Coaches Corner: Stevens High softball coach Missy Nichols

  • Stevens coach Missy Nichols huddles up with her team before their game with Newport in Newport, N.H., on May 11, 2018. Through the 2019 season, Nichols has led the team for 18 years. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Newport coach Sam McNeel and Stevens coach Missy Nichols meet with the umpires before the first game of their double-header in Newport, N.H., on May 11, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2019 10:13:36 PM

This is the third of eight installments of the Valley News’ weekly profiles of local high school coaches this summer. It’s a chance to better know some of the people guiding the area’s student-athletes.

Today, we meet Missy Nichols, Stevens High’s 18th-year softball coach, who’s worked with the state of New Hampshire’s Health and Human Services department for 20 years.

Family: Nichols is married to Tim Nichols, who’s worked for a Claremont electrical supply company since 1985. They have a 27-year old son, Cody, who’s headed back to school to become a social studies teacher. His sister, Alyssa, 25, works at the Keene office of Heath and Human Services and is finishing a criminal justice degree at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. Both children were three-sport athletes at Stevens, and Tim coaches with Missy.

Wildcat Roots: Nichols’ parents live next to Fall Mountain High in Langdon, N.H., from which she graduated in 1985. She backstopped the Wildcats soccer team to a state final and was a shooting guard on the school’s 1983 state title basketball squad. “In softball, we had a different coach every year, so we never made a playoff run,” she said. “But I just always loved the sport and drifted that way.”

Inks and Images: “I went to Lakes Region Community College in Laconia for graphic arts. I worked at a printing company for 12 years in the prepress department and then got into management before going to another company. But graphic artists have mostly become either independent workers or they are with firms in bigger cities. Once we had kids, I looked for something that wasn’t being phased out.”

Career Switch: Nichols knew some HHS workers and began there by interviewing clients to determine their eligibility for various types of assistance, including food stamps, heating fuel help and cash medical aid. “It really was an eye-opener,” she said. “People on our doorstep are in a bad situation, and it’s not where anyone wants to be. We’re the first stop, and even if we’re not the answer, we can guide them in the right direction. It’s a very rewarding job.”

Attuned to Need: “My work helps my coaching, because you understand where some kids are coming from and you recognize the signs that they’re not getting enough nutrition or why they can’t come to practice. Some of our kids don’t know how they’re going to get food or where they’re going to sleep, so you can’t just assume they’re ditching practice. You learn to ask what they need and to ask how you can help.”

Battlefield Promotion: Nichols started as a Cardinal assistant in 2001 and took over the head job midway through the next season. “I’m not sure I was ready, but the kids worked with me,” she said. “I like to make things happen, to generate runs with the small game. I’ve become more understanding over the years, because kids now are torn in so many directions and there are a lot of conflicts with spring sports. We have to work around it, because it’s not going to change.”

Spare Time: Missy, Tim and their kids often attend Claremont and Upper Valley games in various sports on various levels, just because they’re fans. Missy runs the scorer’s table for the Cardinals’ field hockey team in the fall, and Tim works the clock at Stevens basketball games. They also walk with their chocolate Labrador dog, Bentley.

Family Ties: “Alyssa played four years (of softball) for us, and we lost the 2012 state championship game when she was the pitcher. It was only our second loss that season. It’s difficult, because you never know how parents are going to react if they think favoritism is involved. And if I was frustrated with somebody, I would sometimes take it out on our daughter because I knew I could. I was harder on her than I needed to be, but you always want to win a little more when you’re coaching your kid.”

Back in the Game: “My daughter played adult softball in Keene the last couple of years, and I filled in when they needed someone. I started in right field, but that didn’t go well, and I could tell she cringed because I was rusty. But I did well hitting and wound up playing second base and we won the championship. Everyone was pretty patient with me.”

Upward Mobility: “This past spring was our first after moving up to (NHIAA) Division II. The community attitude was pretty negative, but we didn’t have a choice, so why complain? Softball was the only team to make the Division II playoffs and we were only (seeded) 13th, but we didn’t get blown out by anyone. I don’t think we belong up there, but in Division III, it’s sometimes hard to stay sharp when you’re facing its lesser team and pitching. We earned the sportsmanship award this year, so that was pretty cool.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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