Parkland Athletics Announces Softball Coaching Staff Transition
Chuck Clutts' to see last season as head coach
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The upcoming 2018-19 Parkland softball season will serve as the conclusion to Head Coach Chuck Clutts’ 19-year tenure with the Cobras, Coach Clutts and Parkland Vice President for Student Services Mike Trame announced on Wednesday. Tallying over 700 wins through last season, Clutts will be joined this upcoming season by new assistant coaches Dan Paulson, Kristi Paulson and Shelli Nolte. The three new coaches will serve as the 2019-2020 softball coaching staff, led by the Paulsons.
“We cannot thank coach Clutts enough for his service to Parkland College and Cobra Softball,” Trame said. “His teams in the first decade of the 2000’s were the gold standard of NJCAA softball. He has also coached with integrity and recruited some fantastic athletes on the field and in the classroom to Parkland. It will be exciting to see what the team accomplishes in his last season.”
Entering his final campaign with a .704 winning percentage (737-308-2), Coach Clutts molded Parkland into a national softball powerhouse at the Conference, Region and National levels. Since taking over in 2001, Clutts has guided the Cobras to eight NJCAA Nationals appearances, reaching the title game three times (2002, 2005 and 2006) in five years. From 2002 through 2009, Parkland placed in the top-10 seven times, including five top-five finishes. In 2012, Clutts and the Cobras returned to Nationals to take third place. Overall, Clutts owns a 30-16 record at Nationals.
On the way to routine Nationals appearances last decade, Clutts made Parkland a constant presence atop the Mid-West Athletic Conference (M-WAC) and Region 24 with eight conference and regional titles. Maintaining a .801 winning percentage (403-100) in conference, Parkland is the only school to post undefeated conference records, doing so in 2003 (32-0) and 2005 (24-0). Regionally, Clutts has led the Cobras to 11 Region 24 championship games in 18 seasons with a 43-22 overall record at the regional tournament.
Among the 18 teams and countless players Clutts has mentored, three of his teams have been inducted into the Parkland Athletics Hall of Fame and 73 athletes have gone on to compete at the four-year college level. 18 times Clutts has had a player honored as an NFCA All-American and 20 times as an NJCAA All-American. The success of Clutts’ teams also extends into the classroom with16 teams achieving NJCAA All-Academic team status.
In honor of the individual and team success, Coach Clutts has been named Region 24 Coach of the Year and District Coach of the Year eight times, while also being named the M-WAC Coach of the Year three times. In 2007, Clutts and his coaching staff were named the NFCA Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
To ensure that the Parkland Softball program remains in great hands and the leadership transition is very smooth, the future coaching staff for Parkland Softball will join Coach Clutts this season before taking over at the end of the year.
Dan Paulson discussed their future with Parkland Softball in saying, “Kristi and I are grateful for the opportunity to coach at Parkland and serve the Champaign community. We are extremely excited to help young student athletes further their education while playing the game they love.”
According to Trame, “Parkland is incredibly fortunate to have great coaches like Dan, Kristi, and Shelli take over the Parkland Softball program. Their reputation in the softball community is one of incredible passion and knowledge to go along with an intense focus on both the personal and athletic development of their players. I have no doubt they will continue Parkland Softball’s great success in the classroom while returning Parkland to national prominence on the field.”
To help ease the transition, the Paulsons will be in charge of all recruiting for the 2019-2020 and subsequent teams. When asked about beginning their recruiting duties, Kristi Paulson said “Dan and I have built relationships with college coaches, high school coaches, and travel coaches while handling the recruiting aspects for our travel players. Now, we are looking forward to working with athletes and coaches on the flip side of the recruiting process.”
A husband-wife coaching duo, Dan and Kristi Paulson created Premier Fastpitch in 2011, and has seen the program develop into a routine competitor on the national stage. Placing in the top-10 at numerous national tournaments, the Paulsons most recently coached the 2018 Premier Fastpitch Under-16 team to a ninth-place finish at nationals in Huntington Beach, California. In addition to contending at the national level, the program has also dominated at the state level, winning eight Illinois State ‘A’ Championships. Overall, the Premier Fastpitch has maintained a .738 winning percentage (389-138) since its inception.
Individually, the Paulsons’ Premier program has mentored over 50 players that have gone on to play in college, including many at the Division I level. This is rooted in the philosophy that they will bring to the Cobra program. “Our philosophy is to coach athletes to be the very best they can be both on and off the field, to do everything they do in life with a purpose, and to make themselves one percent better every single day. These traits will carry on with our athletes long after their time playing the game of softball and help guide them to success in life” says Dan Paulson.
Off the field, Dan Paulson is the President and CEO of the Premier Print Group and Wave Graphics, managing over 100 employees, and is also a partner and CEO of the Perfect Storm software company.
Kristi Paulson played softball collegiately at Lake Land College, helping the Lakers its first NJCAA Division I National Tournament in 2005-06. Kristi went on to complete her Bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University, earning her teaching certificate in K-12 physical education, while also serving as a volunteer assistant at Lake Land. Kristi has since served as the Junior High softball coach at Casey-Westfield and as Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Softball Coach at Tuscola High School.
Both hailing from Mattoon, Illinois, Dan and Kristi are the parents of four-year-old Andi and two-year-old Jax, and are expecting a third child in November 2018. Dan’s grandfather, Mike Witwicki, played professional baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, while Kristi’s father, Bert Bradley, has served as both a pitching coach and national scout in the San Francisco Giants organization.
Joining Clutts and the Paulsons on this year’s staff, Shelli Nolte owns 20-plus years of experience in coaching fastpitch softball and owns a career head coaching record of 484-235. Along the way, Nolte as coached multiple travel teams to top-five finishes at ASA and NSA, USSSA Illinois ‘A’ State Tournaments, two top-five finishes, multiple top-10 finishes at PGF, USA, NSA and USFA national tournaments.
Most recently, Nolte has served as the head coach at Neoga High School from 2015-2018, leading the Indians to the IHSA Regional Final two years in a row.
Adding to her softball expertise, Nolte also has experience as a softball umpire, including three years as a licensed Illinois High School Association (IHSA) umpire, and as the Executive Director of Mattoon Girls Softball Association for 10 years. In 2017, Nolte was elected the Travel Ball Representative to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Board of Directors.
Lettering in both volleyball and softball at Mattoon High School, Nolte went on to graduate from Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with a degree in journalism. Nolte currently works at Wave Graphics, Inc. in Mattoon and is married to Keith Nolte with three children – Allyson, Dack and Kord – and two grandchildren, Ivy Jane and Jude. Nolte’s daughter, Allyson, played softball collegiately, playing third base and catcher for Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University.
[Article by Chad Beyler]