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FALCON SPORTS: FCHS softball, baseball, tennis focus on teamwork

Mari-Alice Jasper Fort Campbell Courier

Fort Campbell Courier
Fort Campbell | March 8, 2018

“This glove right here is older than all of these girls out here practicing today,” said David Watson, Fort Campbell High School softball coach, as he slipped on his glove during the team’s practice March 1 in the FCHS gym.

Watson, who served as the FCHS assistant softball coach last spring and FCHS assistant football coach in the fall, said he is excited to be working with the team of 17 girls during the 2018 season. Only five of the girls are returning athletes.

“We’re back” is the team’s motto this year. After a 1-22 2017 season, Watson is determined this will be the girls’ comeback year.

“We’re not the same team that FCHS has had for the past decade or longer,” Watson said. “The girls seem to see it too. We have a lot of potential this year. The girls’ attitudes are more positive this year. They are more confident in themselves.”

Between playing and coaching, Watson has dedicated more than 25 years of his life to baseball and softball. At 6 years old he began playing baseball under his father’s direction. Since then he has played in various co-ed and men’s leagues. He has played minor league baseball for the Nashville Sounds.  

Watson began coaching as a high school student. He said he has a completely different coaching style than the former FCHS softball coach, Joey Crumpton.

“This year I have already started what I like to call classroom time,” Watson said. “I sit the [softball players] down and we go over each and every position, what each position entails and my expectations of each position. I have three or four girls who have never played softball a day in their life, so this catches them up on those fundamental aspects of the game.”

During conditioning, he coached the team through all of the basic fundamentals of softball.

“We took it all the way back to the beginning … correcting forms of throwing, posture and things like that,” he said.

Watson said he is already seeing team-wide improvements, especially their catching.

“With the newer girls who have never played before, their gloves are coming around great,” he said. “All of the girls are getting better and better every day. Positionwise, we are already starting to see who fits where. It’s really starting to shape up.”

The girls are good listeners who are motivated to improve, Watson said.

“These girls work harder than anyone I know,” he said. “I can ask them to change their technique just a little bit and they are right on it. I see us going pretty far this season … regionals, if not state.”

Watson, a disabled Army veteran, transitioned out of the Army as a staff sergeant. He was stationed at Fort Campbell twice during his six years of service. Watson enjoys coaching high school sports because it is a way to support the students and use his talents.

“I just want to give back to this community that continues to give me so much,” he said. “I grew up so much when I was in the Army. I have a lot of respect for the brotherhood aspect of being in the military.”

The girls on the team respect him because of his military upbringing and service, said Watson, whose father is a Vietnam War veteran.

“They come up to me everywhere they see me and want to talk softball. All of the time,” he said.

Sara Silva, FCHS senior, plays first base for the team. This is Silva’s third year playing for FCHS.

“Obviously I hope that we can win more games this season, but my main goal is to help the team be more positive,” Silva said. “I know when you lose so much it can really get people down.”

This year, there are many Mahaffey Middle School students on the team. Silva wants to be a good role model for the younger girls.

“I really want to set a good example for them. I want to stay positive for them and demonstrate how to act during practices and games … just try to be as good of a person as I can be,” she said.  This year Silva wants to improve her concentration skills.

“I want to try to be more focused during practice and to keep my head in the game during games,” she said. “If someone misses a ball during a game it really just throws everything off for me, so I’m hoping I can overcome that this year and focus less on mistakes.”

Silva started playing softball as a way to spend time with her dad, Sgt. Maj. Vincent Silva.

“My dad loves baseball and I grew up watching it with him, so as soon as I got the opportunity to play softball I realized how much fun it is and I just really enjoy it,” she said.

She thinks the team will have a great season in comparison to last season. The Lady Falcons first game will be at 5:30 p.m. March 19 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They will host Fulton City High School at 11 a.m. March 31, for their first home game of the season.

“Coach Dave is really positive and he thinks that we will win a lot of games this year, so that really helps,” she said. “I want us to have more of a Family connection on the team this year.”

Baseball

The FCHS baseball team is all about teamwork and Family this season, too. During their after-school practice March 1 at the high school baseball field, the coaches and athletes squished through a field full of mud to practice batting, catching and throwing.

“We’ve been holding hands and skipping across the field together,” said Richard Deardorff, FCHS baseball head coach. “We also play leap frog together. I try to team the boys up with players they aren’t friends with in school.”

All of these activities are team-building exercises to help the 17 players get to know each other before they host their first game of the season at 5:30 p.m. March 20 against University Heights Academy.

This year’s team is comprised of 12 high school students and five Mahaffey Middle School students. They have nine returning athletes and three seniors. They began practicing about two weeks ago.

“We have a lot of players who are rusty because they haven’t played [baseball] in about a year, but once they get back into the swing of things we will be able to work some of the kinks out,” Deardorff said.

This is Deardorff’s first year coaching baseball at FCHS. In the past he has coached tennis and football for the school. He began coaching baseball while he was stationed in Washington. This will be his fifth season coaching baseball. He has played baseball for about eight years.

“With a new coach comes new challenges,” he said. “A majority of these students I have coached before. I know a lot of them, but some of them I am getting to know for the first time.”

Deardorff said the players need to improve their fielding and hitting.

“We also need to find some pitchers,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of those so we need to find some guys who can go two or three innings at least. That’s going to be our biggest challenge.”

The baseball players are conditioning to build muscle and resilience to help them persevere through long games. Deardorff said the team has conducted many bullpen sessions to improve their batting techniques, and develop their mechanics, stance and set.

Last year, the FCHS baseball team went 2-23 – and took last place in the region. This year, the boys are determined to win at least five games. Deardorff said he expects his players to play as a team, because baseball is a team sport.

“If they can’t figure out how to work as a team, then the team concept doesn’t work,” he said. “I want them to move forward and grow as a team.”

This is the first year Ryan Sollon, FCHS senior, has played for the team, although he began playing baseball at 6 years old. Sollon and his Family were stationed at Fort Campbell this school year.

“I want to help bring the team together,” Sollon said. “This is such a young team. These young guys have to hurry up and grow up and come together.”

Sollon also played basketball for FCHS during the 2017-18 season.

“You see it a lot with Fort Campbell sports,” he said. “Young athletes stepping up. I just hope I can help teach the younger guys here how to be good leaders. When I was younger I had upperclassmen take me under their wing, take me through the drills … teach me how to conduct myself on the field. I want to do that for them.”

Although he is willing to play any position necessary, Sollon hopes to play in the outfield, where he has played before. He does not expect their first game to be perfect, but he does expect his team to give 100 percent.

“We need to work on our unit cohesion,” Sollon said. “We need to become an actual team. We kind of got thrown together at the last minute, but we are going to come together, work as a team and get a victory. We will get it together.”

Tennis

The FCHS tennis team also is adjusting to a new head coach, Angie McLean. Although this is McLean’s first year coaching at FCHS, she has served as the assistant tennis coach and later, the head coach of the Austin Peay State University Men’s and Women’s tennis teams.

McLean grew up playing tennis in Canada. She has played at the provincial level and represented Ontario at the national level. She later played four years of Division 1 tennis at APSU.

This year, 11 student-athletes are on the tennis team. The team is dominated by five freshmen.

So far, the tennis players have been working on their fundamentals.

“For some of our players, this has been a refresher and for others, everything is brand new,” McLean said. “We spent the first few weeks of practice going back to the basics and we are now building from there.”

McLean said the team has a lot of spirit, which makes them strong contenders this season. They also are willing to listen and eager to learn more about the sport.

“[This team] is very coachable,” McLean said. “I look forward to seeing how much we will improve as the season progresses and they have more match play under their belts.”

The tennis team will host University Heights Academy at 5 p.m. Wednesday for their first game of the season.

This is the first full year Brittney Ketchum, the team’s only senior, will compete on the FCHS team. Last year she and her Family arrived at Fort Campbell in April, so she was able to finish out the end of the season. Ketchum began playing tennis as an eighth grade student. She prefers to play singles rather than doubles, because she likes playing individually.

“I am exceptionally competitive and such a sore loser, so I really want to work on that this season,” Ketchum said. “Sometimes I let things get to me or into my head.”

Last year, Ketchum won all of her matches except a doubles match at the regional level. During the off season, she has been training to stay in shape. Together, the team has been working on serving and volleying during conditioning.

“I just want everyone to better themselves from last year,” Ketchum said. “I know the players last year have done extremely well throughout the conditioning period. Our serves and hustle have really improved from last year.”

Last year, many players struggled to develop a powerful serve, Ketchum said. She said overcoming this challenge is crucial to the team’s success during the 2018 season.

“You also have to have a lot of stamina to play tennis, and that’s something we need to work on this season,” she said.

Although tennis is more of an individual sport, Ketchum said she wants her teammates to rally together and support one another throughout the season. Everyone on the team is determined to compete at the state level.

“I’m not playing this sport for fun … I play to win,” Ketchum said.


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