By Sarah Thomas/COC Sports Information
College of the Canyons head coach John Wissmath just wrapped up a season in which he won his 300th career game at COC and guided the Cougars to a perfect 16-0 record vs. conference opponents to win the 2018 Western State Conference, East Division championship. The title was the program's 15th overall and marked the seventh straight year that Canyons advanced to the postseason. COC sports information intern Sarah Thomas recently had a chance to sit down with Coach Wissmath for 15 questions.
What are some of your best memories of the 2018 season?
That's a tough one, because there are so many of them. Every practice, every game that you're in, there are some big memories. Off the top of my head I would have to say the Super Regional round, since it was one of the last games we played. It was a night game, we were playing Mt. SAC, and my second baseman Katie Clinkunbroomer stole home on a bunt. It was pretty sweet the way she did it, it sticks in my mind because it fired up the group, it got her fired up, and it was all her. She saw it, and she took advantage of getting to home. It's great to see kids overcome adversity and know that they can make the play.
What is your strategy for improving as a coach from year to year? What's the secret?
The secret is two things really. Number one is it's all about recruiting. You've got to go out and recruit. The other is my staff of assistants. George Seifert from the San Francisco 49ers said it best, "It's not the coach, it's who they have around them."
Are there any coaches, or other people that have been great influences in your life? How?
There are a couple of coaches that always touch home, but the one that is most important to me is my dad. We always talk on the phone, and he gives me pieces of advice. A lot of times you learn more from your losses than your victories. No matter what's going on, my Dad is always there to critique, and talk about ways to improve.
During my recent interviews with the sophomore players, it was clear that the girls look up to you, are inspired by you, think that you are funny, and that you all have a close knit bond … Do former players keep in touch or visit you after leaving school?
Yeah, I've got a list of kids. I really enjoy having them onboard. They are big recruiters for us too, because they've been here and they've seen what College of the Canyons can do for them. They help out as volunteer coaches sometimes and it's great to have them give their input to the current players.
Recently, when interviewing Lyndra 'Spike' Fenald she shared that her plate music was a song that you had selected. Who was the band, what was the song and why did you choose it for her?
It was an old Aerosmith song. I don't remember the name off the top of my head to be honest. I was listening to some songs, and I thought that it would be a good one for Spike. It just fit her, and how she likes to get fired up. She was against it at first, but I think she ended up liking it in the end.
Talk about a coach's role as motivator. How do you go about motivating players, and getting them to fulfill their role on the team?
I like to see the girls always be successful, so we try to put them in situations where they are going to be successful. I'm a track guy, so we run, and we run, and we run. Our drills are always softball geared, but we are always running and I think that helps with our success.
I read in your bio that before coming to COC, you were coaching up north in Oroville, CA. And you are originally from Beiber, CA. That's quite a distance from here. What inspired you to want to come to COC?
I've been playing fast pitch softball since my sophomore year in high school, and I played baseball a little bit. Our town was small, we didn't have baseball so I had to go to fast pitch softball. My dad started teaching me how to pitch, and I got my start there. Next thing I know, I go to Chico State and compete in track & field. I end up helping out the softball program at Chico State for a couple of years, and then coached at Butte College. What brought me to College of the Canyons is I started looking for a full-time job. I heard there was a position open at COC so I applied, and I'm still here.
As a NorCal guy, what L.A. baseball team do you root for?
Of course I'm a Dodgers fan. I've been a Dodgers fan since Ron Cey.
Describe your pre game routine, and share the reason behind it.
I don't try and do anything fancy. These girls practice day in and day out, so when we go play a game it's more like play some catch, get loose, maybe play some pepper, and keep it old fashioned. I'm not as superstitious as I used to be.
What is your favorite post-game routine or meal?
I usually like to go home, relax, and have my wife, Nicole, fix me some tacos. Just hang out with the kids at the house. Just try to relax.
Hidden talents, phobias, or odd collections?
There are a few things that I like to do that people probably don't know about me. I like to work nunchucks. It was just something I learned at Shasta College. I beat myself up a few times (he laughs). I also like to collect old coins with my kids. When I was a kid my parents gave me a big ceramic dog to put change in over the years. I just opened it up about three years ago with my kids, and it was fun to go through.
If you could get on a plane tomorrow and go anywhere, where would you go? Why?
I'd probably stay in California. Go up north to visit my family and friends, and do some fishing.
This season you won your 300th career game as head coach at COC …. Share an important lesson that your years of experience in coaching have taught you.
I feel like a lot of it comes from playing the game. Watching games from different levels of softball, and just learning. I learned a lot when I was coaching at Chico State with other coaches. My coaching staff now, Joe Linn and Bob Shults have brought a lot to the table. They have taught me a lot of their philosophy, and I try to mold that, and make it my own to come up with a plan to continue to make us successful.
How has coaching affected your life?
Always in a positive way. I like being around the field, I like the smell of the field and the grass being cut. I enjoy the change in elements when we play. It keeps me running and going.
After leading the Cougars to the post season for the seventh straight year, and winning a Western State Conference, East Division title with a perfect 16-0 record, what's next?
We've got to do it again. That's what we shoot for, to continue to have College of the Canyons be a premier program in the state.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.