CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock head softball coach Sue Anderson stressed it from the beginning — teamwork, teamwork, teamwork.
And her Royals were all in.
After handling Class 2A No. 1 Henryville 6-2 in semistate competition, Anderson and Eastern Hancock fell one game — and one run — short of a state finals berth.
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Second-ranked Mater Dei, which beat Eastern Hancock 3-2 in 8 innings at Forest Park, was eventually crowned 2A state champions.
The No. 16 Royals (20-4) squeaked past No. 5 Union County 7-6 in regional play and outscored sectional opponents 44-0 to cruise to the final four.
For their accomplishments, Anderson, who finished her third year with the program, has been named 2016 Hancock County Softball Coach of the Year.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Anderson to talk about Eastern Hancock’s season and deep tournament run.
Can you talk about your softball background and your experience in the sport before Eastern Hancock?
Before I got into coaching, I played collegiality at Anderson University. I started four years there, and then during my stint I got asked to participate in the U.S. Olympics tryouts for softball. And then I also got an invitation to try out for one of the professional women’s softball teams, which at that time there were only four pro teams. My first coaching job was at North Central High School. I coached with a friend of mine for a while and eventually helped the varsity coach with pitching and just a lot of the slappers at that time. Then I coached at Morristown for four years (until 2009). After that I took some time off, and we (husband John) had our first kid (of three).
How has that experienced helped in your coaching career thus far?
For me, the biggest thing in all my years of coaching and even playing at a young age was just trying to build on my knowledge. I am a constant learner of the game of softball. I love to learn anything I can about the game.
I had different coaches as I grew up playing and a lot of that I would take from them. Having that past experience really helps you relate with the girls. We talked a lot about college this year and balancing. Taking my experiences as a player, I have just tried to constantly learn the game and how to relate to the team.
You constantly have to change as a coach. We definitely all didn’t see eye-to-eye this year, but we worked as a team to benefit individuals as a whole. That was what really catapulted us this year.
How much did trusting in each other and stressing the team-first attitude from the start help with the deep run this season?
When John and I coached the North-South Elite team (last week), sitting there and coaching those girls made us appreciate our team even more and how talented overall, all-around, our team really was. For me playing, I always got tired of working really hard and not having teammates work hard and stand behind me and lift me up.
That was the No. 1 thing I wanted to teach these girls. Yes, it is an individual sport to a sense, but it is also a team sport. And until you get that team attitude and team concept, then your team is only as good as the weakest player. I felt like the team finally understood that this year.
All the way from seniors to freshmen, if someone was dogging it at practice, there were girls stepping up and getting on to them. It finally clicked for them. I can’t take all the credit; it definitely was my team.
Can you talk about the program as a whole? You lose just two seniors (Darby Shaw and Jordan Pierson) and had a roster mixed with youth and experience. And how this season will help the younger girls and team moving forward?
One of the things I was really stressing to our upperclassmen was that one day your career is going to be over. For most people, they don’t go on to play in college. Yeah you want to lead in stats and have all these personal achievements, but one of the best ways to leave your legacy is to build that younger generation. Really just teaching the younger kids that this is what you have to do.
You have to spend extra time outside of practice. You have to mentally be prepared for every game and do this to prepare your body. That’s when you know you are leaving a lasting legacy. That’s why when we got to semistate, I felt like we were prepared. Some of those freshmen and sophomores grew so much. Next season, they are going to have to teach the freshmen. They stepped up and really went out of their comfort zones. I’m really proud of them.