Softball: Rainey James returns to the dugout at Legacy

Former All-American coaching with mother for Lighting

Brandon Boles/
Rainey James (top), assistant coach for the Legacy softball team, addresses the team before the start of the first day of fall practice on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019.

Rainey James, the former two-time All-American for the Legacy softball team who went on to a brilliant career at Tennessee, is back with the program this fall as an assistant coach with her mother, head coach Dawn Gaffin.

“Just being back in Colorado is awesome,” James said. “I never really thought I would come home and make it full circle, but to come back here is pretty nostalgic. It’s great to see how the program has advanced since eight years ago. I’m excited to work with the girls and share my knowledge with them.”

The chance to come home to Colorado happened when her husband, NFL offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, signed a contract to join the Denver Broncos in free agency this past spring. The two had been living in Florida for the past three years and first met when they both played their respective sports for the Volunteers.

Brandon Boles/
Players from the Legacy softball team take swings on the first day of practice on Monday, August 12, 2019. (Brandon Boles/

Upon finishing a high school career with four state titles, a .491 batting average as a hitter and 1.58 ERA as a pitcher, James had the chance to continue playing softball at UT. There, she helped the Volunteers reach the Women’s College World Series twice and became a two-time All-American at the collegiate level. Now, she’s back home for the next phase of her softball career.

“I think it’s come full circle,” James said. “I got to live my dream with what I wanted to do in college, and I made it to where I wanted to be. And now here I am.”

James returns to a Legacy program that continues to field goals of winning its seventh state title in program history. With previous coaching experience to go with her time playing at one of the top collegiate programs in the nation, she plans to bring an important lesson about the game to the players as they strive for similar success she had with the Lightning.

“In college, it’s hard work and you have to take everything you’ve learned over however long you’ve played,” James said. “But it’s where you realize why you play this game. I used to coach summer ball, and I reiterated to love the game. If you don’t love the game, it’s going to be very hard, but if you love it, it will reward you well.”

As for her new boss, Gaffin is excited to have another former player from Legacy’s most successful era back to be a voice of inspiration for the team, as well as getting to work with family in the sport they cherish.

“It’s a dream come true to have your kid come work for you after all the years that we played together,” Gaffin said. “Now she gets to be my colleague.”