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Softball: Legacy honors legendary coach Dawn Gaffin before big win

Gaffin set to retire at season’s end, but no before one last go at Class 5A championship

Legacy head softball coach Dawn Gaffin ...
Alissa Noe/
Legacy head softball coach Dawn Gaffin high-fives her players as they take the field against Mountain Range on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Broomfield.

As the Legacy softball players took batting practice leading up to their home game on Tuesday night, they didn’t don their usual warm-ups.

Instead, Class 5A’s fourth-ranked team wore T-shirts with a Colorado license plate on them that read “Visuliz.” It belonged to head coach Dawn Gaffin. Just before the first pitch in what would be a 16-4, four-inning win over Mountain Range, the Lightning honored their longtime coach in a surprise ceremony, one in which they unveiled a banner to honor the woman who’s carried the program since 2000.

At the end of this season, she’ll step out of the dugout for the last time and into retirement. That license plate has been central to her mantra throughout her 35 years of coaching, since the very beginning of CHSAA-sanctioned fastpitch softball in Colorado in 1987.

“I always tell them that if you can see it and you can believe in yourself, you can do it,” Gaffin said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. I tell them that all the time. … It’s just something that I firmly believe in that you can do it and you’ve just got to be able to see it in your mind’s eye and go after that.”

Early into her career with the Lightning, Gaffin implemented a drill at practice through which players would visualize their “ESPN play.” The coaches would then hit an imaginary ball to the player, who would make the play of their dreams.

One time, that performative practice actually paid off.

Alissa Noe/
Legacy coach Dawn Gaffin high-fives Jordyn Heronimus after she was caught trying to stretch a double into a triple during the second inning of Tuesday’s home game against Mountain Range.

“Everybody has something, so it’s fun, but they can actually see it. I’ll never forget the first year we did that in 2002, I think it was,” Gaffin recalled. “My catcher, hers was a high pop fly to the backstop. She slid on her knees and caught it. It happened at regionals, and she caught it and she just turned and she looked at me, and I went, ‘Told ya.’”

That kind of leadership, real or imaginary, has led Gaffin to an illustrious career not only with Legacy but with several programs before it. She coached the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State teams in 1989, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

In her 21 seasons with Legacy, Gaffin has led her teams to 18 appearances in the state tournament, nine league titles and six state championships. Since 2009 — which is the first year in Maxpreps’ records — she’s boasted a 239-64-4 record, including the team’s current 16-3 mark.

Every single one of those titles came during a seven-year period, from 2007 to 2013. She produced five All-Americans from 2008 to 2011.

Throughout her 35-year career, Gaffin has coached an entire family and implemented it into every aspect of her game. One of those athletes, junior Khloe Kubitschek, hit a two-run bomb during the Bolts’ commanding win over the Mustangs on Tuesday. Gaffin coached her two older sisters and her mother in the early ‘90s, and Kubitschek’s mother and grandfather have served as coaches within the program.

“I’ve been with coach Gaff for six years now and she’s taught me everything I know,” Kubitschek said. “Pretty much most of my credit goes to her and I don’t think I’d be where I am without her.”

Surely, hundreds more players share the same sentiment. It’s why Gaffin couldn’t walk away until this year, even after she retired from Legacy High as a dean.

For her, it’s always been about the kids.

“I was very blessed to be part of this program and blessed to have such great kids this year,” she said. “I can’t tell you how great they are, and it’s one more reason why I wanted to do one more year here.”

Alissa Noe/
Legacy head softball coach Dawn Gaffin instructs her batter and runners during the first inning of their game against Mountain Range on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.

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