Sunday, July 19, 2015

Growing a softball team - By Stephanie Coffin

Softball is a growing sport in the town of Windham. The middle school girls are taking up the challenge and representing. This is the first year these girls have played together as a team. Prior to this year they played ball in Little League where they were split between two teams. 

Coach Fred Wilcox and assistant coach Jason Elder, who both have daughters on the team, have given their time to show these girls how to work together, taught them to be a team and encouraged them as kids to give it their best, while enjoying the game of softball. While Wilcox has coached eighth grade before, this is Elders first experience with eighth grade ball. 

These coaches don't find coaching difficult stating, "It's hard not enjoy a sport that allows you to stand on a freshly mowed outfield or recently lined infield in the best weather of the year." 

The team bonded and learned to work together, and communication was a key factor. When the team was up they complimented one another and when the team was down they encouraged one another to "get the next one" or "three second rule".

"We were very fortunate to have a group of girls that were ready to play," Elder said. As with any new team there were a few mechanical adjustments to a players throwing, catching or batting, but all were minor tweaks. While additional adjustments in the dugout etiquette also needed to be made. This was where some of the communication training was focused on. Support from another teammate or a joke and occasionally a reminder from staff how an athlete behaves was a focus point.

The team’s biggest struggle was a game they played against Gorham late in the year. The team had six players who were unable to be there including the assistant coach. That left Wilcox, and the minimum number of players allowed to field a team, which is eight. The team had a catcher that had the experience behind the plate as well as in spring training but had not officially caught in a game up to this point. They also had to utilize infielders as outfielders, having to switch from the spots they had worked at all year to play where needed. Due to the lack of a ninth player for the team, each ninth batter was considered an automatic out for the Windham team. However, the ladies came to the field and defended, batted and stole their way to a victory against a fully staffed Gorham team. 

There are no playoffs for middle school softball. However, if there were both coaches believe this team would have won it all. Several of the players were able to get onto the Windham/Raymond Juniors All Star team as well as the summer league both coached by the Windham High School varsity softball coach, Travis Demons. 

Both coaches would like to see these incoming freshmen go for the 2016 softball season. 

"They are an extremely athletic class that will be noticed in the coming years," said Elder. A lot of the girls are three sport athletes. They are strong and dedicated to improving themselves as athletes. Coach Wilcox and coach Elder both are proud and grateful to have been a part of this team and would like to "thank" the girls for a great season.

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