Cobras Softball finish ‘Fall Ball’
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:10
Getting a head start to the season is an understatement of what the Parkland Cobras softball team has done. The team is in a unique position, having the advantage of a "season before the season." From September 10 to October 5, the Cobras have competed in 21 contests. This fall schedule has become helpful in the aspiring successes of Head coach, Chuck Clutts' team.
"It's our Spring Training," Clutts said of the fall schedule. It has the same bearing a spring training schedule would have on a professional team. In the majors, spring training is used to work out the kinks and get the team ready for the grueling competition ahead. Clutts is a firm believer in this strategy. "I would hate to go into the season without a fall schedule," he said. "21 games help a lot."
Those 21 games have been a great evaluation tool for Clutts' staff. "Everybody gets equal playing time. It is an opportunity to put players at multiple positions," Clutts said. Without the pressures of the regular season that begins in spring, the coaching staff is able to identify individual strengths and weaknesses of every player.
That unnecessary pressure also allows the staff to move players around as Clutts mentioned without fear of hurting the team. There may be a possibility one athlete plays center field better than first base and the staff can identify this ahead of time instead of making an in-game or mid-season change when it really counts. The experimenting process also provides some insight to who should start at each position.
Another added advantage to the Cobras playing a fall schedule is the opportunity for freshman to adapt to the college game. It is highly unlikely that any athlete has the chance to play a game that has pressure and speed before the season starts. As any athlete will tell you, one of the biggest adjustments is the speed of the game. Only so much of an actual game of any sport can be simulated through practice. Clutts and his staff have the enviable advantage of playing a schedule that doesn't affect their regular season but still provides the same experience factor for the freshman. Not only does it assist with the freshman's adjustment to the speed but their understanding of softball as well.
When advancing a level in the athletic world, a player's talent must be accompanied more and more by knowledge of the sport participated in to achieve maximum performance. The freshmen get over 20 games of experience without the chance of negatively impacting the team's record. .
When asked how he would grade the performance of his club, Clutts responded with a "C+." Saying this isn't an insult to the team. Clutts understands the importance of giving his team a goal to reach towards and a reason to improve. He identifies some areas for improvement. "Communication on the field has to be better and understanding the game of college softball," he said. Those were identified early in the fall schedule and are improving as the fall schedule has come near its close. Clutts supports that claim by stating, "The lights are going on. They really understand what we are saying."
The fall schedule concludes with the Cobras posting a win-loss record of 12-9. Clutts is very adamant about winning games but mentions the fact that it is not about wins and losses in the fall. The development aspect of his players and his team take center stage during the fall.
It has also helped his squad in other ways as well. "They've come together as a team," says Clutts of the growing chemistry amongst his players. "They're a team off the field, too."
This played a huge role in the current six game winning streak the Cobras are on. This cohesiveness can be attributed to Clutts' recruiting requirements. A personality that adapts well to the college team dynamic has become important for him. In addition to that, the focus is placed on players whose main focus is school first and then softball.
The fall schedule was highlighted by Amy Simpson's 2.16 ERA at the pitcher spot and infielder Kelsey Kniepmann's staggering .426 batting average.
The coaching staff is hoping for a carryover effect as they prep for the spring schedule. Individual workouts and evaluations will dominate the winter months as the coaching staff and the payers anxiously wait the regular season. Be sure to support Cobras softball program this upcoming spring. They will be sure not to disappoint.