Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Wishes!

Birthday wishes going out today to '07 alum Stephanie (Salter) Sturgis! I'm going to attempt to recognize birthdays through my blog on a regular basis. Working hard to keep as many alums "in the loop" as possible! Please go to our alumnae information page and update your contact information, as well as any of the other info we're requesting. If you've had a baby recently, we have a gift for you, so please let us know what's happening in your life. We're also going to bring back our newsletter this year and we'd like to post birthdays, births, weddings, career milestones, or whatever else is going on with our softball alumnae, but we need your help so we know what is happening with all of you!

Have a great day!

For love of the game,
Coach Huntington

Friday, March 26, 2010

Now the season really gets underway

With our arrival in Pella, IA, in the next 20 minutes, I thought I'd write a quick post tonight as we are about to really get our season started. It seems like eons ago that we actually played a game, and I'm hoping we don't come out too rusty tomorrow afternoon against a tough, scrappy, aggressive Central squad who already beat us 2-0 in Florida a couple weeks ago. I'm hoping we've improved, and I know that having the opportunity to practice outside the past 2 weeks should factor into our improvement. We are on the road for the next 7 days, playing 5 doubleheaders. I must admit, the bus ride has gone extremely fast compared to the 21 hours it took us to get to Panama City Beach, FL!

When we arrive home a week from today, we will have almost half of our season complete. It never ceases to amaze me how compact the softball season is in the Midwest and other "northern" states. It seems that just when we get started, the season is over - and we've practiced and practiced, and practiced and..........

I've been listening to the team's rendition of several different songs coming from the back of the bus tonight, and I'm thinking that if their softball careers don't work out for them, the next American Idol might just be wearing a Blugold uniform! I've even heard some harmony among the noise and it's been quite impressive. After all, we DO have a vocal performance major back there - but her "softball" voice, and her "opera" voice are 2 very different sounds! :)

Will keep you up-to-date with what I'm hoping are highlights during the next week!

For the Love of the Game,
Coach H

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back in Wisconsin

Well, as we suspected, the weekend in Panama City Beach was fast and furious. After winning our first 2 games, we dropped 4 straight to TOUGH teams. I'm confident that our non-conference schedule is going to pay off and prepare us for the WIAC, which is ALWAYS tough, day-in and day-out. The Lead Off Classic field of teams was impressive, to say the least. It was truly an incredibly tough tournament but so very good for our players to see what they need to do and who they need to beat if they want to contend at the end of the season.

We learned a lot about our team during our trip to Florida. We learned that our pitchers can throw well enough to keep us in ballgames and give us a chance. We learned that we need to spend EVERY day for the rest of the season putting MORE pressure on our players in practice, especially defensively. And we learned, among many other things, that our offensive execution has a lot of room for improvement.

We saw flashes of brilliance in Florida, but we also played pretty poor defense at times. Since getting home, however, we have determined what we need to do to make our team better and we have spent the past 3 days working very hard at those things. We have improved this week, although it still hasn't been pretty at times.

We took Tuesday off after arriving back in Eau Claire just before midnight on Monday night (after spending over 12 hours on the bus). We had 2 absolutely GORGEOUS days for practice on Wednesday and Thursday - it was nicer those 2 days here in good ole WI, than it was in PCB last weekend -, however, is not as pleasant as typical WI spring weather rears its ugly head and reminds us that summer is not here yet. I think it was around 34 degrees today at practice time.

The positive thing is that we have only played 6 games so far, with another week of practice before we play again. The other positive thing is that our schedule is not going to get any easier during spring break. But we know that playing this kind of schedule is the best thing to do.

For the Love of the Game,
Coach Huntington

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Opening Day!

Well, since we HAVE played 2 games now, I suppose it's time to log in and post a new message. Obviously I have been pathetic at keeping this up-to-date, but now that the season has REALLY started, I promise to work harder at it! Besides, we have another 21 hour bus ride to look forward to after we're done playing tomorrow, so what else do I have to do? :)

After almost 6 weeks of practice in the gym, it was AMAZING to finally get outside onto a real field. We had the opportunity to practice on our way down to Panama City Beach, FL, at the University of Alabama softball stadium. It was an amazing experience and we had a TON of FUN! Patrick Murphy hosted us and spent about an hour with the team, providing us with the history of the program, the stadium, and giving us the real "red carpet" treatment. We were ALL very impressed by his "southern hospitality" (even though he IS an Iowa Boy!). It had rained almost all night, but by the time we were ready to practice, the infield was actually dry enough for us to use part of it. The energy from our team was electric and as good as I have felt about this team during the entire preseason, I felt even BETTER about them on Thursday during practice.

We did have one little snafu while in Tuscaloosa - after practice we headed to Applebee's to grab some lunch before heading the rest of the way to Panama City Beach, and upon trying to enter the parking lot, our bus got stuck on the incline! The entire team tried to push, but even after 5 weeks of P90X (just google it), we weren't strong enough to budge it. So after the big wrecker pulled it out, we were back on the road. What kind of stories like THAT can you get from FLYING somewhere with the team??? LOL!

To make the bus ride even better, we invested in 2 wireless routers, which so far have proven priceless! My student assistant coach had a professor who put her class lecture online and she was actually able to listen to it on the bus! How amazing is technology? We decided to try the routers so we could help our team stay on track with their schoolwork when we're on the road. We have an office on campus that assists professors with technology in their classrooms and that office is helping those professors learn how to put lectures, etc., online so that students who are competing in intercollegiate athletics can stay on top of things. So even though they are "physically" missing class, they really aren't because they can get everything from class online. It's an amazing thing.

In order to not make this into a "War and Peace" length novel, I should wrap up today by talking about yesterday's games. We had a good day, although in Game 1 vs. Alma College we put ourselves in a couple positions we shouldn't have been in. We got on top of them 4-1 but then let them back in. We ended up winning with a clutch pinch hit single by Jess Freagon. Alma is a team ranked in the NFCA Top 25, so it was a quality win. Jess Hegseth recorded her first collegiate strike out by getting the first batter of the game to watch strike #3. It was exciting for everyone! Freshman Kassie Krummel picked up her first collegiate win in that game, as she pitched the 7th and 8th innnings.

Game #2 was vs. Farmingdale State, which was an NCAA Tournament team in 2009 and they won their conference title. We exploded for 12 runs in the first inning and never looked back. We ended up winning 17-4, with Britt Bergquist, a freshman, getting her first collegiate HR - a 3-run HR at that!

I'm proud to say that every player got innings yesterday. Innings = experience = consistency. We work to put every player in position to be successful so that when/if something happens to a starter/regular player, we can replace her with someone who can get the job done equally well. We have quite a bit of depth from what I've seen so far. The players are making our decisions as coaches difficult - but that's a good problem to have.

We're getting up for a walk on the beach this morning to get the blood flowing and then it's off to play the current #4 team in the country, East Texas Baptist. The challenge is great, but the opportunity is greater. We're looking forward to the challenge.

Thanks for reading and I'll post again soon!

For the Love of the Game,
Coach Huntington

Friday, September 4, 2009

The 2009-10 season begins!

It's finally here! The day I've been waiting for! The first day of the "2010" season. We started out with a great conditioning session and will have an intense tryout session this afternoon. I can't wait! We have a great returning group of players, as well as some very talented freshmen, but "Talent is never enough", so we'll have to work very hard and efficiently if we are to accomplish our goals for the season. We've put together a great schedule - and a very tough schedule at that, opening up in the Lead Off Classic in Panama City Beach, FL, in March, and then we'll get to experience more of a "minor league" schedule and road trip, as we traverse by bus to Iowa and Illinois during our spring break week the last week in March. It will be a challenging trip, but it will be a very good experience and will test our stamina, our ability to spend a lot of time together in very close quarters, and it is my hope that week will really help us "seal the deal" on our team building, leadership, and forming a tight-knit group who will go to battle for each other. No better way to try to accomplish those goals......

Until next time.

Coach Huntington

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tragedy Closer to Home

When we hear of tragedy in the world of sports, so often it is because something has happened to one of the "larger than life" sports figures that everyone knows. Today, it's closer to home.

This morning, the head football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg (Iowa) High School was shot and killed by a former player in the high school weight room, allegedly in front of about 50 students. It's close to home because I grew up in Riceville, Iowa, a town of about 800 people, similar to Parkersburg, in that it is a small, rural, Iowa town. It's close to home because it's an innocent place where things like this just aren't supposed to happen.

Why do these senseless things happen? It appears as though this former player was mentally ill, as you can read in the article. I'm not even going to ATTEMPT to express my thoughts on why - I'm sure I would offend some, and I'd likely do an injustice to this coach by trying to put it into my own humble words.

Nonetheless, I am deeply saddened.

The lives of many have been deeply affected today - and for what? What was the motive? Those of us who are not there could speculate forever, but it won't do anyone any good.

As I write this I reflect on the things written about this coach - about the former players who are now playing in the NFL.

About remembering while I was going to school in Iowa - what a traditional powerhouse A-P was in football.

About the coaches who have impacted my life.

About coming home from basketball practice in high school cursing my coaches and swearing I was going to quit......but I never did.

I never quit because that's what I was taught - by my parents AND my coaches. And realizing once I got into my career that it was those experiences that taught me the most.

The times I thought I was going to pass out if I ran one more line drill.

The times I thought I was going to quit because I was the "only one" who got yelled at.

The times I thought that the only thing that mattered was ME, not the TEAM.

The times I wondered why in the heck we were doing those stupid fundamental drills all the time in practice, rather than just "scrimmaging."

The times I swore if one more time I heard the words "discipline" or "committment" or "Together Each Achieves More" and thought about how cheesy all that stuff was, I was going to puke.

The times I thought that my coaches were just on a power trip and wanted to see how much pain they could inflict through the conditioning and mental toughness drills.

Then I think about the time that we pulled off the hugest upset in Iowa High School girls basketball - beating Ventura and Lynn Lorenzen, to get to the State Tournament for the first time in school history - it all started to sink in and make sense.

The coaches who pushed and pushed and demanded and yelled and criticized.......they became your biggest fan.

They taught you the things that ironically you're using every day of your life in your job, and with your significant other, and with your kids.

And the things that helped you form a stronger relationship with your parents because you understand the sacrifices that not only mom and dad, but your coaches made for you.

You understand all the time and energy they put into helping you become successful.

You understand that to you it was just a game, but to your coaches, it was what put a roof over their heads and food on their table. It wasn't your life, but it was "life and death" to your coaches.

You understand that they aren't coaches for a living, but for loving, because they barely get paid enough to put that food on their table.

All those things they taught you about

being on time
contributing to a cause greater than yourself
being a part of a "second family"
being a team player
managing your time
studying hard so you could continue to play
showing empathy for a down teammate
becoming a leader
performing when the pressure was on
winning AND losing with class
respecting all but fearing none.

This post isn't about me - it's about the impact that coaches always have, and always will, make on the lives of the young people they come into contact with. In the case of Coach Thomas, not only did he impact the lives of those young people, but from what I've read today, he also impacted an entire community. From what I've read today, he understood and lived by the value of community - at a time when the community was ripped apart by mother nature, he understood that the community needed to heal. And football was more than just a game played on Friday night under the lights beneath the Iowa sky - it was something that helped a community come together to rebuild and heal.

Never underestimate the value of a coach.

May you rest in peace, Coach Thomas.

Monday, June 22, 2009

This one's for Sean!

I was reminded yesterday by my buddy, Sean, who helps out with a local softball program, that I need to post more often - so this one's for you Sean!

I know it's been a really long time since I've posted and I don't have any excuses. May just slipped away, and so far, June has as well. I was actually amazed at how long May seemed, but now I feel that June is flying by.

Lots of recruiting going on this summer - attending many tournaments in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

I've also taken to a little woodworking - I'm constructing bean bag boards, otherwise known as "Cornhole Boards". I learned that they are called Cornhole boards because the bags are filled with corn. Anyway, I constructed my first set last week and now they are sitting in the garage waiting for the sander and some paint and lacquer. I'm excited to finish them, but have to make some time to do it. The plan is to customize them so they are unique - and then use them on vacation the week after July 4th. :)

I'm also enjoying spending time with my dad on the river, area lakes, etc., in his fishing boat. The fishing hasn't been very good, and I'm not picky - I'll catch anything that will bite. But they don't seem to be biting much when I'm out there. I hear all kinds of stories, but the stories don't hold up when it's MY line in the water. I must be doing something wrong - or as one guy in a bait shop told me the other day "I'm trying too hard." I must say that I've learned a lot about fishing this summer because I insist that if you have the right "bait presentation" (one term I've learned) then you should catch fish, regardless. But I haven't got it down yet. I DID actually catch a couple fish last Friday night on the Chippewa River down by the dam just north of downtown - a big ugly catfish and a sheephead - and like I said, I don't care what I catch...... one of the poles I use is an Ultralight Ugly Stick with 4 pound test line - I thought for sure that I'd lose the catfish - you should have seen that pole bend! But I got him in despite the wimpy pole. Dad threatened to throw my medium-action rod in the river if I caught another fish with my ultralight - I might actually let him do it if that little pole keeps catching fish!

Well, I better move on with my day, but I wanted to give Sean something to read today, so I needed to do this post. I'll try harder to keep things updated, Sean!

Have a great day!

Coach Huntington