On a May afternoon in 2007, the Flathead Bravettes had a 4-1 lead over Helena Capital heading into the sixth inning at the Class AA state softball tournament. They were hoping to bring a state title back home to Kalispell for the first time since 2003.
But in the sixth inning, the momentum shifted and the shining moment faded. Capital came from behind to win 5-4.
That was the last high school game Christina Zorn and Bri Compton played together. They parted ways and went off to play in college. But over the weekend, they shared the diamond yet again, only under different circumstances and in different roles – as opposing coaches in the Glacier Emeralds Softball Tournament at the Kidsport Complex in Kalispell.
Compton is a coach for the Flathead Monsters and Zorn coaches a newly formed team in the local summer softball league called the Flathead Flames.
Not only was coaching against Zorn a first for Compton, so was sharing the dugout with her father, Alan. Together, the Comptons’ father-daughter coaching duo has guided the 16-U Monsters to the Montana ASA Junior Olympic Girls Softball State Tournament in Butte on July 15-18.
“It’s cool,” Alan said of coaching with his daughter. “It’s exciting to know that it’s her chance and it’s her time to give back, and it’s neat to see the cycle, I guess, be completed.”
When Compton talks about his daughter giving back, he’s referring to the local softball leagues that helped develop her into a college-caliber player. In Montana, summer teams such as the Flathead Monsters and Glacier Emeralds are often the best opportunity for young softball players to gain exposure.
They play at out-of-state tournaments attended by college scouts, whereas few college representatives are found during the high school season, Bri Compton said. Compton plays at Willamette University in Oregon, where she will return in the fall for her final season.
She even knows a player from Bigfork who attracted college attention without ever playing in high school.
“The summer league is where the college coaches see you,” she said. “That’s where you get the exposure.”
Summer ball gave Bri a better chance at college and now, through coaching, she wants to give the next generation the same chance. That generation includes her own family – she coaches one of her younger sisters, Jessie, on the Monsters and another sister, Cheyenne, plays for the Emeralds 12-U team.
With Jessie and Cheyenne emerging as softball stars, the Compton family has five members involved in softball. Alan, who started the Monsters eight years ago, also is the varsity coach for Whitefish High School. His wife, Jamie, is on the board of the Kalispell Youth Softball Association.
And now Bri is making the transition from a playing career into what she hopes is a coaching career. Jamie is pleased to see her daughter in the dugout next to her father.
“She’s coming back and mentoring girls in the program and now she has two sisters in the program carrying that legacy on,” Jamie said.
Jamie said Zorn and fellow former Bravettes Ashley Fusaro and Leslie Quay are similarly helping keep youth softball vital in the valley.
“It’s understandable that they go off to college and get new lives, but we’ve been fortunate to see some of them come back,” Jamie said.
The Comptons aren’t the only family with a prominent legacy in Flathead Valley softball. The Quays, of which Leslie is the most recent high school graduate, have had three girls go through the local softball system. A fourth, Baylee, plays for the 16-U Emeralds. Their father, Brian, is a coach.
Paul McHugh coaches the Emeralds’ 12-U white team, while his daughters Katie and Erin both play for Emeralds teams. Meanwhile, Kirk and Tonya Atlee have been involved in coaching for years, while their three daughters have moved up through the Glacier Emeralds ranks.
Tonya has coached their youngest daughter Alivia in a recreational league during the spring for three years and Kirk is the current coach of the 16-U Emeralds. Daughters Shayna and Hannah both play for Kirk. Tonya and Kirk are also on the Kalispell Youth Softball Association board, helping with field maintenance and concessions.
“Over the last eight years we’ve become accustomed to, for seven weekends, packing up and heading out on the road and doing softball all weekend,” Tonya said. “The biggest thing with softball is that it’s a really family-oriented thing.”
And perhaps it’s a thing that stays with people forever. Just ask Bri Compton. That’s why she’s back in her hometown, guiding a new crop of budding softball stars.
“I’ve always been around softball; I was potty trained at the Conrad Complex, no lie,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since birth. I can’t give it up.”
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