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First-year Hutch-Tech coach Husband-Zimdahl paying it forward

Kara Husband-Zimdahl has hit for the cycle of sorts when it comes to softball having played at the high school, college, Empire State Games and professional levels. Now it’s time to pay it forward.

Hutch-Tech will be the beneficiary of her life experience as she begins her first season as a head coach in the Buffalo Public Schools. She teaches physical education K-8 at Loraine Elementary, School No. 72 on South Park Ave. in Buffalo.

Husband/Zimdahl’s mentors as a player and a young coach read like a who’s-who of local coaching gurus — Mary Ann “Hoppy” Hopkins, Joe Catalano, Gerry Gentner, Earl Leising, Mike Rappl, Ray Hennessey and Larry O’Connor. “I can never repay these people,” she said.

But the person she felt the most indebted to died on April 18. Kevin Husband, 62, gave her and her brother, Kyle, the coaching gene. Their father’s death notice read in part: “His love for coaching transcended to his volunteer work as a basketball coach at the Boys & Girls Club in Orchard Park and Nativity of Our Lord School in Orchard Park.”

Husband-Zimdahl said he father used to watch her coach and did his best to convince her she had the gift.

“He said that I was good at instruction and being positive with the girls,” she said. “He was such a good guy, so young. It’s almost not real for me yet. I lose it here and there when I talk about it. It’s like I’m not even comprehending the words. Who am I going to talk sports with all the time?”

Husband-Zimdahl takes over at Tech for Dave Rappl, who has announced his retirement after 18 years of coaching softball and boys basketball. He’ll continue to teach health and physical education at the school. “I had a lot of great kids, a lot of kids who went to college. I’d have kids call up and say I just wanted to let you know I graduated and that was really the big reward for me.”

At Tech, Husband-Zimdahl sees a great deal of promise on the mound for eighth grader Laura Gregory and sophomore Gianna Zarcone.

“I can’t wait to see where those two go,” she said. But her go-to player seems to be captain Alexis “Lou” Domros, who is a terror on the base paths and is smoothly making the transition from outfield to shortstop.

Husband-Zimdahl, now 34, was a tremendous athlete for Holy Angels graduating in 1998. She played three years of basketball and softball before missing her senior year in both sports with an ACL tear.

She played softball for four years at Manhattan College, playing on a Metro Atlantic Athletic Confernce championship team and going to the NCAA tournament as a freshman.

For six weeks last summer she played in the Italian Professional Softball league for Collecchio, in the province of Parma.

Husband-Zimdahl hopes her coaching career is half as rewarding as her playing career. She remembers plenty of her father’s former athletes approaching him years later and telling him how he changed their lives.

Could that happen to her someday? “That would be the biggest blessing ever, I hope one day it happens, that’s what you work,” she said. “That gives me goosebumps.”