Dawn Evans of East Gull Lake moved with her family to the Brainerd lakes area from Alaska three years ago and wasted little time becoming an integral part of athletics in the lakes area.
“When we moved here we didn’t know anyone in the community, but we loved how beautiful it was here and how close it was to Alaska without the mountains,” the 43-year-old Evans said.
As coach of the Rockies in the Baxter Mustang League, which includes her youngest son, Evans is the only female coach in the league. Her care, dedication, and skill has helped her make a name for herself in the area.
“Softball is my passion and I find I’m always either coaching or on the bench at my kids’ baseball games,” Evans said. “I know the game and I have a high confidence level, which helps with the younger kids who are playing for the first time.”
Evans, who started playing softball at age five with her mom as her coach, pursued her passion to St. Cloud State where she played for four years and graduated with a degree in recreational therapy.
After moving to the lakes area, it was only natural for Evans to volunteer to coach her younger son since her husband, Don Evans, coaches their older son. Dawn has become a familiar face to area baseball players and their parents.
“I’ve always coached my kids and played ball with them at home so to them it’s just mom on the field,” said Evans. “It’s part of what I do. I’ll be on the sidelines no matter what age they are. They appreciate it.”
Evans attributes much of her success as a coach to her patience and the extra time she spends to make sure that her players focus as much energy on sportsmanship as they do skill.
“As a mom I can appreciate if you can explain the why along with the how,” she said. “I want to teach more sportsmanship and help the kids see where that line is and to understand it. I like getting them in positions that challenge them about skills, safety, rules, and how to treat their teammates.”
Apart from wanting to be alongside her sons as they advance toward high school sports, Evans’ biggest payoff as a coach is helping young athletes through their first steps in the game.
“I spent last year working with kids who had never played and we sometimes take it for granted in sports that first-timers know why they’re doing what they’re doing and what everything means,” she said. “I love trying to break that down for them to understand and to see the light bulb go off.”
When she’s not coaching, Evans spends her free time traveling with her sons’ teams to cheer them on, and looking forward to playing on a co-ed softball team.
“I’m excited to get back on the field myself,” she said. “I haven’t played as much as I want to.”
Although she works from home, Evans stays in playing shape by taking fitness classes at the Brainerd YMCA and running, biking, and inline skating with her family on trails by her home.
“I’m super competitive and I love a challenge, but I also love volunteering for the local Baxter Area Baseball Association,” said Evans. “It’s fun to do, it’s great family time and people in the community really appreciate it.”
While Evans humbly accepts her role in her players’ lives, she gives much of the credit to the families and community members who devote their time to make sure that athletic programs run smoothly.
“The program here is so wonderful,” she said. “There are so many families that donate time. It’s a group effort and so many people putting in their time and it’s fun see. It’s all volunteer. People know our community and they love coming up here because of it.”