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Former Ursuline coach to take over at Canfield

Michael Kernan named new coach of Cardinals after one year at Hiram

After a year away from high school softball, former Ursuline coach Michael Kernan has found his new home.

The longtime leader of the Irish program is taking over another Mahoning County program with a solid history, as he has taken over the reins of the Canfield program.

Kernan spent last season in the college ranks as a volunteer assistant with his alma mater, Hiram. With one season assisting the Terriers in the books, Kernan was considering a return to high school, but only if it was a good fit.

The Canfield position opened up, which just so happened to be the exact fit he was after.

“They’re traditionally rich across a lot of their athletics, whether it’s boys or girls, but their softball program has traditionally been extremely solid,” Kernan said. “What I’m looking to bring in is my experience to enhance them to get to the next level. Every season, we go into what our goals are, and I’m not changing that. Our goals are to get to states and win at states. They have a system there, they have very talented players and we’re going to have our goals set from the beginning of where we want to get to.

“I think probably my experience (is valuable), my approach to the mental aspect for the kids, making them tougher, making them stronger, having them believe in the goals and that team chemistry being a difference of getting to the next level. I’m hoping to bring that over here and Canfield and make it happen and compete at a very high level every year.”

During his stint at Ursuline, 40 athletes earned All-Northeast Ohio honors and 15 earned All-State honors. In that time, the Irish compiled a 373-149 record with 18 winning seasons and eight district titles.

While having no problem sending players to the next level in the past, seeing what colleges look for in players first-hand has Kernan more confident in his approach to prepare kids for the next level.

“It answered a lot of questions, that’s for sure,” Kernan said. “You’re in the battlegrounds. They’re in college, and you’re learning the ins and the outs. When you’re coaching in high school, you have some uncertainties about ‘What are they actually looking for? How do they actually practice? How do they prepare?’, and I was just surprised how everything that I’ve been doing over the years was, had the girls prepared and probably was advantageous for the kids that I trained to go into college, which made me feel pretty good.

“I got some confirmation on how things were. You really don’t know until you’re actually out there in the battlegrounds doing it. That made me feel a lot more confident and comfortable with my approach and what I’m teaching kids, preparing them for college if they do want to go. In addition to that, having the experience just enhances that, you know, knowledge to assist kids moving to the next level.”

Kernan picked up plenty in his time with Hiram. It was just as much a learning experience for him as it was for the players he mentored this past season.

Kernan enjoyed his time in the college ranks, but is happy to be back with high schoolers.

“The college ranks, I would say, are a different animal,” Kernan said. “The better coaching and doing the little things right, getting on the field and executing the X’s and O’s is still the same. … I’m glad I gave it a try. I appreciated it and enjoyed it for sure, but being in the high school level for 20 years prior to that, I think there’s something that’s just installed in you that simplifies coming back.”

That being said, the excitement is definitely there. The joy of being back coaching in the Mahoning Valley was apparent in his voice when talking about the next crop of kids he’ll be coaching at Canfield.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “Getting back into high school, I almost feel rejuvenated after that year off and the experience I got in college. It was almost like maybe I needed a break somewhere. The fact that this opportunity at Canfield opened up, probably just adds to the excitement. You’re walking right into something here that could be special from a coaching standpoint, that’s always exciting.”

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