Andrew Pollard took it upon himself to facilitate offseason workouts for the Hannibal High School softball team even while it operated without an official head coach.
Pollard, who served as an assistant coach the past three seasons, witnessed first-hand the turnaround the Lady Pirates achieved during five seasons under Kendra Murphy, who stepped down in January to take the helm at Centralia.
The former Hannibal-LaGrange University baseball player was interested in the opening but knew what he should do regardless of how the hiring process shook out.
"I was just trying to look out for the girls and wanted to make sure they were ready," Pollard said. "I didn't want the girls to be behind whether it was ultimately with me or not with me.
"I went with it as if I had the job."
Now he does.
Pollard has been hired as the new head softball coach at Hannibal, the school district announced Thursday morning.
"I'm excited about this opportunity and where we can go with this," he said. "I'm ready to get going. I know it's March and it's raining right now almost everywhere in Missouri, but I'm ready to get on the field, get the girls prepared and jump into the season to show the community what we still have. The past several years weren't flukes. We're not going anywhere anytime soon."
Hannibal is coming off a 15-11 campaign that featured its second straight runner-up finish in the North Central Missouri Conference.
The Lady Pirates came one run short of claiming the district championship, falling in the Class 3 District 8 title game for the second consecutive season.
"I'm looking forward to continuing the success the girls have been having with coach Murphy and hopefully getting to that next step of getting first place in districts and continuing on in the postseason," Pollard said.
The first-year head coach anticipates five rising seniors will return with a desire to lead the team to further heights.
Josie Zeiger, Hailey Whittaker, Kennedy Schmohe, Taylor Wilson and Lauran Haye are the expected upperclassmen next season.
"What's really cool about this core of seniors is they were freshmen my first year coaching," Pollard said. "I'm excited to see the passion they have for winning and to be a team. They've been successful their first three years and they know the pain of coming up short, literally coming one run short in districts last year. They have a chip on their shoulders."
Pollard, 26, is a 2010 graduate of Fox High School in Arnold, Missouri, where he stood out on the diamond to earn a baseball scholarship at HLGU.
Upon completing his education degree in December 2014, he launched his career as a high school English teacher at Hannibal.
The new head coach admits the opportunity to lead the softball program came sooner than he had imagined.
He gave credit to Murphy for teaching him the ropes.
"I'm filling some big shoes of coach Murphy," Pollard explained. "She turned this program around from a five-win season to second place in districts the past two years. Working with her and under her has been a huge blessing and given me a new outlook on what a head coach does."
Pollard mentioned he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to follow his own passion to coach.
The new head man will be counting down the days until the season begins five months from now.
"It's been an awesome whirlwind," he said. "Teaching and coaching, being around the kids and hopefully having an impact on them, that's something I've always been passionate about and had a goal to do and strive for in life."