Denny Lauer Softball Classic (My brother)
June 27, 2008
Lauer sets the tone in Kaukauna softball
This weekend's third annual Denny Lauer Softball Classic will celebrate the achievements of a man who helped put Kaukauna softball on the map.
There's one important fact to note: This is not a memorial tournament. Denny Lauer is alive and well and still living and breathing softball. In the prime of his coaching career, he continues to rack up hardware for his trophy case.
Lauer, 56, got his start coaching the Kimberly Bulldogs football team when he was still in college.
This brief coaching stint was interrupted by the birth of his first child. Lauer coached his daughters in gymnastics, but as they grew older, they took an interest in softball. He jumped at the chance to work with his daughters in a sport he had been playing his whole life.
He started in grade school in Kaukauna and played in fast-pitch, slow-pitch and 16-inch softball leagues, learning the ins and outs from his many coaches and his own experience.
"I never went to clinics, but I did work with guys that were really good," Lauer said.
The most critical coaching lesson Lauer received was from the players on the first girls' softball team he coached.
After a slightly disappointing season, Lauer met with his players and asked them what he could do to become a better softball coach. The unanimous answer surprised the coach.
"They all said, 'Stop treating us like girls; treat us like athletes.' From that point on, I did," he said. "The girls respond extremely well when you start treating them like the athletes that they are. You get much better results."
The results have been easy to see on the diamond over the past 20 years as Lauer and the Kaukauna Ghosts Fastpitch Softball Club won four state titles.
While the championships and wins are nice, Lauer keeps returning year after year for a different reason.
"The kids," he explained. "Every time you think you're just about done, you meet another batch of them that are just really great kids. It's just fun working with them. I've always been blessed with a lot of kids that have worked hard enough to make me look a lot better than I am."
Tournament director John Schreiner has witnessed firsthand the positive effect Lauer has had on both his players and the entire softball program.
"He just does a phenomenal job of being a constant teacher," Schreiner said. "He really is just a strong advocate for girls' fast-pitch softball, and he's done a super job with the kids."
For those reasons, the club thought it was a logical choice to use Lauer's name to promote its annual tournament.
"Through the efforts that he has put into the program, we just thought it would be appropriate to name it after Denny and publicly recognize him for the effort and everything he's done for the program," Schreiner said.
While the program is in excellent shape and continues to get stronger every year, a day will come when Lauer will retire and hand over the reins to the next generation.
For his eventual successor, and any person interested in coaching, he has a few pieces of advice.
"Don't concentrate on whether or not they win today — play the game so you're better for the next one," Lauer said. "Get every kid to think that when they walk off a practice field they're just a little bit better than they were when they walked on the practice field."
KHS Galloping Ghost Class of 1967
Member of "Galloping Ghost Gimpers"