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story.lead_photo.caption Scott Hoffman, the softball coach at Batesville High School, stands on the field where he started volunteering to coach girls fast-pitch softball 22 years ago, when he was a resident of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch. “I knew at 15 years old I wanted to be a coach, and I wanted to help young people, and I wanted to compete in athletics,” Hoffman said. He credits his Batesville High School football coaches and his house parents at the Youth Ranch with helping turn his life around. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— Scott Hoffman is a self-proclaimed fiery coach, a passion he found as a troubled teenager that helped him become a successful adult.

Hoffman, 37, is starting his third year coaching the Batesville High School softball team on the same field where he started volunteering 22 years ago when he was a resident of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch in that community.

“I’m coaching high school ball for my alma mater on the very same field where I started. It’s come full circle,” he said.

Most people don’t know about the struggles he had growing up, but the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch has spotlighted him as an example of how the program can help individuals excel.

Hoffman said he was abused physically and emotionally for years by a relative.

“By the time I was 9 or 10, I was starting to have problems at school and at home, acting out,” he said. “I had no self-esteem; I had serious anger issues. I ran away once.”

He was placed in the court system at age 14 after getting into an altercation with his abuser, he said. After stints at two behavioral-health units, which Hoffman said didn’t help him, he had the choice to go to one of two places, and he picked the Youth Ranch in Batesville.

“I just wanted to feel safe, to have some normalcy,” he said. “Admittedly, I had a lot of issues at the time.

“I went through their step program and reached their highest level. It came time for me to make a decision,” and he decided to stay at the ranch instead of going to his home in Little Rock.

He said his house parents, Rick and Cheyenne Ingram, made all the difference. “They’ve been out there forever,” he said.

Cheyenne said she and her husband have been house parents for 35 years.

“When Scott showed up here, I believe he was 14,” Cheyenne said. “He looked like a pitiful little orphan child to me; he was so skinny and little. We just took up with him instantly. Scott loved us, and we loved him from the get-go.”

Cheyenne said she and Hoffman would play pingpong together, and because she used to play in high school, she figured she could beat him.

“No, I didn’t,” she said, laughing.

“Rick got Scott interested in fishing, and boy, did he love it; fish, fish, fish. They’re trying to figure out a time to go now,” she said.

Cheyenne said Hoffman is accident prone, and once when he got in their vehicle, “he slung his pole, and it hooked me right in the top of my head. It didn’t go down very far, thank goodness.” She said they still laugh about it.

She said one day Hoffman told her he wanted to be a coach.

“He’s a die-hard Razorback fan,” she said.

“He loves football, and my husband loves football, so that’s another connection they had,” Cheyenne said.

Hoffman got interested in girls softball and started coaching the sport.

“He was wonderful at it; he just has a heart for that, you know,” she said. “I told him, ‘Scott, you can do anything you want in your life; you have the potential.’ I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.”

Hoffman said the best thing about the youth ranch is that the children go to public school, so he attended Batesville schools.

The Youth Ranch has a tutoring program, too.

“You come home from school, and you go to tutoring. It helped me get academically back on track,” he said. “You’re able to participate, and you’re encouraged, in sports or any other activities at school.”

He played football for the Batesville Pioneers, as a receiver.

“I loved it,” he said. He recalled that the team went to the playoffs.

“Several of the assistant coaches are still here,” Hoffman said. “I’ve got the coaches that were my coaches then, at Batesville. I graduated 18 years ago, and many of them are still here.

“Between them, the most impactful people in my life were former coaches and teachers at Batesville and my house parents out at the ranch.”

But Hoffman found his calling when a couple suggested that he coach their 8-year-old daughter’s fast-pitch softball team.

“When I was 15 at the ranch, I wanted something to do for the summer. I was playing Babe Ruth baseball — this is how I became a coach. I knew early on; I always thought it would be football.”

He wanted a job, but he wasn’t 16, which was the required age for many positions. A couple asked his house parents if he could help coach their daughter’s team.

“They talked me into it,” he said, laughing. “The first year, I think those little kids, we won the league in Batesville. We had a lot of fun; I actually enjoyed it. I figured out how to coach it and do it and become more and more competitive.”

Coaches in the league put together travel teams.

“We ended up winning the state championship in 2004 in travel ball,” Hoffman said. “That was big. I just fell in love with it, and that made a huge impact on me in my life.”

He stayed at the Youth Ranch and drove back and forth to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro until he graduated with a degree in kinesiology, physical education and health, with an emphasis in coaching.

His first coaching job was in Barton, where he stayed two years. He left for a job as head softball coach in Pangburn, where he stayed seven years.

“At Pangburn, we won two conference championships and a district championship. They had not had much success before, so we built that one up,” he said.

Hoffman said Batesville Athletic Director Dave King, who is also the high school football coach, called and asked if he’d be interested in becoming the softball coach. King was Hoffman’s coach when he played in high school.

“Pangburn had become home to us; we were really torn,” Hoffman said. At the same time, Hoffman said, he and his wife “had a scare” with their son, Elijah, who was an infant. “He quit breathing; we found out he had two holes in his heart. My wife is a nurse in Batesville, so it made sense. Timing was everything.”

The family moved to Batesville, and Elijah had surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Elijah is 2 and doing fine now, Hoffman said. The couple, who have been married 12 years, also have a 5-year-old son, Hayden.

“I really, secretly, had wanted to come back to Batesville and be the [softball] coach,” Hoffman said. He teaches at the junior high school, and he’s also the assistant junior high boys basketball coach.

Hoffman said he is proud of the softball team’s success.

“One of the most emotional wins I’ve ever had was, the softball program had struggled a little bit. … Batesville had won three state championships in high school, … but lately, it had slipped a little bit. Batesville [softball] had not won a playoff game in 14 years. My first year back, we missed the state tournament. Last year, we worked really hard and made the state tournament. We played the No. 1 seed, Beebe, and we pulled off the upset. We had the first playoff win for Batesville in 14 years. That was a big one.”

Hoffman wants to make a difference in his players’ lives, and he’s somewhat drawn to troubled kids.

“Some kids, I don’t worry what they’re going home and doing at night,” he said, because he knows they’re being fed and are safe.

“Then I have other kids that that’s not the case. I’ve had to make some difficult decisions over the years. I had a father of one of my ballplayers … one was beating on her, and I had to turn him in. She went to live with Grandma. I had another one that lived in the same apartment complex as me, and he was doing drugs. His daughter came to me, pounding on my door, as dad was unconscious. … I had to call the police and watch one of my players’ dad led away in handcuffs, and she was bawling. He wanted to be in his daughter’s life, so he went to rehab and got cleaned up.”

Hoffman tries to be more than a coach, and he might take the players for ice cream after practice, for example.

“Some, they may not be great athletes, but they need to be part of something.”

“I really still have to work on my patience; I try to be patient with them. I’ve learned. I used to always feel like there was this angry bear inside of me waiting to get out. Through the years, that angry bear has calmed down,” he said.

Hoffman credits his wife with being supportive.

“She’s so good. She is so awesome because she’s not wired that way. She is my off switch. She did play basketball, but she’s not as competitively driven as I am. When I go home to her, I’m able to flip the switch and turn that off — a really nice change of pace. She knows when I’m fired up about something; she will give me my space,” he said.

“That’s where coaching works for me; I’m able to take that anger, that fire, and turn it into the drive to coach. I coach with passion, and sometimes I have my emotions on my sleeve. I’m a fiery coach sometimes,” he said.

Hoffman has advice for adults who work with youth.

“These young people — I think the biggest thing is so many of them are broken, and the biggest things you can give them are hope and direction, and it’s up to them. Find something they are passionate about. Even our toughest cases here at the school, if you get to know the kid, they’re passionate about something, … so help drive them in that direction. Hopefully, that’ll help motivate them to be successful.

“My goal as a coach is to win, and win often — first a conference championship, and my biggest goal, and we’ve gotten close … is to win a state championship,” he said.

But he has a higher purpose.

“The biggest championship you can win is a kid. If that kid is successful 15 years from now, you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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