Long-time Hernando County prep fixture Ernie Chatman, 64, is retiring after spending the past two seasons as Nature Coast softball coach. He went 37-18 with the Sharks and led the program to only its second postseason appearance.
“You reach the age that I’m at and the time comes when you know it’s time to retire,” he said. “I just feel like it’s time.”
Chatman was hired to provide some stability after former coach Mettina Couet stepped down to spend more time with her family and athletic director Kristin Peeples was forced into coaching duty for the 2012 campaign.
“At the time, I felt like I still wanted to coach,” Chatman said. “(Longtime Nature Coast assistant) Jug Olmstead was a big influence on me, and I felt like we took steps in the right direction.”
The 1967 Hernando graduate coached baseball, track, cross country, basketball and softball at the prep level and even took over the Saint Leo University baseball program for one season. He wraps up a 42-year coaching career that reached legendary status in the area.
Over 12 seasons coaching softball at Hernando, Hernando Christian and Nature Coast, Chatman amassed a 241-77 record and was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
With the Leopards, he reached the state championship game in 2000 and returned to the state semifinals in 2001. He also took HCA to the state semifinals in 2009 and 2010. His 22-5 record with the Sharks this season was a school record.
The Nature Coast opening should draw some attention from experienced, successful candidates. The Sharks should return all but one starter from this season’s district runnerup team.
“As a coach, you always want to leave a program better than when you got there,” Chatman said. “(This) program is in really good shape.”