By David Fleet
Goodrich — Having amassed a state title, five trips to the state semifinals, regional, district and league championships with two school districts spanning 37 seasons, a girls softball coaching icon is on the cusp of another milestone.
As of Wednesday, Goodrich Softball Coach Don Peters is just four wins away from 1,000 victories. “It’s been a privilege to coach, I’m grateful and blessed,” said Peters. “I hope that these athletes stay positive in the future and give back when they can. We try to plant that seed and help these athletes be the person that’s inside them.”
Peters coaching career started at Brandon High School from 1987-2004 then Clarkston from 2005-2019 ending with a record of 958-281. He came to Goodrich in 2021 and tallied 16 wins. As of Wednesday his record was 996-315.
“My biggest challenge is to get the girls to reach their potential,” he said. “To let go and get to the spot where they know what they are capable of doing.”
Peters led Brandon to a state title in 1994 and to the final four in 1995 and 1999. In 2003, Peters then in his 16th year as the Brandon coach, snagged his 500th career win. As the Clarkston skipper he took the Wolves to a state semifinals 2017. In 2018, Clarkston grabbed the 900th win of his career becoming only the 12th softball coach in state history and second in county history to reach that pinnacle. He returned to the state semi finals in 2019.
Peters’ recalled the changes in women’s sports over the years.
“It was not until 1972 that women could participate in the Boston Marathon,” he said. “I remember in 1973, the year I graduated high school, Utica had only a girls softball club and wore jeans and T-shirts. They played just a few games.”
The progress of women in sports has been awesome, he said.
“Since those early years, many young girls have benefited because of sports, learn to compete, work hard, they are absolutely fun to watch.”
A 1973 Utica High School graduate, Peters attended Grand Valley State University where he played football for his freshman year. He then transferred and earned an undergraduate degree from The University of Michigan-Flint, then a masters from The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in education. He later earned an education specialist/leadership degree from Eastern Michigan University.
Peters began a teaching career in 1979 in the Clarkston School District and later the Oakland Schools that would span the next 42 years. He retired from teaching in 2021.
After four decades of coaching, Peters shares his life lessons from sports.
“Be as positive as possible, but yet have high expectations of athletes,” he said. “You’re doing athletes a disservice if a coach does not encourage time in the weight-rooms or taking many swings of the bat. You’re going to hit the ball farther and throw harder, it’s that simple. That hard work, later in life will transferred into a great career. It’s life training.”
In 1992 Peters helped found the Michigan Stars Tournament one of the states largest softball events. May 6 and 7.
“We started it for two reasons,” Peters said. “One, to promote fast-pitch softball and second, to give high school girls a large tournament experience. Not all girls can play travel softball and experience the big tournaments. We thought we could do that.”
Peter’s has coached four Miss Softballs: 1994 Claudia Alban (Brandon); 2010 Taylor Hasselbach, (Clarkston); 2018 Paige Blevins (Clarkston) and 2020 Hannah Cady (Clarkston).
He serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association (MHSSCA); was inducted in the MHSSCA Hall of Fame in 2001 (Brandon).
“My wife Gayle has supported me for these years,’ said Peters. “She has been my rock and foundation. I’ve also had the honor of coaching our two daughter, Krista Brown and Leanna Mazich and now my granddaughter Ava Mazich Jr. at Goodrich.”
By David Fleet