DHS softball moving on

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

When Demopolis head softball head coach Wayne Harris resigned this week, it caught plenty of people by surprise. But very likely no one was more shocked than his team.

“His resignation was very sudden,” says senior India Chancelor.

Junior Sara Davis adds, “We were stunned.”

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But as shocked or surprised or stunned as they might have been, it doesn’t mean that the DHS softball team isn’t ready to make this season just as successful as it would have been with Harris at the helm.

“It’ll be different,” Chancellor says. “It’ll take getting used to. But we’ll get used to it. The talent is there. We know what we have to do.”

That determination is one reason new coach Joey Browder, appointed this week, is so confident that 2006 will be another special season for the Lady Tigers.

“When I met withthem, I told the girls what I expect from them: to be accountable and have a positive attitude, to give great effort,” Browder says. “So far I’m very, very much pleased with their response. I’ve been welcomed with enthusiasm and a good attitude … They’ve risen to the occasion.”

That’s something that’s not a surprise, Browder says, when you consider the leadership of the team’s four seniors: Chancelor, Hunter Lewis, Molly Barnes, and Dorothy Knapp.

“They’re the core of this team,” Browder says. “They’ve got to be leaders. They’re the ones who have to set goals and achieve them, as a team.”

However heavy the increased burden of the coaching transition might be, it isn’t something the seniors are looking to shirk.

“We feel we really need to step up,” Chancelor says. “We really have to be leaders and do our part, most definitely.”

It’s something the seniors are already doing. The team has already moved into conditioning sessions and will begin full practice at the end of the month. Browder admits that some of the administrative challenges of being thrust into the position are intimidating (“Right now, I’m pretty overwhelmed,” he says) but that he’s getting help from another valuable source-coach Harris.

“Coach Harris is working with me. He’s been great. We’re working together to make the transition as quick and smooth as possible,” Browder says. “I told [the team], I’m not here to tear down and rebuild. I’m here to build on the tradition that coach Harris created. He built an exceptional program here at Demopolis. He did a great job and had a lot of support, I just hope to step in and build on what’s already in place.”

There’s little question, given Harris’s proven track record (which included five trips to the state tournament and the 2003 state title) the administration at DHS sees that as a good idea.

“Wayne’s done a great job,” says athletic director Doug Goodwin. “All the girls like him and respect him. It was completely his decision to give it up.”

“Coach Harris always had a competitive team,” said DHS principal Dr. Isaac Espy. “He was admired by his students and colleagues here. He was a very talented coach and he left some big shoes to fill.”

There’s little doubt, however, on the parts of either Goodwin or Espy, that Browder is capable of filling those shoes. The most important vote of confidence in Browder, though, is the one coming from his team.

“Coach Harris did a great job. He did a wonderful job,” says Chancelor. “And coach Browder’s a great coach, too.”