Winning in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood
Published 8:25 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013
The Nansemond River High School softball team came off a difficult 2012 season in which it had a record of 4-16 and looked for hope from new coach Gabe Rogers. Inspiring confidence in a small core of seniors and a group of talented freshmen, he led the Lady Warriors to a 16-6 season, and for this achievement was named the 2013 Southeastern District Coach of the Year.
“It’s very humbling,” Rogers said of the honor. “You always appreciate when your peers recognize the work and the efforts that you put in, but I also realize that I was very fortunate to come in when there was a strong, talented freshmen class along with a very talented senior group, and the girls all meshed.”
Rogers has roughly 10 years of softball coaching experience, but this was his first opportunity to lead a varsity high school program.
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In addition to deflecting praise to his players, he made a point of recognizing the efforts of assistant coaches Dave Glover and Mike Lowers, as well as junior varsity coach James Vann.
“All of us guys just really worked really hard, diligently, for the girls,” he said.
A key ingredient to the team’s success was Rogers’ recognition that his team’s strength was its speed, and he adapted his game plan accordingly.
But senior Sydney Glover related the most significant thing that Rogers did to influence the course of the 2013 season.
“I think after coming off of last season, having Coach Gabe just there to tell us, ‘You guys, you really are winners,’ that was the biggest thing, I think, that he ever did for us,” she said.
Rogers was completely aware of how crucial his encouragement was.
“One of the biggest things that I had to do for these girls was come in right away with a new mentality that losing is not an option,” he said.
Senior Jazmine Card remembered the first practice of the season.
“He laid down the rules for us, and he told us how it was going to be and that we were going to win, and that’s when I realized that I started to believe it, and I felt like we will go really far with him as our coach,” she said.
His clear outline of what the girls needed to do every day “gave us a high expectation that we needed to meet, and I think that’s what ultimately helped us become so successful,” Glover said.
“My favorite thing about Coach Rogers is his intensity and how he runs practice and everybody’s involved at every single point in practice,” sophomore Morgan Lowers said. “There’s not a point where you’re just sitting there and bored.”
Freshman pitcher Lauren Maddrey, who had the majority of the team’s wins on the mound, was not surprised when Rogers received the honor.
“He just always made you believe that you were going to win,” she said.
Rogers helped Maddrey succeed by knowing when to take a timeout and head to the mound for a few words.
“If I was ever down or something in the game, he could tell and he’d come up to the mound and just always knew exactly what to say,” she said.
Rogers said he tells his players, “‘I’m going to give you my best, all I ask is that you return the favor and give me your best,’ and this group of girls absolutely did that day-in and day-out.”
The season opener against Grassfield High School proved to be the season-defining test of whether or not 2013 Lady Warriors would win against quality opponents.
“Once that Grassfield game came and it happened, they were instantly on board with what we were doing,” Rogers said.
Freshman Jaclyn Mounie said that Rogers “always had a quote, ‘Good isn’t good enough if better is expected,’ and we (followed) through with that all year long.”
“He did make us feel like we were winners this year, and we have the record to prove it,” Glover said.