Softball coach Christowski wins number 600

by Brock Borgeson, sports editor

Head softball coach Henry Christowski won his 600th game on March 6 in a 13-3 win over St. Scholastica College, becoming the 23rd coach in the NCAA Division III record books to reach 600 wins.

Christowski was honored by his players with a plaque and a cake pieced together by a slew of cupcakes.

“It’s always nice to be recognized, even though you’d like to shy away from the attention sometimes,” Christowski said. “I can’t say it doesn’t mean anything because it does. But the most important things are my relationships with my players and coaching staff, and of course being successful makes things run a little bit smoother.”

“His 600th win was inspiring,” senior outfielder Stacie Brown said. “The best part about it was congratulating him afterwards. Humble as ever, you could tell he was happy for himself, but mostly he wanted that game for us as a team.”

Since his 600th win, Christowski has tacked on 11 more wins as the Storm have gotten off to an 18-2 start to the 2015 season before double-headers with Gustavus Adolphus College and College of Saint Benedict this weekend.

Christowski ranks 14th all-time in wins amongst fellow coaches with an overall record of 611-202-2 in just over 19 years at Simpson College.

Nineteen years ago, Christowski would have told you that he had no intention of being at Simpson for this long.

“I never envisioned being here 20 years, I thought it would be a short term thing,” Christowski said. “It ended up being more or less of a thing that continued to evolve. But since I was enjoying a degree of success all along and I was enjoying what I was going, there wasn’t any reason to end the relationship. I love my job and I love coming to work everyday.”

Christowski, who lives in Norwalk, came into Norwalk High School as a teacher, not even planning on coaching high school softball.

Once again, those plans changed and the diamond found him as he went 440-179 between 1969 and 1980 with the Warriors.

From 1981-87, Christowski coached the Indianola Indians and also spent eight years at Dowling Catholic High School.

He’s bounced around as junior high school principal, high school principal, athletic director, director of transportation, administrative assistant, assistant superintendent and even superintendent.

Coaching softball initially seemed as a mere stepping stone to further his career.

“I got into coaching as it seemed to be the stepping stone to get into position of principal,” Christowski said. “At Norwalk, the superintendent said our softball coaches resigned…he said, ‘Aren’t you up for the principals’ job? I have two daughters on the team and I’d deem it a personal favor if you’d coach for at least this year.’”

Christowski initially responded that he never coached girls and wasn’t interested in the position.

The offer ended up being too good to pass up though.

“At the time, I was still playing men’s fast pitch softball and he said he’d even arrange the schedule around my own play dates so I didn’t have to miss the fast pitch games,” Christowski said. “So I took it and I don’t know how many years later it is and I’m still doing it.”

That decision has prompted two NCAA Division III National Championships (’97, ’99) with the Storm, combining judicious recruiting, meticulously designed practices and simply a knack for the game to reach success.

“Coach Christowski has a great recruiting staff and knows exactly what type of players he wants on his team,” senior second baseman Ashley Prettyman said. “He is very good at finding players who not only get along but can play together.”

“Coach’s specificity is definitely something that helps the team,” Brown said. “Although sometimes it is a bit daunting, he breaks practices down to a tee allowing us to make sure we have time to focus on the areas that most need focus. I think he has an internal alarm clock that is always set to tell you the truth.”

Christowski’s list of accolades is extensive, being named IIAC coach of the year three times, Division III National Coach of the Year in 1997 while holding the mark as winningest coach in Simpson history.

Amidst the winning, Christowski likes to keep it lighthearted with witty sarcastic comments as his players describe.

When asked about a fun-fact about Coach Christowski, Prettyman responded saying, “When we are in Florida, if nobody gives an idea about what we should have for dinner, Coach will always end up having us eat at some kind of buffet. Preferably Golden Corral.”

Apparently the buffet diet worked well for Simpson in Florida as they went 12-2 on the trip, getting off to an 18-2 start on the season.

Ranked at No. 13 nationally, Simpson will take on Saint Benedict in a doubleheader on Friday, March 27 followed by two with Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday.