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Sports life leads Mary Huff to Brighton Recreation

Mary Huff, center, with Okeechobee High School softball players Elle Thomas, left, and Jacee Jumper, right, in 2020. (Kevin Johnson)

The Seminole Tribe’s Mary Huff was hired as the Recreation Department site manager on the Brighton Reservation. Her first day on the job was Nov. 27, 2023. She oversees the department, its staff and programs.

Huff, 33, has an extensive sports background. She was previously an elementary school physical education teacher at Brighton’s Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School for seven years. She coached the school’s volleyball team for one season and, more recently, was head coach of the softball team.

Huff is a longtime softball player and coach – she’s coached the sport at Okeechobee High School for 10 years in all. When private lessons are included, Huff has coached softball to youth for 13 years.

“Softball was the majority of my life,” Huff said. “My parents took me all over the country doing [softball] showcases.”

Softball showcases are designed to allow athletes to complete drills and play in front of college coaches.

Huff said she was nine when she first played the sport, and she excelled at it. She was a four-year letterman at Okeechobee High School before attending St. Petersburg College in Clearwater as a freshman, but she said the school wasn’t a fit.

“I wasn’t a fan of the area or the coaching style so I transferred my sophomore year to Indian River [State College],” Huff said.

She’d tear her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – one of the ligaments in the knee joint – during a game, and while she was recovering, was recruited by the University of Central Florida as a junior. After not seeing playing time her senior year, Huff started to play and coach slow pitch softball. She’s played high-level slow pitch since 2021 – the year she was named the MVP of the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) women’s “A” world tournament in Viera, near Melbourne.

“It was pretty cool to play [Division I] in college and then play in the majors – the highest division in slow pitch. I’m still trying to do it,” Huff said. “Out of college I came home and when you’re a former collegiate athlete they are ready to jump on you.”

Her current softball team at Okeechobee High School has been in the midst of off-season conditioning. Its preseason games begin in February.

“It’s my first year back after a two-year leave,” Huff said. “There are a lot of new faces, a ton of them, and a ton of tribal girls, which is exciting. The previous nine years I coached, I only had one or two [tribal girls] a season, now there are eight or nine. It’s exciting.”

She said she’s learning to juggle coaching and playing, the duties of her new job, and family life and responsibilities.

“I’m in charge of implementing the Recreation programs for the youth, but it’s for the entire community too – the seniors and the adults,” Huff said. “We also help a lot with community activities, Field Day stuff. My department handles all those events, activities, sports, fitness – all those daily things.” 

Huff isn’t completely new to Recreation. Before her physical education job at PECS, she was a supervisor in the department for a year.

Huff’s father is the late John Wayne Huff Sr., who died in 2019. Her mother, Vickey Huff, is the site manager for Brighton’s Elder Services Department. Her sister, Rebecca Billie, lives in the Trail community, while brothers John Huff Jr. and sister Jimi Jameson both live in Brighton. Jameson is a Creek teacher at PECS.

Huff has three children – Maverick Gabert, McCoy Gabert and Tatum Thomas. Trey Thomas is her partner.

“He’s been a godsend since I coach, have a full-time job and play. It’s important to have support like that at home – helping out and letting me continue to do what I do to better our community and better our youth. I take it very seriously,” she said.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at