Eaton Coaches All-Star Team Through Championship Run
Any head coach would feel fortunate to have someone like Chad Eaton by their side. This summer, Chad and his fellow coaches with the East Haddam-Guilford (EH-G) 12-U All-Stars softball team had the good fortune to be part of a memorable run that featured a couple of championships.
Chad, a Guilford resident, served as an assistant coach for the EH-G 12-U All-Stars softball squad this year. In its first year as a co-op, EH-G went on a remarkable ride that saw the team win District 9 and Section 3 titles on its way to playing in the state’s Final Four.
Chad has a great love for sports and has been involved with both softball and baseball in Guilford for several years. Chad’s passion for athletics is now trickling down to the next generation of Eatons. One of the most rewarding aspects of Chad’s role as a coach is that he gets an opportunity to work with his daughter Katherine in softball and his son Jack in baseball.
Chad graduated from North Carolina Wesleyan University in 1997 with a bachelor’s of science in business administration. Chad pitched for the baseball team and served as a captain in his senior season, helping the squad earn two berths in the Division III College World Series during his tenure with the program. Chad’s experience as a player gave him some of the tools that he now uses to succeed as a coach.
“Looking at the field from all angles, learning how to compete, learning what each player can assist the team with, and evaluating each player’s strengths and weaknesses has helped me with the coaching philosophy that I have,” says Chad. “I’m extremely supporting, very encouraging, and look to put players in the best position to succeed at all times.”
Chad began his career as a coach by coaching his daughter Katherine’s softball teams. Chad has been involved with Guilford Little League for quite some time now, having coached Katherine at the AA, AAA, and Majors levels. For the past few years, Chad has coached the Majors All-Stars team.
“The opportunity that coaching provides me to spend time with my daughter or my son, depending on what team I’m coaching, it’s an invaluable time you get,” Chad says. “You get to meet the kids on and off of the field, meet the parents that they play with, and to see them grow and develop and see some of your coaching practices turn into positive outcomes on the field is really fulfilling.”
Chad is also involved with Guilford Little League baseball, where he’s coached his son at the A, AA, AAA levels. This spring, Chad coached Jack and the Pirates to a 14-0 record and a AAA championship.
Chad went on to see tremendous success as an assistant coach with the EH-G 12-U All-Stars softball team this summer, working alongside Head Coach Erik Jankowski and fellow assistant coaches Peter Dean and Joe Gentile, the latter who is from Guilford. EH-G won both the District 9 Tournament and the Section 3 Tournament in dramatic fashion, earning a berth to play in the state’s Final Four.
After defeating Middletown/Haddam-Killingworth in the deciding game of a best-of-3 series to determine the District 9 champion, EH-G went on to compete in the Section 3 Tournament and made it to the final. Down to its last strike in the final inning, EH-G rallied for a 9-8 victory versus Rocky Hill to claim the Section 3 title. Chad’s daughter Katherine scored the game-tying run in the sixth inning, after which Fenway Jankowski came home with the winning run on a walk-off walk.
Chad cherishes the memories of taking both titles in what was an unbelievable run for the club.
“It was exhilarating for the players and coaches. Just to see the excitement on the kids’ faces to know that we were creating history was pretty awesome, especially the way we did it,” says Chad. “The excitement behind the team and the fan support was amazing. We put together a real nice winning product.”
Chad and Coach Jankowski have meshed well together since joining forces at the beginning of the summer. Jankowski says that Chad’s years of experience as a coach played a key role in helping EH-G capture a pair of banners.
“He is super positive,” Jankowski says of Chad. “Just always, he’s very easy to coach with and super organized. We work very well together.”
On the heels of EH-G’s summer run, Chad will be coaching with the Connecticut Tides travel program. Chad coaches Katherine as an assistant with the 12-U team and hopes to be coaching her again when she tries out for the 14-U team next year.
Chad also recently began his tenure as an assistant coach in the softball program at Adams Middle School. Chad is excited to continue doing so after receiving his coaching permit from the CIAC.
While coaching several baseball and softball teams in Guilford, Chad always tries to bring the same message of positivity to the players on all of his squads.
“We emphasize respect on every team that I coach. We have three simple ground rules: respect, have fun, and be safe,” says Chad. “Maintaining a safe environment, having fun, and having them respect the game is key. I start every practice to start every season with being respectful to the umpires, the coaches, the teammates and, most importantly, themselves.”
The achievements of the EH-G 12-U All-Stars will always hold a special place in Chad’s heart. Chad felt proud to see the team’s players come together for a common goal and rise up like true champions.
“We weren’t promised anything but four games and a chance to practice together, and we turned that into a 12-game season and did that over 22 days,” Chad says. “It was great to see the girls compete in that intense environment. The fact that the girls took a leap of faith to come together just for the chance to play softball was pretty cool.”