Utah State softball added two new faces to its coaching staff this summer in Jo Koons and Laura Heberling. A Utah State graduate and former Aggie softball player, Koons returns to Logan after spending three seasons in various coaching positions.
What is your softball background?
Koons: "I played at Utah State for four years. It was great. It's pretty cool to see the change in the culture. I was kind of at the start of it when coach (Steve) Johnson came then just watching it evolve in the last five years. I went off to Stanford, was a volunteer assistant coach there, got my feet wet and loved every second of it. I knew I need to get my master's, so I left and went to Colorado Christian started that degree and was an assistant coach there. Then, I decided why not just take a head coaching job? I spent a year as the head coach at Lassen College and that was a lot of learning experience. Then, I decided I would be much better as an assistant because now I know what a head coach needs. So, now I'm back and I'm excited to be here."
What drew you to this job? What was the hiring process like?
Koons: "When I was here for a visit in May, it was so funny, people were asking if I was going to come back. And I was like, 'What are you guys talking about?' Like, they have coaches. A few weeks later, coach Johnson reached out to me and said there would be a couple of openings on staff and asked if I would be interested. I said yes and that was how it started. Then, we went through the normal interview process and everything. I'm super excited to be back. He knows me really well. I was a team captain for him, so it's kind of nice coming back to somewhere where you don't have to reestablish yourself. J already knows me, and I already know him and how he works. Laura (Heberling) and I have gotten along super well already. It's like I've known her forever even though we only met a few weeks ago. It's been really neat. I'm super excited to work with slappers, hitters and outfielders."
What is your role going to be on the coaching staff?
Koons: "I'll be working with the slappers, hitters and outfielders. Then I'll run some of the travel as well and help with recruiting"
What are some of your goals for the 2019 season?
Koons: "I want to get back to a few years ago when the team was were on the upswing. We have a lot of young talent coming in which is super exciting to see. This is probably some of the best talent that I've seen in the five years that I've watched this program. As far as personal goals, I want to see our lefties learn how to be triple threats and not just be straight hitters and not just be straight slappers. I want to develop them as people all-around both on-and-off the field."
How will your experience coaching at several different levels be beneficial to you now?
Koons: "Every school I've been at has given me something different to take with me. Because I've coached at different levels, I've learned how to adjust my teaching to best meet the players. In return, that has continued to help me grow as a coach. Beyond that, I have learned so much from the people that I have worked under. Each of them have taught me something different and a few of them continue to mentor me today."
What does it mean to come back and coach at your alma mater?
Koons: "It's an indescribable feeling. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to do that or to coach with the coach they played for, so I feel extremely blessed."
What was the appeal to wanting to come back to coach at Utah State?
Koons: "It's Aggie nation. I don't know if there are any places like it. I'm sure everybody says that about their alma mater, but I really think there's something special about Logan. As soon as I got the job, a bunch of my old teammates called me, and of course they congratulated me, but the first words out of their mouth were, 'I'm so jealous,' because there's just something special about Logan and Utah State."
What is one of your favorite memories from your time here as a player?
Koons: "One of my favorite memories was junior year when we beat San Diego State on the road. It was a 1-0 game and they got the lead-off runner on and then I had a shot hit back at me and Allison (Lenzora) and I turned a double play. Then Noelle (Johnson) rolled another high-hopper to me at shortstop, and it was literally the scariest ground ball I've ever taken in my life because I didn't want to mess it up. It was cool because we got the win at their place. That was really neat."
How did your versatility help you as a player and now as a coach?
Koons: "As a player, it was so fun because I was never bored. It was able to do whatever it took to help the team. That's the same way that I coach. It was super special that I got to have that experience here cause then everywhere that I've applied to coach, they've asked what I you specialize in and I was able to say, 'Well, I kind of did everything. So, just tell me what you'd like me to do and I'll put my nose to the ground and go do that.' Being able to come back here and work in the outfield is so funny because everyone assumes I played there, but I only did for a year. I did other things too. It's fun and I enjoy it. I enjoy getting to see different aspects of the game. That's something really special about our staff as well. We're all kind of versatile, so this year, we'll be able to move around and maybe one day I'll take the infield just to change things up."
When you're not on the field, what do you enjoy doing:
Koons: "I have a dog named Champ. I take him on a lot of walks. I like to bake. I'm good at making cookies. I like being outside. I like being around friends and family. I love watching sports."
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Koons: "I want to see every major league baseball park. I probably have about 10, so we're making progress. I want to go skydiving at some point. I want to impact lives."
Fans can follow the Aggie softball program on Twitter, @USUSoftball, on Facebook at /USUSoftball or on Instagram, @ususoftball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter, @USUAthletics, Facebook at /USUAthletics and on Instagram, @USUAthletics.