Coaches often place a majority of their emphasis on what happens between the lines, and rightfully so.
However, coach Chris Turco says the reason for his Pope High School softball program’s success is because of team chemistry.
Pope captured a state championship in 2014 and has made the state final four in four of the last five years.
Turco has guided Pope to the playoffs in 10 out of his 11 seasons at the helm, including seven years straight.
While talent certainly is a factor, the camaraderie of the team is what Turco believes has propelled them to greatness.
“A lot of coaches don’t believe that bonding or culture is that important. But I believe it to be equally or more important than the X’s and O’s,” Turco said. “We always say that you can only increase your skill so much. The important thing for us is, are our players playing at their max capacity? We found that if a player is happy in their environment and enjoys playing softball, then regardless of what their potential is, we will get 100 percent of that potential.”
Turco identified five keys that he has found helpful in laying the foundation for a tight-knit group of teammates.
Define Your Identity
“One of the things I think that we do different than other programs is really create a buy-in from the players through establishing a culture in a way of doing things on and off the field. It’s kind of like a family concept where they really feel an attachment to one another.”
“When our girls become seniors we put them through a leadership training academy. That has been a huge difference maker for us. We start that in the offseason. We do these classroom sessions for 10 weeks to teach the girls how to be the best leaders possible. Then when the season rolls around for tryouts in May, they’re ready to go.”
Spending Quality Time Off the Field
“Right now on our agenda, they’ve told me a couple of things they’d be interested in doing. One thing is they want do a competitive game night, like a checkers tournament. They also want to do an escape the room. They also wanted to try to do a ropes course retreat type of thing. Every Tuesday is Chipotle Tuesday. They go (have) sleepovers on their own too.”
Small Unit Cohesion
“It’s about doing the best you can for the person to the left and right of you. Not just because you want to win the game but you’re literally doing it for that person. We’ve learned you need to form these bonds because you need to appreciate the person next to you. You need to work hard for that person. I believe our players will be some of the most accountable people when they leave Pope Fastpitch.”
No Preferential Treatment
“In a family, the mom and dad might go out and make money to pay for the mortgage. But just because your son or daughter might be 5 years old and not paying the mortgage, that doesn’t make them any less important to the family. If you subtract a son or daughter from the family, the family is less than what it would have been. It’s the same with on game day or with playing time. Just because you may not be playing doesn’t mean that you’re less important to the team than anyone else.”