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Taking over a Powerhouse Isn't as Easy as It Sounds

It’s always challenging to be a coach taking over a new program, but taking over a program with an elite reputation and high standards presents a unique challenge. That was the situation Monica Braswell stepped into last year when she accepted the head softball coaching position at Beech High School in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

“I’ll be the first to tell anybody I was kind of shocked,” Braswell said of being offered the job. “I had been coaching basketball for the previous 13 years and coaching softball at one other school, so softball was still kind of new. I interviewed at Beech, and I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get it, but they hired me.”

After she accepted the job, she spent time learning about the tradition at Beech. But, as she put it, “Most people in Tennessee know about Beech and they know the tradition. They know about the state championships and they know about state tournament appearances.”

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With a high-profile coaching job such as this one, it comes with an immense amount of pressure: the pressure to win, pressure to be the best, and the pressure of knowing that a successful season ends at the state tournament, not any time before.

“One thing they asked me in the interview was, ‘The standard is the state tournament, can you handle that pressure?’ ” Braswell recalled. “My answer was, ‘Nobody is going to put more pressure on me than I put on myself.’”

Another unique situation about Braswell’s was that the previous regime was not well received by the players and parents. It was up to Braswell to unite the players and get the support from the parents, and have them all buy in to her system.

“I heard there may have been chemistry issues, but I never concerned myself with what had happened before me,” Braswell said. “What happened in the past was in the past, but what matters is right here, right now. I knew what kind of culture I wanted to build here, and so we (assistant coach Kelly Wilhite) set out to build that culture and set that standard.”

In her first season, Braswell’s team faced some stiff competition in the ultra-competitive District 9-AAA. Beech ran into some trouble in the district tournament against Mt. Juliet and its ace, Iowa State signee Savannah Sanders. The year ended in the district tournament. Third place.

“It wasn’t fun,” Braswell said. “Our district is so tough, I really think our district and 7-AAA are the toughest districts in the entire state. I look back at last year and we did what we had to do to compete, but unfortunately we were one spot out. We told our kids that this is not the standard and not where we want to be, and we have to go to work in the offseason to be better next season.”

That next season is here, and Braswell is facing it head-on with a young lineup. At times, there is only one senior out on the field. The youth doesn’t faze Braswell; in fact, she says this is the best group she has ever coached.

“You can’t coach experience,” she said. “We understand that we are going to have some bumps in the road, but this group shows up everyday and they want to learn. I love going to practice with them because they want to learn and we get so much better everyday. We see them going in the right direction, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it came together this year.”

From GameChanger and Maren Angus.

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