Under Robert Townsend, the Whitewater (Georgia) High School softball team has been one of the most consistent squads in the state.
Townsend, a former pitcher at Liberty University, has been at the helm of the Wildcats for eight years now, and most recently led them to a region championship in 2016.
During Townsend’s tenure, he’s guided Whitewater to second and third place state finishes, respectively, as well as region runner up three times.
Townsend knows as well as anyone the barriers to remaining competitive year after year.
“It’s always a challenge every year,” Townsend said. “Every group is different so it’s always a change. Some groups work harder than others. Some groups are easy to deal with and others are not. You’ve just got to manage the best you can with the type of personalities you have on the team.”
Townsend believes strongly that practice is the place where a team can begin to realize its full potential.
“I think you’ve got to work harder to get better,” said Townsend. “If you work at it you’re going to get better at it. We just do a lot of basic stuff. We do a lot of offseason stuff too. We work with our kids in the offseason to get them better for the season. We make sure to focus on the fundamentals in practice to make sure they know what’s going on when an in-game situation comes up. So when the situation is there they’re used to doing it.”
In practice, Townsend draws on his own experience as a player to help teach. In his case, that means knowing how to teach pitchers.
“You’ve got to know the situation such as the count,” Townsend said, “knowing what pitch you need to throw in the count based on the situation. That’s the biggest knowledge that I try to give them. You don’t want to throw some pitches in certain counts.”
And some of that teaching can and should be done by assistants, which means striving to have the best ones you can find.
“I’ve got some good assistant coaches,” Townsend said. “One of them is the pitching coach and the other one we just kind of divide up the duties, like he’ll take the infielders and I’ll take the outfielders and we just work on fundamentals. We just take turns making sure everything is done right.”
Townsend was able to summarize his coaching philosophy for new coaches just getting into the sport.
“They need to learn as much as they can,” Townsend said. “Try to get involved early on if you know it’s what you want to do because it takes a big commitment to be a coach. It’s not just during the season. I do it year-round. I’m doing something all the time with it. I’m making sure I get the schedule up. I work with the kids to make sure they’re doing what they need to do in school and aren’t getting in trouble.”
And, like Townsend displayed, a love for the game of softball and passion for coaching is paramount.