By Maurice Patton
‘Philosophical differences’, vague as it sounds, may be the best way to describe the situation that resulted in Shelby Burchell Tietgens’ recent resignation as softball coach at Columbia Central.
“There were some differences in opinions between Shelby and the administration, and it was decided between the two that it was best that they part ways,” said Hannah Thomason Cole, whose installation as interim coach was announced Friday night.
Named to succeed current Central athletics director Kevin Creech following the 2019 season, Tietgens’ tenure ended Thursday – a month before preseason practice officially begins, and after, officially, just three games in a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
“It was disappointing to not have a season last year. That was out of everybody’s control,” she said. “It was not ideal for anybody.”
Her impact on the program far exceeded that 0-3 record, though.
A five-year starter and a four-year all-state selection at Columbia Academy – where she and Thomason Cole were teammates, and where she is an Athletic Hall of Fame honoree – Burchell Tietgens went on to play in two Women’s College World Series over four seasons at the University of Tennessee. After ending her playing career in 2012, she returned to the area and worked as a personal instructor and coached travel ball prior to taking over the Lady Lions’ helm.
“I don’t feel like there’s a lot to comment on because I don’t want there to be anything crazy,” she said. “I just feel like this was the best for everybody, everyone involved. I do know the program is in capable hands with Hannah. I think she’ll do great.
“I just think it would probably be best if I just kept my mouth shut. I don’t have to be involved with it any more. It won’t affect me, the things that I say, but it will affect others. That’s what I’m trying to steer clear of, is not making it any harder on anybody else.”
Central principal Roger White was reluctant to discuss the issue as well.
“I’m disappointed that that’s what Shelby has decided to do,” he said. “We wish her well in whatever she does in the future.”
Despite the change, and its timing, Cole expects the foundation laid by Tietgens over the past 18 months to pay dividends this spring.
“I’m excited to take on the challenge,” she said. “I know that there will probably be some difficulties moving forward. I’ve only been an assistant coach; I’ve never been in the head coaching role, but I have a great support system. I think with the team we have, we will do well this year.
“Since I’ve been with Coach Tietgens, starting in the summer tryouts and the fall, being present with her, we have a lot of the same values and outlook on team sports and softball. We’re going to continue to keep those moving forward. The girls of course are upset about the loss of Coach Tietgens, as we all are. They’re also ready and excited to move forward with us.”
In her absence, Tietgens hopes for the best for her now former players.
“I do want the program to be successful,” she said. “I love those girls. They’re going to do well.”
Maurice Patton is the editor for SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mopatton_sports on Twitter.