s a good person and he really bought into the program,” Jernigan said. “He’s really sold on it and wants to see it succeed.”
Mann said he is looking forward to the opportunity to continue the program.
“I’m really excited about taking over the program,” Mann said. “Keith’s done a great job putting us on the map and I’ve learned a lot under him as his assistant. He’s taught me a lot about the game that will help me as a coach.”
Jernigan won’t leave him high and dry and will be accessible through the transition period.
“I’ll help him any way I can,” Jernigan said, adding he feels the team is solid and shouldn’t have any problem adjusting to a coaching change.
“The girls really bought into the program and that brought their success,” Jernigan said. “I never really had to teach them to catch or throw, they already knew that from playing (in summer league).My job was to show them they could win and be successful. They pushed each other and pushed me. We made each other competitive.”
Now, Jernigan is heading to the middle school to bring his competitive spirit back to the gym where he’s also had his share of success.
“I was fortunate enough to coach the team that went to State in basketball (in 2005),” Jernigan said. “I had them since fourth grade (through eighth grade) and I’m looking forward to getting back and putting emphasis on that program.”
Mann said he is ready to get back on the diamond this fall for slow pitch and moving into fast pitch in the spring.
“The girls here are great,” Mann said. “They are very coachable, they do what I ask them. They see I want to do what’s best for the team.”