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Burdick steps down as NFA softball coach, led Wildcats to four straight 20-win seasons

Bryan Burdick has always measured time in the spring by the ins and outs of softball season.

"You blink and the school year's over when you're coaching," said Burdick, Norwich Free Academy's softball coach for the last 12 seasons. "You blink once and you're in the middle of spring break. You blink again and you're at the end of May. There were just certain markers. It's going to be different."

Burdick, whose teams won Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament titles in 2014 and 2019 and reached the 2019 Class LL state championship game, resigned his position as softball coach this week as he takes over as NFA's interim dean of students for the ninth grade.

Previously an English teacher, Burdick was named head softball coach in 2009 after serving under Hall of Fame coach Jim Cotter for four seasons. Burdick finished 184-96, coaching four straight 20-win seasons from 2016-19 and leading the Wildcats to at least the quarterfinals in five straight Class LL tournaments from 2015-19.

There are also head softball coaching vacancies at Ledyard — a Class L semifinalist last season under coach Brittany Robinson — and Montville, leaving the landscape of the ECC in question as the spring season approaches. Derek Wainwright resigned as Montville coach.

Burdick, who lives in North Stonington with wife Melissa and children Norah (8), Tessa (6) and Ethan (17 months), very much enjoyed his last team during the 2021 season, one year after the softball season was canceled due to COVID-19.

"After losing the 2020 season and getting this team back last year, it was a young group but a group I didn't get to know in some ways. I didn't really get to know them (before that)," he said. "I looked at last year as more of an opportunity to reconnect, trying to figure out where we're headed. They were just a fun group of kids. They were coachable and likable. They worked and they pushed themselves and they really wanted to get better.

"I'm absolutely going to miss it."

Burdick said when he first took over for Cotter he had a lot to learn, but was able to get better by watching the coaches he was surrounded by in the ECC, also noting the statewide friendships he formed with former Cheshire coach Kristine Drust and Southington's Davina Hernandez.

"I loved coaching against the coaches in the conference. They always made you get better. If you didn't, you'd lose," Burdick said. "Coaching against someone like Liz (Sutman, former Waterford coach), that's the most I've ever learned. Watching Judy (Deeb, East Lyme), Kate (Prpich, Fitch), Rick Arremony (Griswold), Ann-Marie (Houle, Stonington) and picking up little things, it allowed me to look at the game and adapt based on the pieces we had for the team. It forced me to become analytical, be more thoughtful, take more chances.

"Honestly, I'm a mediocre coach who happened to learn by great coaches around me and I was blessed by talent, some of the all-time greats in the program."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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