Former New Franklin Lady Bulldogs softball coach Terry Early will be remembered for many things while coaching both softball and basketball in some capacity from 1974-2004.
But more than anything, New Franklin Superintendent David Haggard said Mr. Early will be missed very much just not from the community but from the lives he touched over the years.
Early passed away on Thursday, February 13th.
“Terry was kind of a leader in the A-plus program for us here,” Haggard said. “He took care of all of that for years and that was a huge task at the very beginning. We were one of the first schools to implement A-plus but then as a softball coach he was just a legend. The kids just loved him. He was big into quizzing and would quiz the kids on the bus.”
Early began his teaching career at New Franklin in 1974-75 and then retired from teaching in 1999 but continued to work at the school as A-plus coordinator, softball coach and athletic director.
Haggard said the 2013-14 school year was “Terry’s” 40th year at New Franklin R-I Schools.
During his tenure as softball coach from 1974-2004, Early finished his career with a record of 347-119 with 21 conference championships, 13 district titles, five Final Four appearances and two state championships.
Meanwhile, in basketball, Early coached the Lady Bulldogs from 1974-1990 and finished his career with 210 wins, which still ranks as the most wins in New Franklin girls basketball. During that stint, he also led the team to four conference championships and four district titles.
Early was also inducted into the Missouri High School Fast-Pitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame on November 1, 2008.
New Franklin Athletic Director and current softball coach Ross Dowell said Coach Early was like his school father.
“I helped Terry and assisted him for about eight years and then I took over as the athletic director when he retired,” Dowell said. “Those 8-10 years he was very helpful and he still helped me to this day with the buses and signs. He was a great guy and very professional and like I said a good mentor for me to get me where I have been today.”
Dowell said he also learned a lot from Coach Early.
“He mostly taught me about being professional as a coach,” Dowell said. “He pushed the girls and and girl to this day if he would ask them to play, they would still try put a glove on for him. Just the mannerism of the game and the basic fundamentals of the game and I guess the strategies of the game back then. We did a lot of bunting and small ball back then because the pitching was so good.”
New Franklin School Board President Travis Hundley said having a Hall of Fame Coach at a Class 1 softball school is quite an accomplishment.
“Terry definitely put the softball program on the map,” Hundley said. “We were a title contender every year, and then in the classroom he affected so many students.”
Kacey Marshall, who played for Coach Early from 1986-89, said she first knew of Mr. Early while a seventh grader taking his English/Language Arts class.
“He quickly became one of my favorite teachers,” Marshall said. “We were always reading a novel in his class and my fondest memory was reading the “The Hobbit”. It’s one of my favorites still today. He was always eager to engage in conversation, discussing the current ready assignment or days events. He had an uncanny way of connecting with all of his students, regardless of their background. I then grew to know him as Coach Early on the softball field in high school.
“He and my father formed a bond over the love of the game, and furthered their knowledge of the game together. They didn’t always agree, but their ability to talk through coming to an understanding only strengthened their friendship. Coach Early was a staple and avid supporter of Bulldog sports. When I returned to watch games years after my graduation, even as recently as this past fall, he was always there and greeted me with his quirky smile.”
Reachel Jennings Beichley, who played for Early from 1983-1987, said all those who follow the New Franklin Bulldogs mourn the loss of a great coach today.
“Terry Early (always known as Mr. Early) was a great teacher, on and off the basketball court and the softball field,” Beichley said. “He inspired a generation of Lady Bulldogs to succeed and his legacy of success will not soon be forgotten. I am proud to have been part of his athletic program and my condolences go out to his family and friends.”