Many people in Stephens County have seen Coach Robert Cowan in the dugout of either the Velma-Alma Lady Comets or the Duncan Lady Demons. After much deliberation and thinking, Cowan has decided to call it a career in coaching softball and made his resignation from coaching duties official with Duncan Public Schools earlier this month.
Cowan will continue teaching at Duncan High School but made the decision to resign from coaching duties of the Lady Demons softball program.
Spending 24 seasons with both schools, Cowan has a 617 victories to his name and an impressive 18 trips to the State Tournament in those years at either school.
Victory number 600 came back on Aug. 27 on a trip to Missouri as Cowan and the Lady Demons beat Joplin High School with a 6-5 extra innings victory over the Eagles.
Duncan Athletic Director Bobby Cook, during the next home game, presented an award to Cowan and brought out his family to celebrate the achievement. According to records which Cook looked up, there has been only about 20-ish coaches who have achieved the 600 win mark.
Cook was the one who talked Cowan into coming back for his second tenure and is happy he served as the Lady Demons head coach for the last three seasons this time around.
“Our district has been incredibly blessed to have a coach, teacher and mentor. Here is a man with a hall of fame career, many state championship appearances, and most importantly … he helped mold so many student athletes along the way,” Cook said. “I’ve had the privilege to get to know Coach Cowan the past five years and I am grateful for that.”
Originally getting the softball job at Velma-Alma around the 1995 season, Cowan said he was thankful for the administration at the time for giving him a chance to start his passion for the game of softball.
“I had the opportunity in 1995 at Velma with Barbara Wood actually hiring me as a math teacher, but quickly moved … even the first year was out coaching golf and then coaching softball,” Cowan said. “I appreciate her as she was the superintendent at Velma-Alma and got me started. Reason I had a little knowledge about softball was because I coached my daughter’s team in the summer or helped coach it, so that is where I kind of learned a little bit about softball and they were in need of a softball coach.”
During the first year as the Velma-Alma softball coach, he got his first trip to the State Tournament and had the program on the regular trip to the State Tournament including three state finals during that time.
Then, Duncan Athletic Director Burl White hired Cowan for the Duncan Lady Demons’ job back in 2007 where he continued his State Tournament appearance streak during his first tenure.
Cowan retired at the end of the 2016 season, but was rehired by Duncan Public Schools to take over the softball program at the beginning of the 2020 season for his second tenure.
Spending three seasons during the second tenure, Cowan got his final State Tournament appearance this past fall by taking Duncan to their first State Tournament since the 2016 season.
One of the reasons Cowan believes this team made the State Tournament was the buy-in for what he believes was the right positions for the girls.
“With this crew this year, that is what we talked about, was getting to the State Tournament and we had to have people buy in to do certain jobs,” Cowan said. “I just think, you know, the next four or five years, there is not any reason why they can’t be back there every year.”
Cowan stated no one is forcing him, but rather that this decision was a physical thing for him and appreciates the administration for the support and the parents who have helped out along the way.
“The administration at Duncan High School has been great to me as a coach and a teacher, they have been great,” Cowan said. “My decision has nothing to do with the school, but it is just physically time. I’m soon to be 67 and I need to have a knee replaced and physically, it is time to let someone younger and more energetic take over. I still love the game and … I will miss the girls because I’ve always had a good rapport with my team and parents.”
The people Cowan has mentioned helped him along the way included Wood, White, Merry Stone, Glenda Cobb, Dr. Sherry Labyer and his family. He credited all of them as being a big part of the success at both schools.
“My wife has been very supportive and I mean that — you talk about it being time consuming and taking you away from the things that softball does,” Cowan said. “She and my children have always been supportive of that. So I’ve always had the support of the administration and that is really key. I appreciate them and I think they know how much I appreciate them.”
With Cowan continuing to teach at Duncan High School, he said he will remain the Lady Demons number one fan and will attend all of the home games for many years to come and support the girls he has coached.
The search for a new softball coach is ongoing according to Duncan Public Schools and they hope to have a new coach in place sometime in 2023 to help prepare the transition for the program.