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‘Coach Dan’ Meant More to Clarion Softball Players Than Just Success on the Field; They Say They Owe Shofestall a Lot for What He Did for Them Off of It

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Dan Shofestall was out at the field most mornings during the soggiest of springs, trying to get it playable for a game in the afternoon.

It was arduous work.

(Photo by Theresa Forrest)

He sometimes used the shirt off his own back to mop up excess water on the Little League baseball mound or the softball circle.

Anything to help his players.

For more that three decades he was “Coach Dan,” leading Little League teams and the Clarion Area High School softball team. But at the end of June he made the difficult decision to retire.

No more fields to dry. No more puddles to absorb with his shirt. He left quite a legacy that went far beyond the inside of the white lines.

And his players noticed — and loved him for it.

“For me, personally, Coach Dan had this passion for softball and a love for softball that was infectious,” said recent Clarion graduate Noel Anthony. “I always loved softball, but he made me even love it more. He would work on those fields for hours and hours getting them ready for us. He used his own shirt to mop up puddles. That meant so much to me, especially my senior year, which I think was the wettest ever. He worked so hard. Woke up early. As soon as that storm was over, or sometimes even during the storm, he would be out there.”

Anthony also appreciated how much Shofestall cared about his players off the field.

When Anthony was injured during her junior season, she said he made it a point to check in on her to see how she was doing, how her recovery was going and if she needed anything.

She also appreciated his strong religious faith.

“When I pulled my hamstring, he would want to know when I was going to the doctor,” Anthony said. “We were all kind of like his girls. He kind of took care of us and wanted to make sure we were always OK.

“I’m strong in my faith, and he’s also strong in his faith,” Anthony added. “That was really a good thing to see. He was like a mentor for someone who really has a love of softball, but also a love of God. I really looked up to him for that, too.”

Recent Clarion grad Jordan Best remembered going to open gyms for softball with her older sister. She couldn’t wait for her turn to play for Shofestall.

“I was so excited to get to varsity so he could be my coach,” Best said. “They time with Coach Dan flew by. He knew the game of softball and was a great coach, but on top of that, he is the sweetest man and was always so great to everyone he coached. I’m gonna miss playing for Coach Dan.”

Shofestall had some excellent teams at Clarion. His teams won four Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference titles and won the District 9 championship in 2011, the same year the Bobcats made it to the PIAA Class A championship game.

Shofestall compiled a 214-119 record as the Clarion softball coach.

But his impact went far beyond the numbers.

“He truly did change my life,” said Jess Funk, who was a sophomore on the 24-1 state runner-up team in 2011. “It wasn’t just one thing. He was a great teacher of the fundamentals and all of that, but just his leadership style, the way he empowered us to not only be great softball players, but great scholars — he was very supportive of all of our endeavors.

“He really went above and beyond to make Clarion softball what it was,” Funk added. “A lot of coaches don’t put in the effort that he does. He really would do anything for his girls.”

Shofestall inspired Funk to be a leader in her life.

Funk is currently the economic development specialist for the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation.

She uses the leadership skills she learned from “Coach Dan” every day, she said.

“I ended up getting a degree in organizational leadership and I didn’t realize how much I learned from him,” Funk said.

Recent Clarion graduate Kylee Beers was also inspired greatly by Shofestall.

It was the little things that stuck out in Beers mind. The phone calls of congratulations after making all-star teams. Him reaching out during the year COVID-19 wiped out the season to see how she was doing. The concern he showed during the times she was injured.

“I would not be the player or person I am today without his wisdom and guidance — both on and off the field,” Beers said. “I can truly say he’s the best coach I have ever had in my 13 years of playing softball, from minor league, Little League, senior league, travel ball and high school. I wish him the best of luck in the future. Thanks for what you have done for me, Coach Dan.”

All his players called him “Coach Dan.”

Anthony said that was because “Coach Shofestall” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

“I never felt like he’d answer to ‘Coach Shofestall,’” Anthony said, laughing.

“Coach Dan” said stepping down was one of the toughest decisions of his life.

And he didn’t make it easily.

He took his time — a little more than a month — before he sent in his resignation letter.

“At the end of the year, I sat down and thought about it — I do that at the end of every year,” Shofestall said. “I just thought, you know, maybe it was time to step aside and let someone else do it and get new blood in there and move on. I really loved the last team I coached. They were a bunch of incredible kids and I’m gonna miss them.

“It was a tough decision,” he added. “Some days I leaned one way. Some days I leaned the other. But I felt like I had to make a decision so the school could move on and the team could move on with a new coach.”

Losing the 2020 season to COVID was hard on Shofestall and the team, he said. The 2019 Bobcats reached the state quarterfinals with a young team and had all-state pitcher Kait Constantino back in the circle for her senior year.

But the season was scuttled.

“That was tough, in a different way,” Shofestall said. “We had five freshmen on that 2019 team and the big thing was Kaitlyn coming back. We were really excited. We thought we could do big things. But that’s life. It wasn’t just us that was disappointed that year.”

There are too many memories for Shofestall to recount. He cherishes them all.

“Every team was special,” he said. “Every year was special. Every player was special.”

So was Shofestall’s family, who supported him throughout his long coaching career — and all the odd hours.

“My wife, Linda, my two sons, Chris and Rick — they made a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “My grandchildren, my parents, my extended family, two brothers and sisters — they all were huge supporters of me. Not only me, but the team and I’m just appreciative of what they’ve been to me.”

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