Success as a player does not always lead to success as a coach. Too often successful players are unable to translate that success when they attempt to direct players. This certainly does not hold true for Scott McCormick.
As a teen South Salem head softball coach Scott McCormick was an all-state player in two sports and became a two-sport athlete in college before becoming one of the winningest coaches in Oregon prep sports history.
McCormick was a basketball and baseball standout at Taft High School in Lincoln City. A four-year varsity baseball starter and three-year starter in basketball, McCormick also enjoyed two years on the Tigers’ cross-country team. McCormick received all-league and all-state honors as both a baseball and basketball competitor, two sports in which he dedicated many off-season hours, including large portions of his high school summers. McCormick once hit four home runs during a baseball doubleheader weekend, and also could dunk a basketball - provided the ball was small enough to fit his decidedly non-basketball sized hands. He was also involved in non-sports activities as well, serving as sports editor for the student newspaper and as president of Taft High’s National Honor Society.
McCormick's youth was one of great times with family, involved in activities together. He recalls his active childhood fondly and smiles when talking about his time on Devil’s Lake where he participated in all manner of water-sports, including skiing and inner-tubing. He participates in both activities to this day with his wife Tricia and their three sons and their families.
Scott’s love of sports was handed down to him by his father. His dad was a hard working Northwest Natural Gas employee who taught his boys the games, before then coaching he and his brother when they were young. McCormick describes his father as a man of integrity who was never afraid of hard work. He was a ditch digger who later in his career became a personal advisor to the president of Northwest Natural. A core value for his dad emphasized treating all people with respect, something Scott has carried with him throughout his life and most especially as a teacher and coach.
While dad was the most direct influence on McCormick's early athletic development, his mom was no small part either, especially when it came to toughness and determination. His mom was a woman with a strong background in athletics, particularly as a softball player, and she was very competitive. She was an inspiration. She encouraged young Scott to hold his ground, not to back off, and to retaliate if necessary.
From Taft High, McCormick earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Willamette University in Salem. He graduated from the school’s very first class of PE majors in 1973, a degree that he would put to very good use throughout his teaching career. He subsequently completed a fifth year of education training from Western Oregon University.
McCormick's first teaching position couldn't have been much farther away from his hometown of Lincoln City – 485 miles to be exact – nor more culturally different than where he ultimately would leave his mark as a teacher. Nyssa is a small rural community on the border of Oregon and Idaho. McCormick taught elementary school PE in Nyssa from '73-75 before moving back as a PE teacher at Highland Elementary in northeast Salem, an urban school with a student population that faced many, many challenges. They were a population that grew to love him, and his dedication to them, for 29 years, was evident. He taught an estimated 14,000 kids over the course of his career. He initiated a “before-school” program that allowed kids to come to a safe, supervised place prior to the actual school day. Daily several dozen kids would be waiting. He also developed an after-school sports program with a “low-key” set of leagues for flag football, basketball, and volleyball. From private schools to the nearby Oregon School for the Deaf, his elementary kids would participate rather than find trouble on the streets.
McCormick's students took part in fundraisers, conducting car washes to buy t-shirts or team equipment, an approach that also helped them develop a sense of unity and self-confidence along the way. He would use his old pick up with a canopy to get his teams to other sites for their contests. Could never happen today, but things were simpler then.
McCormick was “all in” at Highland, also working “non-sports” activities. Together with the sixth grade teachers, he helped organize and stage a sixth-grade dance themed around the 50s and 60s. Teachers worked together to teach kids about “swing” and other dances during PE classes. Students had to fill out old-school dance cards, with at least five of the ten dance slots filled to get in. Staff and aides helped to fill the spaces as needed to insure every student had dance partners and entry to the dance. Kids danced, learned some social skills, and had fun. Scott's wife Tricia cites it was one of her favorite memories of his time at Highland.
The combination of his longevity, his popular PE classes, his obvious care for his kids, and his extra efforts on their behalf, led him to be so fondly thought of by the Highland community that the gym was actually dedicated in his name.
The 2023 softball season will be McCormick's 42nd season coaching high school softball. Wrap your head around that! Perspective: in the year that the most storied varsity softball coaching career in Oregon history began, Ronald Reagan had begun his first term as the President of the United States, former Beetle John Lennon was assassinated, the Rubik's Cube was introduced, and Mt. St. Helens erupted. But, truth be told, it almost didn't happen.
McCormick was persuaded by then-McNary Athletics Director Denny Pieters to take over the varsity softball program at McNary in 1981. But his entry into softball didn't take place without some intrigue. Although he had coached junior varsity softball the previous two seasons – '79 and '80 – and actually ended the '80 season as the interim varsity softball coach, the young McCormick fancied himself a basketball coach and Sprague High wanted him to take over their girls program. When AD Pieters got wind of this he made it clear that he did not want McCormick moving to Sprague. He informed him that the head varsity softball position would be his in '81. He took it and the rest, as they say, is history.
McCormick admits that when he began his softball career he, mistakenly, viewed softball as just baseball on a smaller field. He was wrong - very wrong. He adapted. And the wins started piling up. In 1990, the Celtics played for the state championship against a powerful Milwaukie squad. Sadly, the only winner in that contest was mother nature - which dumped torrential rains on the diamond at Salem’s Wallace Marine Park. The game ended in a 1-1 tie and the two teams were declared co-champions. The next season, the Celts made it to the 4A title game again. But Churchill of Eugene, the dominant program in the state at that time, shutout the Celtics, 7-0.
McCormick relocated to South Salem High in 1995 to coach softball for the Saxons. Still working at Highland - he retired from teaching in 2004 - he was a South Salem parent and the ability to coach closer to home was attractive. The success he enjoyed in Keizer followed him to South Salem. As at McNary, he built a powerhouse that became one of the best programs in Oregon, winning numerous league titles and making numerous playoff runs. He received National Coach of the Year honors in 2006 after “only” 26 seasons as a head coach. South made the 6A championship game in 2011 and 2012, falling to Century and North Medford respectively. In 2014, McCormick’s team finally made it to the top, defeating North Medford 5-3 to finish with a record of 29-1 and a state championship. The victory was punctuated by another celebration two days later when the new South Salem softball complex was dedicated in his name. One man, two facilities bearing his name.
In the years since, McCormick has continued to “coach up” the Saxons and record more softball victories. At last count, heading into the 2023 season, he has compiled 714 wins - tops among all prep softball coaches in Oregon.
As his career winds down McCormick finds himself coaching or opposing the children (he doesn't know if he's coached or faced any grandchildren) of former players. He's beginning to devote more time and energy to his loving wife of 49 years – Tricia - as well as their three adult boys and their families. He would like to be remembered as a man who was encouraging, inspirational, and who modeled integrity.
It is almost certain those who had Scott McCormick as a teacher or coach will remember him fondly. His dedication to the kids and the sport he loves has made him a Beacon … and a legend in his own time.