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Kossum did well as a first-year head coach

A coach’s first year on the job is always going to have growing pains.

Players have to get used to his or her style of coaching, and the coach has to learn the ins and outs of players and how to best draw out the talent inside those players.

Locally, there’s been no better example of that than Natchez High School interim head baseball coach Brian Kossum. Kossum already had several advantages going into the gig. For one, he grew up around baseball and even umpired for a little while after college. Two, he’s a Natchez High School alumnus, so he already had a feel for the school and community.

But the aforementioned growing pains reared their head as the season progressed. Kossum and assistant coach Rod Smith implemented a no-nonsense approach to coaching the players, and not everyone bought in.

“We wanted to come in and establish a set of standards,” Kossum said. “We knew we’d be dealing with guys who were doing things a certain way for a long time, and we just wanted to come in and say, ‘This is how we’re going to do it,’ and set that standard and see who was going to follow along — who’s left standing at the end.”

After starting with more than 20 players, the roster thinned out to approximately 17 players. All four seniors — Derrian Johnson, Davion Ward, JaDarrius Williams and Denzel Washington — stuck around, but some left for various reasons.

Kossum, however, said he’s not worried about the ones who left. Instead, he’s grateful for the ones that adjusted to his style of coaching.

“No. 1, they’re just good kids,” Kossum said. “They come out here and want to work, and for the most part, they’re ‘Yes sir, no sir’ type kids. They’re really just what you’d want moving forward.”

The Bulldogs finished the season 6-14. They were eliminated by Petal High School in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs Saturday.

But the record isn’t what Bulldog baseball fans should look at. Instead, it’s the process in which Kossum is trying to build a program. In addition to instilling good values in his players, Kossum said his first year was focused on developing pitching, defense and offense, in that order.

It takes more than one year to build a program, however. Kossum said he feels good about the team’s continued success over the next few seasons, but it’s worth noting that he is the school’s third baseball coach in four seasons. And technically, Kossum is an interim coach — he’s not even guaranteed next spring.

At least one long-time Miss-Lou baseball coach has been impressed with the job Kossum did this season. Cathedral High School head coach Craig Beesley said Kossum has done well in the limited time he’s been at NHS.

“The kids are playing hard for him, and they’ve gotten a lot better fundamentally throughout the season,” Beesley said. “I know we played them earlier in the year, and it was a different team from when we played them (April 13).”

Kossum did a good job in year one, and he deserves a chance at a few more seasons to see if he can make the NHS baseball program a strong one. If you want an example of the importance of continuity, look no further than the school’s football program. Lance Reed will be entering his 10th season as head coach, and the Bulldogs haven’t had a losing season since 2007.

Hopefully, Kossum will have a chance to bring that kind of continuity to the program.