Monday Mailbag: Coaches say focus stays same as district games, regional meets get started

Published 11:17 pm Sunday, April 9, 2017

The road trips are over and everyone’s back from spring break, a little bit tanner and hopefully with some more knowledge and experience on the roster.

So what now?

We asked area coaches how their focuses change now that spring break is over and most teams are closing in on the halfway mark of their seasons.

  1. Now that everyone’s back from spring break and the season is nearly halfway over, how does the focus change? Do your feelings or importance of the games change at all?

Joey Sallee, Danville softball: Every game matters. We want to continue to improve as the season progresses.

Kyle Wynn, Boyle County baseball: I don’t think focus should ever change. We should treat each game with the same effort. With district play opening up the key is to not feel too good about what you have done or too bad about what you may not have done but to approach each game as must win and you have a 0-0 record.

Paul Morse, Danville baseball: Our focus doesn’t change, but by this time every year we hope everyone is set in their roles and they know what is expected of them. They can start to feel more comfortable in those roles and can focus on what they have to do to help us win.

Todd Montgomery, Garrard County softball: We continue on the same focus for the season of improving ourselves. Each day is an opportunity to work toward the goals of the team. If we do what we do best, we will be competitive and have the chance to win. We value the importance of all games but that value increases as you get deep into the season.

Jon Vaughn, Casey County track: We will be attending some very competitive track meets soon. Therefore, the focus will be improvement given better competition.

Chris Verhoven, Danville track: Of course it does. It’s time to get better or else. No more messing around. Work hard or find yourself watching others beat you.

Brian Deem, Boyle County softball: Focus stays the same, still all about learning how to compete and handle the grind. I know district seeding games are arriving. We try to play a very difficult schedule so most of our games are difficult to prepare us for the district seeding games.

 

  1. So far this season, has anything surprised you about your team, either positively or negatively? What is it and why?

Sallee: I’ve been impressed with how they have supported each other, especially during tough times.

Wynn: If there’s one thing probably the fact that we graduated a lot of seniors and would have expected some growing pains early, but the guys stepped right in and didn’t miss a beat. I’m very proud of the effort and execution thus far.

Morse: There are two things that have surprised me a little with this team this year. One is our defense has not been as good as we thought it would be. Not only are we making too many physical errors we are having too many mental ones as well. We do have several first-year varsity starters or guys learning new positions, so as they get reps and more comfortable in their positions this will get better. They are working hard at it so that’s all I can ask as a coach. The second thing that I have been surprised with this year’s team is their never-give-up approach. You always preach that as a coach, but you don’t see that all the time especially when you’re down a few runs late in games. This team seems to play their best in those situations and never gives up. We have had several come-from-behind wins this season and I have been very proud of my team for that.

Montgomery: Every year you have surprises both negatively and positively. It is how you handle those as an individual and as a team that determines the character of the group.

Vaughn: Nothing has surprised me yet. I think we may have one or two who improve on new events. When it clicks for them, I will pleasantly surprised.

Verhoven: Not really. We have great kids with great attitudes.

Deem: My kids have handled the grueling schedule with poise and shown no fear. They are understanding the importance of playing the elite day in and day out.

 

  1. The season is going to get into its long grind through the playoffs, do you do anything to break up the monotony and break the pressure?

Sallee: We may do some things on days that we can’t get on the field due to the weather, but other than that it’s business as usual.

Wynn: Not really. You’ll take each week and games and adjust a little in practice or do things to break up the monotony but the good thing about our guys with the grind of playing so much from now to the playoffs is they really enjoy just playing and competing and that has been fun so far.

Morse: This is the time of year I like the best. Usually the weather starts to get better, you are getting to play more regularly and you can get into a better routine. This is usually when we see guys start to really get better and improve on things we have been working on because they are getting on the field more consistently. The only thing we do a little different is cut practice time down a little bit.  

Montgomery: I will change up practice and drills if I feel that we are grinding or have no energy. We want to have a few weekend breaks in middle of the schedule to let the players recharge their batteries. Being with their family or friends will pump life back into them as much as anything.

Vaughn: Pressure is so great on Regional day for track, I just try to tell them to relax at that point, because this really is just a sport.

Verhoven: Winning always makes things more fun but that’s not realistic every time we run. Sometimes we play kickball or ultimate frisbee for practice just to remember to have fun and take some of the pressure off.

Deem: We play music during every practice to keep things light. I want practice to be challenging but not dreaded. I think my kids enjoy coming to practice.

 

  1. What’s your funniest story you can remember (and is fit for print) as a coach or athlete?

Morse: One of the funniest things I have seen on the baseball field was when I was playing at UK. Our starting pitcher that day gets hit with a line drive in the leg and goes down to the ground. Our athletic trainer runs to the field to check on him and as she gets there slips and falls and kicks our pitcher right in the head. Once everyone got up and you could tell they were OK, the place started dying laughing. Whenever players and coaches from that team get together that’s still one thing that we always bring up. That poor trainer has never heard the end of that.

Montgomery:  I will share a story that I use as a teaching moment but is relatable to all coaches and gets a chuckle when told. We have a player on second base with no outs and I have relayed to her how to react on certain situations. The batter hits a fly ball to center field that is easily caught. The runner breaks immediately to third and continues home while running through my instructions.  She is out at second as she left without tagging up. Once in the dugout, I ask her what she was thinking and/or doing out there. Her response, “Well coach, I heard what you said but my dad was hollering for me to run at the crack of the bat.” The life of a coach! All coaches have the exact story or one that relates.

Vaughn: There have been so many funny moments. I guess the funniest thing I saw at a track meet was two boys reenacting a scene from Facing the Giants. One was riding piggyback on the other yelling and screaming “Don’t give up, Brock! Don’t you give up!”

Verhoven: So many great memories over the years, it’s too hard to narrow it down. We always enjoy stopping to eat after a meet. Bus rides can be fun, too. One time years ago before cell phones, we forgot about an assistant coach and were 20-30 miles down the road before we realized we forgot him. We always count kids, but never thought to count coaches. He just waited patiently. He figured we would eventually realize he wasn’t there.

Deem: Funniest thing — in 2013 I told the girls to have all their water bottle filled to the top before practice. Of course they all were in fear of those three words, “Deliver The Mail” that I use when we need to refocus. I had them all gather in the center circle and told them they had 60 seconds to empty their water bottles on each other. When I said, “Go” no one moved thinking it was a joke. Finally, Chelsea Gill, a soccer player of mine as well, had done this before in soccer, smiled and got it all started. Needless to say they let off some steam. But that five seconds watching them not knowing if I was serious or not was priceless.

 

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn