It’s not a short drive for Todd Schulz each day from his Prairieville home to Hahnville High, where he’s served as an assistant softball coach – and now as the Lady Tiger program’s head coach.
But it’s one he says is well worth it – and besides, the time can come in handy.
“I’m so busy planning my day you barely notice,” Schulz said. “When you have an overall goal in mind, that drive doesn’t matter.”
Schulz was chosen last month to succeed Jerry Nugent as HHS head coach, taking the helm of a program that’s been long cemented as one of the state’s best and most consistent powers. Schulz joined the coaching staff as an assistant two years ago.
His familiarity with the program combined with a strong track record made him a natural choice. Schulz was head coach of his alma mater DeRidder from 2014 to 2019, including a 2018 season in which he led the Dragons to the Class 4A state championship. Overall, he went 86-43 with the team and was chosen 4A Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association
That championship proved the fulfillment of a promise.
“I went in with a plan … within three years, I told them, we would win a state championship,” Schulz said. “I knew I had a good program … had the right girls, had a strong staff. I could tell if they put the work in, if they committed to doing what we asked, we had a team that could win it.”
His confidence came despite a bit of a learning curve on his end. DeRidder represented his first time coaching softball, though hardly his first instance of coaching. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who Schulz described as a “big baseball guy,” the latter started working as a baseball coach after graduating from McNeese State.
His first coaching job was as an assistant coach at Oak Hill under Dobie Perkins.
“He was a great guy, taught me a lot about the game and about coaching baseball,” Schulz said.
After a brief hiatus where he left coaching to work with his father, Schulz moved on to Simpson High School – “I realized I missed coaching, big time,” – where he wore a few hats in his five years there. He became the team’s head baseball coach and an assistant basketball coach – and eventually became the school’s head basketball coach as well, leading both programs at the same time.
“That was kind of interesting,” Schulz said with a laugh. “They asked if I wanted to be the head basketball coach as well, so you could say I stayed pretty busy.”
Fate took him back home to DeRidder as an assistant baseball coach, until the softball job opened up.
“I knew the head coach, and he was leaving … he told me, ‘You’ve got to put in for it, this is a good gig,’” Schulz said. “I talked to my wife about it … she asked ‘What do you think?’ and I said ‘I don’t know anything about coaching girls.’”
He decided he’d learn, and he proved a quick study.
“(The championship win) opened some doors for me, big time” Schulz said. “That’s what led me to Hahnville.”
Schulz made the move to HHS as an assistant as he felt it was the best move for his family, both in terms of opportunities for his children as well as the fact his wife’s family hails from the area. Another factor was his friendship with HHS assistant Erica Bonnette, who alerted him of a potential opening on the staff.
“I started talking to Nuge, and the next thing you know, here I was,” Schulz said.
When Nugent made the call to step away from the game and pursue his administrative role full-time, Schulz said it was a no-brainer to throw his own name in the hat for consideration.
Much as was the case at DeRidder, he’s excited about this group of players. Hahnville returns a senior-heavy roster, with four players committed to play at the collegiate level.
“Their work ethic, man … they’re impressive,” Schulz said. “We’ve kind of been in limbo with the gym renovation at the school, and (the players) took it upon themselves to get out there on the track and get to work … Coach Erica and I posted some workouts on Google Classroom, and we show up for Kiddie Camp and got there early. The girls were already out there working out. Not just one or two of them, but the whole team.”
That suggests a great fit with Schulz, who joked about his strict practice philosophy.
“There was a meme going around where there’s a field under water, and it says ‘Coach still says we have practice,’” he said with a laugh. “My mentality is we’ll find a dry spot, even if it’s just for a 45-minute batting practice or cage session, we’ll do something. At the same time, I do understand they need a break. I want them ready for January 17 this year and eager to get out there on the field, continuing to build on that strong legacy and tradition at Hahnville.”