For Grand Ridge (Florida) Middle School coach Brooke Ferrell, that saying holds especially true.
Ferrell is in her third year at the helm of Grand Ridge, where she played softball before moving on to Marianna High School. Ferrell has guided Grand Ridge to back-to-back second place finishes in the four-team Panhandle Conference.
Some might think coaching your alma mater would bring some added pressure, but Ferrell doesn’t look at it that way.
“It’s definitely nice to get to come back and coach at the school that I played at,” Ferrell said. “You always feel pressure to succeed. I don’t think that has to do with any place that you’re coaching. I think all coaches feel that way no matter where they coach at.”
As with any age level, coaching middle schoolers has some unique traits of its own, but Ferrell has developed some strategies for working with these players.
The biggest traits she tries to instill are character qualities.
“We strive to be good people,” Ferrell said. “There’s a lot you can learn about being a good person on the softball field. We teach them not to give up. Life is not always going to be fair; just like out on the softball field you’re not always going to get a fair call. You either have two choices: you can just give up or you can keep fighting. That’ll prove what kind of person you are.
Coaching middle school girls in particular also has its own challenges. Ferrell strives to be as understanding as possible.
“You never know what their mindset is going to be when they step on the field. They’re growing up and in that awkward age. It’s a tough age to be,” Ferrell said. “If they come to me and they have a problem at school or whatever, I help them out there. I like to have a good relationship with them on and off the field. I give them advice on different things when they come and ask.”
And while Ferrell is the head coach, she doesn’t hesitate to rely on her assistants, each of whom has their own expertise.
“They’re very helpful. One of them keeps the books and washes all the uniforms. She makes sure that we have lineups ready. She takes care of all of the paperwork. She makes sure everything is organized. We have a remind account that sends text messages to all the parents about game changes or the times or if practice gets cancelled. She makes sure everyone has their schedule. She keeps everything straight and organized.
“My other assistant coach, he’s like more of the pitching coach. He takes care of all my pitchers and he works with the catchers. He’s coached for several years so it’s nice to have somebody out there that knows a lot about pitching and catching.”
All these strategies are about creating culture. A team should certainly have its expectations, but ultimately should be a welcoming and comfortable place for middle school players.
“I think that we try to make it feel like a family out there,” Ferrell said. “Most of these girls grew up playing together so they know each other well. It’s a very good atmosphere. They know what each one struggles with and they know their weaknesses and their strengths. They have a lot of fun out there playing with each other. We get along on and off the field.”