The retirement of Susan Grubbs marked the end of an illustrious era for Clarke County softball.
Eagles director of athletics Casey Childs feels pretty good about the program’s chances to fly high with their new coach, though.
Darren “Fly” Lambert — Clarke County’s JV softball head coach for the past six years — was approved by the Clarke County School Board on Monday night to succeed Grubbs as the varsity head coach. Grubbs retired in May after winning 387 games and 10 Winchester Star Softball Coach of the Year awards over 31 years.
“He knows all of our kids, and he’s a community guy,” said Childs in a phone interview. “There’s nobody more passionate about Clarke County High School — and just in general — than Fly. He just embodies everything that’s Clarke County with spirit, energy and his passion for the kids. It’s unquestioned, for sure.”
The 48-year-old Lambert is a 1989 Clarke County graduate and a former Eagles baseball player. He coached the Eagles JV baseball team for two years before he took over the JV softball program. He’s also entering his fourth year as an assistant coach for the Clarke County varsity volleyball team.
After laughing at the inquiry, Lambert said the origin of his nickname — which everyone but his wife and mother uses — is a “long story from probably seventh or eighth grade. I won’t even go into that.” He was more than happy to go into his excitement about being the new varsity softball coach, though.
“With the familiarity of all the girls who came through the JV program, I wanted to step up and coach them again,” said Lambert, who also got to coach eighth-graders in addition to high school players with the JV team. “[As far as philsophy], I try to build confidence and motivate the girls. We have a good time, and I’m going to try and bring that same philosophy from the JV level to the varsity level.
“I want the girls to have fun, and I believe the fun atmosphere will produce winning.”
Over the last two seasons, the Clarke County JV team has produced a record of 28-7, including 12-5 last year. The Eagles lost only two games in Lambert’s first and fifth seasons.
Lambert will take over a varsity team that did not have a single senior on it this spring, and he feels the team’s collective experience with each other should help him as Clarke County looks to bounce back from a rare losing season. The Eagles went 6-15 last year for just their seventh losing season under Grubbs.
“There were probably four freshmen and four sophomores who started last year,” Lambert said. “We’re going to be very young, but those young ladies have played a lot of travel ball and bring a lot of experience. One more year under their belt with each other should hopefully bring the wins up.”
Lambert said Grubbs definitely set a strong standard to follow.
“I learned a lot in the past six years from Coach Grubbs,” Lambert said. “Coming from baseball to coaching fast-pitch, it was a little different for me. She helped me along the way, and I feel I’m ready to take that next step to the varsity level now.”