Nixons are married to coaching at Fife

Wife Michelle coaches fastpitch, while husband Shane is in charge of baseball for Trojans

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comApril 30, 2014 

It is purely conjecture, but imagine this dialogue between Shane and Michelle Nixon when they arrive home.

“Honey, I threw together something nice and quick for dinner.”

The other: “Great. I raked both high school infields and swept the dugouts.”

Who’s who? In the Nixon household, the comments are interchangeable.

The Nixons are not only married — they were high school sweethearts — but they’re also coaches at Fife High School.

Shane, 38, is in his 11th season as baseball coach of the Trojans. In 2008, he led the school to its first league title since 1963, and also its first district championship. Fife has won or shared the SPSL 2A crown the past two seasons.

Michelle, 38, is in her third season as the school’s fastpitch coach. Fife has advanced to the Class 2A state tournament the past two seasons. The defending SPSL 2A champions are on a 27-game league winning streak.

“There is a lot of stress that comes with it,” Shane said. “But we love it. She is a competitor, just like I am.”

Their stars were aligned from the start. Shane, a standout football and baseball player (corner infielder, pitcher), and Michelle, a heady basketball and fastpitch player (shortstop), were Jefferson High School’s senior athletes of the year in 1994.

Shane enrolled at Washington State University while Michelle went to Green River Community College to play fastpitch for two seasons. They wed right after their sophomore year of college.

Shane’s first baseball coaching job was at Sumner High School, overseeing the junior varsity squads in 1999 and 2000. The next season, Kevin Alfano was hired as the Fife baseball coach, and Shane joined his staff.

In 2003, the Trojans went to the 2A state championships for the first time in school history. A year later, Alfano resigned to go into administration, and Shane was promoted to head coach.

Right when Shane got into coaching, the Nixon family began to grow with the arrival of Wesley, who is now 15; Alex, 13; and Connor, 9. Michelle was holding down a good job at Weyerhaeuser, and she was helping her father, Fred Fazio, coach youth baseball for her children.

But in 2008, when Michelle was laid off from her job, she turned her focus to something different – coaching fastpitch.

“Instead of sitting around in a deep depression, I thought about volunteering my time with the girls at Fife, even if it was only a few days a week,” Michelle said.

The varsity fastpitch job came open in 2012.

“When it first opened up, she came to me and asked, ‘What do you think?’ ” Shane said. “We talked about it. ... She was nervous about the time commitment in what you’ve got to do. I told her if she was serious, go for it. And if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out.”

Their personalities are almost complete opposites. Michelle is the upbeat chatterbox who always stresses the positives. Shane is more hard-nosed and cerebral, known to say little to his players for long periods of time.

The person who knows both of them the best, personally and from a coaching standpoint, is Fazio, who has coached baseball for nearly four decades. He was on the Jefferson staff for two of the seasons Shane played (1993-94), and also coached him on the Emerald City Express summer squad after high school.

“Michelle kind of coaches with a lot of fire and enthusiasm, which is my style. And she is a strong communicator,” Fazio said. “Shane has a different sort of fire that is held within. He really doesn’t need anybody else to tell him he is doing right by baseball.”

Michelle’s schedule is a bit more hectic. She has a 40-hour-a-week job that allows her to coach. That means putting in long hours on the weekends so she can have her weekday afternoons off for coaching.

“Shane is kind of my eyes and ears when I can’t be at the school, and when I need to know about a kid,” Michelle said.

That is because Shane is a math teacher at the high school. He has his master’s degree and hopes to someday go into administration. He is also an assistant coach in football.

“Her time when she gets home is telling me what is going on with her team,” Shane said. “I am a quiet guy. I just let go. Obviously she is more interested in what is going on with baseball because our son (Wesley) is playing for me.

“Once that is over, we can start talking about normal stuff.”

This is a big season for Fife fastpitch as the Trojans are loaded with seniors. They are well on their way to defending their league title.

Meanwhile, the baseball team is in reloading mode after its great run. Shane lost 11 seniors from last year’s squad.

“Is there competition?” Michelle said. “There is an underlying competition between us. In fact, we were talking about that last (week). I was complaining to him if I reserved hotel rooms for the right weekend (at the state tournament), and he said, ‘Oh, that must be real tough.’ And I immediately drop it.”

It only takes a moment such as that for Michelle to recall all the great seasons Shane had before she got into coaching – and all the past conversations about the profession she can now relate to.

“I have learned some things as a coach from him, but I think he has learned some things from me as well – because we are so opposite,” Michelle said. “I like to spill my guts ... and I will say, ‘Hey, maybe if you do crack a smile, or tell them how you feel or give them a compliment once in a while, it would be good.’ And he will nod or smile because what I am saying means something.

“And what I’ve learned from him, I need to be more of a hard-ass because sometimes I get too soft. I am learning. He has done this a lot longer than I have.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 @ManyHatsMilles

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