Focusing on positives

Published 11:41 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

After falling to Bibb County 9-0 Wednesday night, the DHS softball team (6-16, 3-0) expected a difficult and physically challenging Thursday practice. However, what the squad got was far from the conditioning work it likely anticipated.

“We went down there and it just seemed like we couldn’t do anything right,” DHS head coach Joey Browder said of his team’s trip to Bibb. “When you’re having a difficult year, at some point you’ve got to take a step back and put things into perspective and look at what’s really important. You have to refocus and look at the things that are good, the things that are right. You have to stay away from the negative.”

Thursday, Browder and his staff attempted to do just that. Rather than enduring the rigorous activities they anticipated, the players spent a significant portion of practice playing a skills game. And, to further take the edge off, the coaching staff took part in the game as well.

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“We decided to do the game. It relaxed them. The coaches jumped in and played with them,” Browder said. “(Thursday) we put everything behind us. The girls are determined to move forward.”

Despite sitting at just 6-16, Demopolis is in position to enter its area tournament as the No. 1 seed. Given the importance of the team’s upcoming games with area foe Chilton County as well program rivals Dallas County, Bibb County and Thomasville, Browder and his staff felt the late-week practice to be a perfect time to reset the squad’s perspective.

“I think the players have gotten caught up in (the record). The coaches have gotten caught up in it. The parents and the fans have gotten caught up in it. Things have gotten so tight that (the players) are just not having fun anymore,” Browder said. “We decided to step back and refocus. Despite not being exactly where we want to be, we’re still 3-0 in the area. We’re still facing a critical week next week. Things really aren’t as bad as they seem.”

Browder said that a number of his team’s struggles this season are tied to its youth.

“We’re looking at a handful of kids that have made a big jump from junior high to 5A high school softball without the convenience of a junior varsity schedule,” Browder said. While his lineup has been afforded little consistency due to injuries and illnesses, Browder’s on-field group has often featured a pair of freshmen splitting time in the pitching circle, a freshman at second base, sophomores at shortstop and center field and an eighth-grader behind the plate.

“It’s a challenge every day. Planning has become a lot more meticulous. Focus has become a lot more meticulous,” Browder said of coaching a group of players that he credits with showing tremendous growth. “We started the year with zero leadership. But leaders are emerging. We’ve got players leading by example. They’re emerging. I don’t know of a single sports team that has been successful without going through a building stage, a growing stage. We’re in that stage. We’re getting better. We’re getting better on levels the average fan can’t see.”

While he places a strong emphasis on the future of the program, Browder is adamant that his team still has a run in it this season.

“I’m as proud of this team as I have been of any that I have ever coached. I still expect great things to come. We’ve got to stick together. We’re in it together. We’re going to be better because of it. It’s exciting because I know what the future holds,” Browder said. “We’ve got some scores we need to settle. We’ve got some tests ahead of us. Don’t count us out. We’ve got a chance. Part of the challenge is making them believe what they’re capable of.”