Troup softball team gets to work
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Ryan Simpson was hired as Troup High’s new softball coach earlier this spring, but she was unable to meet with her players face-to-face because of the coranavirus shutdown.
That changed last week.
High-school sports team in the state were able to begin holding voluntary workouts on Monday, so at 9 a.m. that morning the Troup players and coaches gathered at the field to get started.
Because of the restrictions put in place the team wasn’t able to use any equipment, but it was nonetheless a productive week for a team preparing for a season scheduled to begin in less than two months.
“We couldn’t have a ball, but we worked on base-running, we are still implementing drills, and working on ladder work, and foot work,” Simpson said. “We’re working on things that will be good for them come the season. We’re doing drills that we’ll be doing come practice time when they have a glove.”
As the week went along, Simpson felt the players got a better grasp on what was going on.
“The girls already know we have a set routine, and they know what’s expected of them,” Simpson said. “And even from Monday to (Thursday), they already look so much better.”
Simpson, a Valley High graduate, was a four-year member of the Point University softball team.
After graduating from Point, Simpson was a teacher at Gardner Newman Middle School during the 2019-2020 school year.
When Kayla Yeargin stepped down as Troup’s softball coach earlier this year Simpson was offered the job, and she readily accepted.
Simpson was hoping to familiarize herself with the players during spring practice, but that was canceled.
Last week, Simpson was finally able to meet the players she’ll be leading this fall.
“They seem like they’re right back in the groove,” Simpson said. “They’re not in the best of shape, but they’re getting there.”
Simpson was also pleased with how quickly she and the players developed a comfort level with each other.
“Even though I’m just meeting everyone this week, it feels like it’s been like this for a long time,” Simpson said.
There are two groups, or pods, working out during the week.
Because of the guidelines teams are having to follow, there can’t be more than 20 people in a workout group, and that includes players and coaches.
One of the pods includes players in the 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade, and the other pod is for players in the eighth grade and ninth grade.
The older players train first from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m., and the younger players work out from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.
Simpson is looking forward to having more players join the workouts next week.
“The first group of girls, there’s only about seven in there,” Simpson said. “It’ll be better next week, so I’m really excited about that. I’m still meeting girls.”
Another point of encouragement for Simpson is how many of the younger players are participating in travel softball, which should give them a leg-up when the season begins in August.
“Our eighth and ninth-graders, we asked them who all plays travel ball and every single one of them but about three raised their hand,” Simpson said. “We said that was really good. Although we can’t practice with a softball, they’re still in it, and they’re still doing tournaments, so that’s a big plus.”
Troup will continue its workouts next week without equipment, and when teams will be able to start using softball remains to be seen.
One important aspect of summer conditioning is preparing to play softball in August, which can be the hottest time of the year.
That’s an adjustment for Simpson, who is used to playing the sport during the spring when the heat isn’t an issue.
Simpson played softball during the spring when she was at Valley High, and at Point.
“It’s new for me,” Simpson said. “In Alabama, I’ve always played in the spring. This is new. We’re used to practicing and playing in the sweat shirts and things like that. Now we come out here, and it’s sweating, and it’s 90 degrees outside.”