Jordan Najafi has been a familiar face for the Winder-Barrow High School fast-pitch softball program.
Najafi worked as an assistant coach for the Lady Bulldoggs since 2012, helping head coaches Monty McClure and Lee Smoak. Now Najafi moves from an assistant to directing the program as she was recently promoted to succeed Smoak.
“I’m thrilled that I was named head coach,” Najafi said. “I’ve been around the program for years, and I’m excited for the opportunity to continue the work of the two previous head coaches I worked under.”
Other than a one-year hiatus during the 2016 season, Najafi has been a key member of the WBHS softball program.
Growing up in Suwanee, Najafi has been involved in softball for 25 years. She was a standout player at North Gwinnett High School as a left-handed pitcher.
Following her high school career, she played for Shorter University earning all-conference freshman team honors and earning a spot on the all-conference academic team as a sophomore. Najafi helped lead Shorter to conference titles in 2008 and 2009 and helped the program compete in the national playoffs.
For her junior year she transferred to Emmanuel College, where she redshirted. During her final two years of collegiate play, Najafi was on the all-conference academic team for 2011 and 2012. She also was named to the all-tournament team during national tournament competition.
“I have several goals for the WBHS program,” Najafi said. “Obviously we want to compete for a region title and a successful postseason every year, but I also want to set goals for our program that have nothing to do with the scoreboard. We’re out to win, but as a program we’re also out to set a good example as representatives of Winder-Barrow High School and our community.”
Specific goals for the 2020 season include competing for and winning a region title, competing in the Elite 8 in Columbus and committing the program to excellence on and off the field through involvement in the classroom and community.
“Coach Najafi is a hardworking and dedicated coach who has high expectations for all of her players,” said WBHS athletic director Jared Noblet. “We are looking forward to a big year with her leading the softball program as we begin competing in the new 8-AAAAAA region next year. Coach Najafi is an experienced coach and she understands what it takes to compete at a high level.”
The Bulldoggs were 9-17 in 2019 for Smoak, qualifying for the state tournament where they were swept by River Ridge in the opening round. Smoak guided WBHS for three seasons.
Prior to being hired at WBHS, Smoak was head coach at Burke County for five seasons with four state playoff appearances in five seasons. He decided not to coach next fall.
“I am very appreciative of the opportunity to coach softball at WBHS over the past few years,” Smoak said. “We were able to improve the culture of the program, renovate the field surface, develop an extensive summer program and provide financial stability to the softball program.”
Smoak said during the past two seasons the program qualified for the state playoffs with very youthful rosters and several injuries.
“From that standpoint, the program has overachieved,” Smoak said. “This job also provided my family the opportunity to move to this part of the state, where we would all benefit more. Most importantly, I am grateful for the relationships that I have made over the past few years. The players, booster club members and assistant coaches, are all people that supported me and for whom I grew close to.”
Smoak said he was appreciative for his assistant coaches.
“I was able to coach with two very talented assistant coaches in Will Bartlett and Jordan Najafi, Smoak said. “Both are now head coaches and will have great coaching careers. The WBHS program is in good hands with Coach Najafi. I am also grateful for Rob McFerrin, who hired me. After coaching in three different school systems over 15 years, he is by far the best athletic director I have ever worked with.”
For now, Smoak said he will be with WBHS next school year but does not plan to coach in any capacity. He is again coaching the boys’ tennis team this spring.