Huffsticklers excited to coach together at Kansas Wesleyan
*Editor’s Note: This feature film was written shortly before the birth of the Huffstickler’s daughter, Parker.
Sam and Tyler Huffstickler weren’t unhappy with their jobs at Central Missouri – Sam, a full-time assistant coach for the Jennies and Tyler softball team and volunteer assistant for the Mules’ stellar baseball program.
The impending birth of their first child and the desire to both be employed full-time, preferably at the same establishment, however, was a perfect but unlikely scenario.
Enter Kansas Wesleyan and optimal openings for full-time assistants in both sports. A series of phone calls, a whirlwind trip to Salina for interviews, two job offers, and the unexpected availability of a home they loved necessitated another move, but were excited to make.
“That’s what you ask for every time you get married and train together, to be in the same place and to be full time, especially with the little one,” said Tyler, who joins coach Bill’s staff. Neale and will work with KWU pitchers in 2022-23. “Being full time is the kicker.”
“We’ve moved around so much and been to so many different schools and now with our baby here we’re definitely looking for stability so it’s nice that we can put down roots and find a home and that kind of stuff,” said Sam Huffstickler, who will primarily coach new softball head coach Ryan Cooper’s pitching.
Tyler Huffstickler replaced Cooper on Neale’s team after Cooper switched to softball after the baseball season.
Tyler is no stranger to KWU after playing for Neale in the 2016 season and earning a bachelor’s degree.
“We’ve stayed in touch for the past five years and allowed me to get my feet wet in the coaching world,” he said. “He got me my first job with Coach (Ryan) Bay in Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa and we stayed in touch from there. I feel like he’s been contacting me every year for three years to offer me a job.
Huffstickler coached outfielders this spring as Central Missouri (46-9) won the MIAA title and advanced to the Division II Central Regional Finals. He was a pitching coach for two seasons at Missouri Baptist and coached NOC-Tonkawa for three seasons prior to Warrensburg.
“He was an outstanding teammate,” Neale said. “Even though he came in the semester, he was already almost a coach in the dugout and always ready to help his teammates. When he went to NOC-Tonkawa, he coached under Coach Bay, who I coached with for nine years.
“Every time something opened up, I would reach out to him and say ‘we’ll definitely take you. “”
Huffstickler knows another member of the coaching staff — graduate assistant Ethan Wilson, who has pitched for KWU for the past three seasons.
“I coached him through his freshman and sophomore years in Oklahoma, so a good relationship there,” Huffstickler said. “I’m sure he’ll give me details on the guys.”
He’s already developed an offseason for KWU’s pitching staff, which is losing three from this year’s team — Trent Dewyer, Oscar Sanchez and Wilson.
“It’s going to involve a lot of weight room stuff, a lot of weight ball stuff, and all the arm care,” Huffstickler said. “The pitching staff is going to go out there and throw strikes and dominate the area. This is what my pitching philosophy revolves around. We will try to improve the strikeouts, try to lower the steps.
Neale can’t wait to see Tyler in action.
“He’s going to bring an energy that I don’t know if (the players) are ready for,” he said with a smile. “He is intense and he will bring competition. They will grow and improve; it will motivate them. They have to work and do it, but he’s going to get them where they want to go.
Sam Huffstickler spent one season at Central Missouri. She was a head coach at St. Charles Community College (Mo.) for two seasons before going to Warrensburg and was also an assistant at NOC-Tonkawa and Oklahoma Baptist. She played two seasons at Three Rivers College (Mo.) and two at Arkansas Tech.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve been everywhere, I’ve done the juco level, the D-2 level but I haven’t been to the NAIA world so I’m excited to see where it takes me. (KWU) had a very good year with the circumstances that came with it. I’m excited to coach these women and give them some consistency with the throws.
She is an important addition for Cooper.
“She brings a ton of experience,” he said. “With me being a new coach in the softball world, I have a lot to learn and she’s been a head coach, she’s been an assistant coach on many levels. She will mostly work with pitchers but will likely be a jack of all trades and do a lot of things.
“He’s also a good person and that’s really important to me.”
Huffstickler played catcher and says experience is beneficial when working with pitchers.
“You can learn so much, you can see the spin of the ball coming towards you rather than being the one actually spinning it,” she said. “I contacted (the KWU players), told them here’s what we’re going to do for the relievers, the expectations I have and that kind of stuff.”
Recruitment will also be a priority.
“By recruiting at the juco level, you have to bring in that many children each year, which is a bit of the opposite at the D-2 and four-year level – you only have to replace a couple each year”, a- she declared. “I think having those two recruiting experiences will help me.”
Huffstickler plans to apply what she has seen and learned at Central Missouri.
“The head coaches and the cultures (of softball and baseball) are amazing, so I really want to try to bring some of that culture here,” she said. “It’s more important than softball – being good people, being good citizens, that kind of thing that will take them farther in life than softball ever will.”