Staff Photo: Will Hammock
North Gwinnett grad Maria Melts was recently named the head softball coach at Mountain View.
Maria Melts, 25, was recently promoted from assistant to head coach of the Mountain View fastpitch softball program. She also has coached coached track the past two years at the school, where she works as a special education teacher.
The 2004 North Gwinnett grad was an all-county softball player in high school and played at Georgia State before knee injuries ended her career. She is engaged to be married to Taylor Sharrett, also a 2004 North grad.
In this installment of “Getting to Know...”, Melts talks with sports editor Will Hammock about her new job, her engagement and her clumsiness.
WH: You played fastpitch softball at North Gwinnett, so do you still know a lot of people around here?
MM: I do. I’m actually marrying Taylor Sharrett. We went to high school, middle school and elementary school together, so we have all our North Gwinnett friends still. And I just bought a house in Buford and both of our families live here.
WH: Did you come to Mountain View straight out of college?
MM: I graduated with an exercise science degree and did my internship in a hospital and I found teaching. Actually it kind of found me. I really got very fortunate. While I was getting ready to start my master’s, Jason Johnson was moving here (from North) for his first year and was asking people around North Gwinnett if they knew anybody who would be a good pitching coach. They knew I was wanting to teach and they gave him my name. All the positions had filled in Gwinnett County and he brought me over here and they gave me the job that day. So I’ve been here for two years, next year will be my third year teaching.
WH: I’m supposed to ask you how you got the job at Mountain View.
MM: I literally walked in and got it. They were in a trailer then. I walked in with Jason and I was like, ‘I’ll take any position. I’ll sub. Whatever you need me to do. I just love softball and I’d love to help Jason coach.’ They were picking up the phone to call someone else and they asked what my undergrad was and what I was getting my master’s in. I told them I was getting my master’s in special education, so they asked me if I would be interested in interrelated science, which is in special education. I teach chemistry and physics. I told them I would love that job. We were standing there and they said, ‘All right, you got the job.’ I brought my resumé and nothing else. I was very blessed. And Jason, I give him all the credit.
WH: Did you definitely want to coach?
MM: I did, since I played and I’ve given pitching lessons at The Pitcher’s Mound. I love to coach and I love to teach, they go hand in hand. I started coaching and I fell in love with it. You form relationships and it’s been a lot of fun.
WH: Is it fun to come back and coach in the area where you played, kind of seeing another side of it?
MM: I think it’s awesome. I think I’m lucky to be in Gwinnett County and to be able to coach in the same system I played in. You get to see how much work goes into it and see what kind of great athletes Gwinnett is producing. I’m coaching and a lot of the coaches from back then are still here, like (Bill) Batchelor at Brookwood, we’ve been e-mailing back and forth about how I remember when he was coaching. Other people, like South Gwinnett’s Audra Thomas, she coached me in travel ball for a couple of years.
WH: How did you get engaged? Was it something special?
MM: Yeah. We were friends for 12 years. We were just friends and just one day we started dating. A year and a half later he proposed on his grandparents’ anniversary at the end of a jetty at the beach. It was raining. It was really romantic.
WH: He did well then.
MM: He did. And that’s his grandmother’s diamond. And we’re getting married on their anniversary, too.
WH: Are you still pretty active in sports?
MM: I am. I run half marathons, 10Ks, triathlons, I do some CrossFit. I stay active. That way I can still beat my girls. I still like to pitch to them some. I like to keep up with them.
WH: Do you still have the talent?
MM: I don’t know. I’m getting old. I have to do the sports that are more endurance now. I still enjoy it and love it, but I don’t know how good I’d be at softball now.
WH: What are your best memories from softball growing up?
MM: Really forming the relationships. The thing that really stands out is mine and my dad’s relationship. He’s the one I feel like who taught me everything, was at every single game and helped me become who I was as a softball player. He pushed me to become better and then let me make my own decisions as I got older. The friendships you form in softball is great. The travel ball is exciting.
WH: Who were the best players you played against around here?
MM: Of course I have to give a shout out to (current All-SEC player at Georgia) Bri Hesson. Her brother is going to be in our family one day. He’s going to marry my sister. She’s gone off to do such great things. And then (Brookwood’s) Lisa Norris who played at North Carolina. Michelle Green at Duluth. Those are some of the best people I got to play against.
WH: What happened with your injuries in college? That must have been a hard way to end your softball career.
MM: It was very tough. As an athlete, you’re competitive and you don’t want to quit. It was my knee. The same knee three times. Two in college and one before. But when they told me I might have a fourth surgery I had to make a decision and I wanted to be able to play with my kids in the future. It could have gotten worse with a fourth surgery on the same knee with arthritis and they talked about a knee replacement when I was older. It was very, very tough. I think that’s why I still do the other sports. I still have that competitive nature. I love competing.
WH: Did you hurt it running the bases?
MM: One time I was playing basketball when I was younger. I played basketball, swam, ran track and played softball in high school. That was the first time. The second time was playing the outfield and the last time was pitching.
WH: Being a head coach, what do you feel like the challenges are going to be?
MM: I am filling huge shoes. Jason has set up our program to be successful and I think that will be the hardest part, replacing someone who has already done so much. And making sure I do everything I can for the program, building it and winning a state championship. That is my goal. We are going to win a state championship.
WH: What excites you about it?
MM: Everything. Everything excites me. For most people, it’s a goal to be a head coach. I’m just excited to coach with this coaching staff, watching the girls grow, watching the girls become better and hopefully go on to play college ball. And helping them through that process and building them as athletes.
WH: Is special education something you always wanted to go into?
MM: I will say it was definitely what God wanted me to do. My undergrad was in exercise science and I wanted to go into the medical field. I got a phone call from my friend one day and she said, ‘I think you need to look into special education.’ And I did. I prayed about it, ‘What do I do?’ I went and watched a class and fell in love with it. I’ve always had a heart for children with special needs but I never thought I’d be a special education teacher. But it’s definitely the best job in the world.
WH: It’s tough, but there are a lot rewards, too.
MM: Oh yeah, there are a lot of rewards. The students are great. It’s not necessarily tough. It’s heart-breaking sometimes. But it’s so rewarding, it replaces that.
WH: What kind of music are you into?
MM: Everything. I have to listen to what the kids listen to and try to keep up with them. I love country because my fiancee kind of thinks he’s a redneck. Of course I like oldies. I can listen to anything.
WH: Do you have a favorite band?
MM: I love Dave Matthews. I love Pearl Jam. I love Sugarland. It’s a strange mix.
WH: What’s your most embarrassing moment?
MM: I’m a klutz. Everything I do is really embarrassing. I get picked on all the time. Nothing really stands out because I get picked on every day. It’s really strange. People even say it all the time that it’s odd I was able to play sports but I’m so clumsy.
WH: What kind of food are you into?
MM: Healthy. Pizza and cookies are my favorite two things in the world, but I follow very strict eating habits to stay healthy. I’m into nutrition. That was part of my undergrad. I eat green stuff.
WH: So you don’t go to McDonald’s?
MM: No, no, not at all.
WH: When do you splurge?
MM: My weakness is chocolate, so any time there’s chocolate around I can’t help it. I have to splurge.
WH: How long to do you see yourself teaching? Is this something you’ll do for a lifetime?
MM: One day I possibly want to get my specialist and doctorate and be an administrator. But right now I couldn’t imagined not being with the kids every day. Right now I’m a teacher forever. But I will set goals to be an administrator and go to school for it.