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Coach Mary Jo Truesdale tells her Sheldon High School softball team to “play for all the marbles.”

Literally.

After a win, she’ll give each athlete and assistant coach a marble (usually, in the opposing team’s school colors).

“I carry around a lot of marbles,” Truesdale says. “I’ve got 16 drawers of marbles. I’ve been doing the marble thing for about 20 years and spent thousands of dollars in marbles, but it’s worth it.”

Truesdale has coached for more than 40 years. All of her former and current athletes (she estimates about 600) know one thing: Truesdale likes to win.

“I tell the girls they have to step on the field and believe that they can win,” Truesdale says. “You can never go into a game thinking that you can lose.”

Truesdale’s got a winning record, herself. For her overall coaching record, she’s won more than 700 games. More than 20 of her athletes played at the collegiate level, with several playing internationally and professionally. She’s been named Sacramento Metro Coach of the Year (six times), Delta League Coach of the Year (12 times) and Optimist Coach, High School Senior All-Star Game (six times).

Growing up in rural Michigan, Truesdale played softball, field hockey and basketball. Inspiring her to pursue coaching were her two coaches—one from elementary school, one from college. Both taught her how to love every game she played, and they instilled in her the essence of sportsmanship and the desire to win. She teaches those core values to her players today.

The secret to her success?

“I’ve been blessed with having such good athletes and parents,” Truesdale says. “All my assistant coaches throughout the years have been knowledgeable and loyal. Plus, I owe a lot to EGUSD. I’ve never been at a school district that’s as forward-thinking and as supportive as this administration.”

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