Gordon Central’s softball program has shown improvement over the last couple years with a 12-13 season in 2011 followed by a 10-16 campaign in 2012 showing some positives toward the end of the season.
Now, the Lady Warriors are looking to take that next step and a new coach at the helm is hoping to direct them there.
Chris Stephens was named as the new Gordon Central head coach a few months ago, taking over for Brian Little who spent three years there. Stephens served as an assistant for Little last season.
Stephens graduated from North Georgia College and State University with a degree in history in 2007. He then earned a graduate degree while serving as a graduate assistant at Wesley College in Delaware. He has also served as an assistant baseball coach at Presbyterian and UNC-Wilmington before coming to Gordon Central in 2012.
Stephens also serves as an assistant baseball coach at Gordon Central.
Recently the Calhoun Times caught up with Stephens to discuss his excitement about the opportunity to be the new head coach, his coaching style, being familiar with his players from last season, taking the next step as a program and his expectations for the 2013 season, among other subjects.
Here’s what he had to say:
CT: How excited are you to get the opportunity to be the head coach at Gordon Central?
Stephens: I am thrilled to be the coach of this team. I have been coaching for what seems to me like a long time now, eight years, but this is the first chance I have had to do it my way. I have been around all types of coaches and seen things done all kinds of ways. Now I have the chance to combine all those experiences into the Gordon Central way. We have a solid group of older players and several younger ones that will have the opportunity to step up and show that they can play and positively contribute to our program. The challenge of getting those young players ready and the experienced players better is a very exciting challenge.
CT: What is your coaching style and what are the main things you focus on with your players?
Stephens: The most important part of my style is for the players to know that I care about them getting better and experiencing success. I try to have a very calm, even-keeled approach to coaching. I try not to show a lot of emotion because because I don’t want our team to. I want the team to play our way despite the situation. Our way is to play with excitement. I want excitement instead of emotion. I want a team that will enjoy every inning rather that a team that is pouting one inning and bouncing around giving high fives the next.
The main things we will focus on are simple. The first has got to be mastering the fundamentals. I expect physical errors and mistakes, however I expect us to have a better understanding of how to play the game. Second, and maybe more importantly, we will work on how to play with excitement. It can be a long, boring game, but if we can focus on one pitch, one at bat, one inning at a time we can keep that excitement for an entire game.
CT: How much did being an assistant last year at Gordon Central and being familiar with most of the girls help with the transition?
Stephens: Being around the team last year has been huge. It has made the transition seamless and allows me to know exactly what we need to spend what little practice time we have before the season on.
CT: How hard has the team worked in the offseason to get better?
Stephens: We have been lifting, conditioning, and working on the field and in the cages since school got out. I have been really impressed with the commitment that a lot of the girls have made over the summer. They really get after it in the weight room and have been eager to work on the field and in the cages.
CT: Gordon Central has been right around .500 the last few seasons. What has to happen in order for the program to take the next step?
Stephens: We have to continue to develop a better feel for the game. I have been telling the girls that we are going to practice faster than game speed all season. I want the games to feel slower and easier than practice. We also have to continue to get better skill-wise. I don’t believe in going through the motions to make sure we cover it all. If it takes us a two-hour practice to learn how to throw correctly, then that’s what we will do. Ask the girls how much time we have spent on throwing correctly this summer. A game is a cumulation of a bunch of little things coming together, and we are going to spend a lot of time getting better at those little things.
CT: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
Stephens: We certainly have a lot of figuring out to do. Our starting pitcher, catcher, center fielder and first baseman graduated last year, and there weren’t many plays in a game last year that didn’t involve them. But like I said earlier, we have a good core of older players and several newcomers that will get their chance to step up. No matter what happens though, we will compete and strive to get better each and every game. If we do those two things, I fully expect to have a successful season. Sounds easy, right?