Coaching is the family business for Glenwood coach Dusty Perdue and his mom Debbie Ball

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comMay 10, 2014 

It was a coaching tandem years in the making:

Coaching third base for the Glenwood softball team this season was, of course, Dusty Perdue, who has led the program since 2007. At first base, his mom, Debbie Ball, a volunteer for the Lady Gators with more than 600 wins on her resume over the course of her career in Columbus at Shaw and Brookstone.

It was a combination they had considered making for years and, in her first full year of retirement, finally got to try it out.

"We've wanted to try to do this gig, and we finally got to do this now and it was an unbelievable season," said Perdue, whose Lady Gators finished third at the AISA Class 3A state tournament. "Being able to coach and have your mom right there with you is really, really neat. She has so much knowledge to add."

That knowledge comes from a nearly 40-year coaching career that spanned two cities, three schools and seven sports, a resume that Dusty said you pay attention to.

"I would (pay attention to her resume)," he said with a laugh.

She spent four years at Johnson High (Gainesville, Ga.) coaching tennis and then 30 at Shaw coaching everything from basketball to softball to swimming, tennis and wrestling. She finished her coaching

career with five years at Brookstone.

Her husband, Dusty's stepdad Bubba Ball, coached football and basketball at Shaw at the same time.

"Being in the family I'm in, you're pretty much born into coaching," Dusty said. "That's something I always wanted to do, follow in my mom and dad's footsteps."

From a young age, it was just a part of Dusty's life.

Debbie and Bubba would come home from games. They'd discuss what went right, what went wrong and then immediately watch film to dissect it piece by piece.

"He heard all the coaching -- all the good, all the bad and all the ugly," Debbie said. "After a game, he'd hear us moan and grown about who didn't do what and who did. He was around it so much, he could give you the name and number of every kid that was a starting player at any high school in Columbus.

"I guess he couldn't help but learn a little bit."

He learned how to talk to his players on an individual basis. He learned how to teach leadership, work ethic and to convey fundamental skills.

"You have to understand, I played for both my mom and my dad," he said. "I played tennis for four years for my mom and then football, basketball and baseball for my dad. That's where I learned everything. You see them everyday in work, you pick up some things. You don't have a choice."

He was following in the right footsteps.

Debbie Ball's success extended beyond the record books. She said one of her big regrets was not keeping a running list of every player she's coached over the years just to see how many relationships she was able to have.

"At the end of the day, that's what it's really all about," she said.

"That was her life," Dusty agreed. "That's what she lived to do. She dedicated her life to helping young people. When you see the way she is, it's just something you aspire to be."

He's a few wins shy of his mom for now -- he had 222 at the end of this season, just a few hundred shy of her final numbers. They didn't want to talk about Bubba's number, who has over 800 just in basketball, according to Dusty.

Together, they're approaching 2,000 victories as a family.

When Debbie Ball officially retired, her son immediately approached her about coming to help him at Glenwood. Debbie wavered at first, thinking about some of the things she wanted to do now that she had more free time.

After a couple weeks, she agreed to coach first base for Glenwood if she was allowed to come to practice when she had the time. "I knew when I agreed, of course, that if I was going to help I was going to be there for the long haul," she said. "I couldn't do it halfway."

From Jan. 13 to May 3, she was on the field every day, including a period when Dusty wasn't available due to commitments to the boys basketball team.

"It's what you do," she said. "When you do it as long as I have, you get used to it."

And so the coaching continued this season, not just for the players but for both Dusty and Debbie, as well.

Debbie coached first base for the first time in her career. She was admittedly more conservative over her time as a coach, but said Dusty helped her to be more aggressive.

"If I had called as many hit-and-runs and steals as Dusty does, there's no telling how many games I could have won," she said with a laugh.

And Dusty said he still listens to her advice, as well.

Though Debbie said that "on his field, he's the boss," Dusty said if she told him to do something, he'd probably do it.

"You put 600 wins on your coaching staff, you're going to get an advantage," he said.

They discuss strategy, what went right or wrong, after games, just like Dusty heard his parents do as a kid.

"I couldn't ask for a better two parents to be on my side who can make me be the best coach I can be," he said. "They're still coaching me to this day, and I want that."

Asked if she planned to come out again to help Glenwood next year, Debbie said she would if Dusty needed her help.

As a son is supposed to do, he listened to his mother.

"She'll be here," he said.

David Mitchell, Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports

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