• 73°

Youth softball team thriving

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s all about learning.

While the LaGrange Longhorns are looking to win every time they step onto the softball field, head coach Scott Thompson said the primary goal is to prepare the players to succeed down the road.

A handful of the players on the 14-and-under team, including Thompson’s daughter Zoe, will be in the eighth grade this fall, meaning they’ll be eligible to play junior-varsity softball in high school.

“I told the girls when we were putting this together, our goal was not necessarily to go out and win every tournament, although we want to win every time we step between the lines, but we want to prepare them for the next level,” Thompson said. “We want to do everything we can to get them ready for high-school ball. And I think we’re going to continue to do that. If we’re doing the right things we’ll have success, but more importantly, they’ll have success on the next level.”

On Saturday, the Longhorns participated in the Lexi Webb tournament at Shuford Fields, and they lost all three of their games against a strong slate of opponents.

“It’s about competing, and we feel like we competed,” Thompson said. “If we win, great, if we didn’t, then we’ll continue to work and get better.”

Thompson created the team one year ago, in part to give his daughter an opportunity to play the sport on a more regular basis.

While Thompson has coached his daughter before starting the team, “up until last year, it was just through the recreation department. She’d asked me several times to create a travel team and coach it, and I couldn’t find the right time. So last year, I said let’s do it. We had tryouts, and I started coaching.”

The Longhorns started out with a bang by winning the first tournament they competed in as a 12-and-under team, and they continued to perform well.

When the season came to a close, the Longhorns moved up to the 14-and-under division so all of the players could remain on the team.

“At the end of the year we had to make a decision on moving up, or staying down at 12,” Thompson said. “I have probably three or four of the 11 that are still 12. We could have played 12, but I like the makeup of our team, so we decided to move up. I like the kids, and like the parents, and everything was going well, knowing that if you move up to 14 you’re going to take your lumps sometimes.”

Whatever the results, Thompson believes everyone on the team has improved over the past year.

“It’s been fun for all of us,” Thompson said. “If you were to see the progression of the girls, that’s what it’s all about, is for them to develop.”

TEAM MEMBERS: Zoe Thompson, Harlee Overton, Tatum Nation, Taylor Nation, Kaitlyn Smalley, Catherine Smalley, Hadilee Arnold, Madison Kemp, Jasia Swanson, Maddie Denney and Brailey Watkins.

COACHES: Scott Thompson and Toby Arnold