Brittany Hansen was back on a softball diamond this week, doing what she loves — coaching.
That meant getting practices planned out, setting summer weight-training goals, evaluating players during tryouts and molding the start of what appears to be a promising season at Lincoln North Star.
Monday was the official start to high school season, and 113 softball teams across the state are back in the swing of things.
That includes the Navigators, and Hansen, who stepped aside last fall as head varsity coach to focus on raising her then-newborn son Titan, who is now 16 months old (and a future ballplayer, mom says).
Stepping in to take over Hansen's spot last year was someone who has affected her life on and off the softball field — Hansen's father, Jeff Coufal. He has served as an assistant coach at North Star for 13 years, his first year with the program coming when Hansen was a sophomore for the Navigators.
Now Coufal is back to his role as an assistant coach, and Hansen is eager to lead a team again.
"I love coaching and that's really my passion," Hansen said Tuesday. "I love the practices, I love the practice planning, I love thinking through the challenge it brings and I love games. I'm a competitive person and I love having that control factor."
Though Hansen was able to help in a limited role last year, Coufal and the North Star staff had to take on bigger roles. It was a seamless transition, Hansen said, as the Navigators won 24 games and reached the Class A state tournament.
Most of the staff — Coufal, Toni Closner, Jana Becher, Sarah McManaman, Mike Roth — will be back for the fall season. The Navigators are also adding Marisa Garver.
"My staff did an excellent job of stepping in, and we just have a good staff and we all work well with each other," Hansen said. "We're honest with each other and we don't have to beat around the bush, and I think that's something that makes our staff successful and that helps make our program successful, too."
That success is evoking some big goals for the upcoming season, and the Navigators are not holding back on what they think they can accomplish.
"We haven't sat down to talk about goals (yet), but I think it's well-known to everyone that our goal this year is to be in the state championship game," Hansen said. "We have the talent to do that."
Once again, the Navigators will have plenty of offense and speed. They also have a strong senior core that includes multi-year starters Hanna Roth, Carly Dembowski and Halie Gibson. Multiple juniors, sophomores and a couple of freshmen are ready to step up and help, too.
"We really want the girls to establish strong starting roles," Hansen said of the team's upcoming practices. "Our focus at the beginning of this season is not even really on the softball field. We're going to do a lot of classroom stuff and work on being good teammates, mental training, just those little things."
Part of Hansen's excitement in returning to her head coaching role is tied to the senior class. Their first year in high school was Hansen's first year as coach.
"That's really important to me and special to me," she said.
Now the Navigators seek a special season.
"We have the softball skills this year, we have the fundamentals, we have the talent," Hansen said. "We don't really need to develop the girls like (in the past). We just have the little details to tweak .. because I think that's what's going to get us to that state championship game."