While coaching turnover has beset many Payson High School athletic programs in recent years, such has not been the case with softball.
Well, it hadn’t.
Will Dunman, principal at Julia Randall Elementary School, served as head coach from 2000 to 2005 and again from 2007 until this year, when the district imposed a policy barring school administrators from serving as athletic coaches.
But the program will be in familiar hands as longtime assistant coach Kadi Tenney has been hired to take over as varsity head coach. Tenney, who played softball at Payson High before graduating in 1993, has served as the varsity assistant coach under Dunman for a decade. She took one year off three times for the birth of children.
“I’m very excited,” she said of the opportunity. “I’ve been an assistant coach off and on about 12 of the last 15 years under Will, so I feel like this isn’t a huge change for me. I already love it, have a passion for it and I’m excited to continue the tradition of really good softball that Will Dunman established at Payson High School.”
The Longhorns have reached the state semifinals each of the past two seasons. Nine of the 12 letter-winners from this past season, including six starters, return in 2014.
“We have outstanding young ladies who are coming back from last season,” Tenney said. “So the promise for a successful season is definitely there. We’ve got strength in our returning varsity players.”
Tenney has a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Spanish from Northern Arizona University, although she spent the first three years of her college education at the University of Arizona. “I did graduate from NAU, but I’m a Wildcat at heart,” she said.
She and her husband, Jared Tenney, a physical therapist at Payson Physical Therapy, have four children. Their daughter, Ali, is a junior at PHS. Their son, Cole, 12, is a seventh-grader at Rim Country Middle School. Their son Braden, 9, is a third-grader at Julia Randall Elementary. And their daughter, Jessa, 5, is a kindergartner at Payson Elementary.
PHS athletic director Don Heizer said he’s thrilled to have a coach with ties to the program taking over.
“We are extremely excited about what Kadi brings to the program with her past experience and relationship with the girls,” Heizer said. “She is a Longhorn through and through.”
She said she’ll try to use what she learned from Dunman in her new role. “I have a lot of respect for Will,” Tenney said. “He established a tradition of, not only good softball at Payson High School, but of building good character in the young ladies that played for him. And that’s something I hope to continue to instill in these young ladies — good character, so that they go out and become good citizens.”
Although she’ll likely move from the first-base coaching box she previously occupied, to coaching third base as most head coaches do, she said the biggest difference in her duties will involve dealing with more paperwork.
“I think basically it’s a lot more administrative ability,” she said of being a head coach. “The responsibility, not only for the varsity, but also for the JV team, is now basically on me.”
Payson has never claimed a varsity state softball championship. But that could be a possibility next spring with all the talent and experience returning to the team. Among the returning players are two standout pitchers in Arianna and Arissa Paulson. Arianna Paulson is a senior who signed a National Letter of Intent to accept a softball scholarship to Brigham Young University on Monday. Her younger sister, who’ll be a sophomore this spring, has already verbally committed to BYU.
“There were high expectations the last two years and I think the expectations will continue to be there,” Tenney said. “My goal is to continue that tradition of playing well and hopefully do better than we did before. That’s always our goal: to do better.”