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Lakeridge coach hangs up his hat after three decades

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The Lakeridge Hawks were tied at 2-2 at home in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Mountain View Wolves Oct. 17 when a red tail hawk started soaring overhead.

“The girls knew that was our symbol,” coach Mike Atkinson said. “I tell them whenever we see a hawk fly overhead we win. Of course, a hawk flies over every day, but it works.”

Atkinson has been making it work for the girls on his softball teams for 28 years at Lakeridge Middle School, and that game proved the point once again. The girls pulled out a 3-2 victory in the bottom of the seventh.

The win handed Atkinson a three-year winning streak and a 10-0 record for each of the past three seasons.

The Oct. 17 game was also Atkinson's last at the helm of the Hawks. After nearly three decades in which his teams won about 60 percent of their games, the coach has decided to hang up his hat and leave the sideline for the stands.

“I have been very blessed,” the 61-year-old Atkinson said. “I worked with really nice kids.”

After the victory the girls surrounded the coach, giving him hugs, crying and laughing.

“I didn't realize how important it was to the kids,” Atkinson said. “They wanted to win this game for me. It's an incredible team.”

Atkinson retired as a teacher at Lakeridge Middle School three years ago and has been with the Sumner School District for 34 years.

He said his first couple of seasons coaching softball were not quite like his last.

“We played at Allan Yorke Park because we didn't have a field,” Atkinson said. “Sometimes the buses would forget us and we would send the catcher home to call the school.”

The coach said he attributes his years of success to “stressing fundamentals and teaching the whole child. They're really trying to figure out how to live life.”

Atkinson said he gave every girl he coached a book at the beginning of the season. The book, which he compiled, had advice on softball and life and inspirational poems.

“Lots of kids come back and tell me they still read the book all the time,” he said. “I've had a lot of success with kids going off to college and playing and many come back and help the girls.”

Lisa Courneya has had two of her daughters play for Atkinson, 16-year-old Kimberly and Jacqui, 13, who played on this year's team.

“He is nothing but positive,” Lisa Courneya said. “My girls loved him. He is really good at getting the girls to mesh together.”

Atkinson said he has no plans to coach again.

“I think I'll go fishing,” he said.

Of course, he can also be found on the sidelines of the Bonney Lake High School fastpitch games this spring.

“I'll be there,” Atkinson said. “I know those girls.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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