Since September 1, 2015, Coach Lisa Pinkston of Assumption softball has been implementing her new coaching philosophy within the Rocketsâ€™ program. In hindsight, with only five games remaining in the regular season, she has been able to weigh the good and the bad in this first year.
â€œOverall, I am pleased with our progress this season. I donâ€™t judge this first season by wins and losses. Iâ€™m evaluating based on our progression and we are right there. We are losing games by one or two runs, but itâ€™s hard to count moral victories. But at the end of the day, as long as this team is improving, our goal is to make a run at it at the end of the season for the regional.â€
At Assumption, Pinkston, former University of Louisville softball player and director of softball operations at UofL, has been playing a hand dealt to her comprised of predominantly underclassmen: 12 freshman and sophomores and a few juniors and seniors. In her eyes, it was a plus.
â€œBeing able to coach them with so many young players was really good for me. I was able to implement my system without having to change them too much.â€
Players have responded well. Senior pitcher Sabrina Fussenegger has had to adjust to a completely new coaching style in her final year but says it has been the one year sheâ€™s always wanted.
â€œItâ€™s always exciting to come in with a new season. This year, we have had an opportunity to have a lot of new players,â€ she said. â€œCoach Pinkston has done a great job in teaching our new system, and it is honestly how I want to be coached. She is intense yet understanding, which has been an honor for me to play for.â€
An essential component to Coach Pinkstonâ€™s new system has been scheduling her young team against some of the top talent in softball, in efforts to build their confidence as they become upperclassmen.
â€œThe first thing I have done is that I have scheduled the toughest schedule in the state,â€ Pinkston said, â€œwith the goal of seeing in three years what that will do for us. When we talk about this team, what we do today affects us three days from now, three months and three years from now. And so everything we are implementing is based on the future. We are approaching this thing understanding that we are building for the future but not losing the mindset that we are very much wanting to fight for a title.â€
Growing pains have come along in the process. Pinkston says that not being afraid to fail has been the biggest struggle thus far for her team. Younger players tend to judge their success by wins and losses she added, but her focus has been to get them to be â€œcomfortable in the uncomfortableâ€ and to learn at the end of this process that â€œyou will come out stronger.â€
So, an 11-13 record is not indicative of this teamâ€™s progress or the momentum they have heading into the playoffs. Theyâ€™ve had close games against tough teams like Bullitt East and Butler, and in spite of their youth, theyâ€™ve been able to stand toe-to-toe with some of softballâ€™s heavyweights.
â€œIt is just a matter of getting this team to be confident at the right time,â€ Pinkston would add. â€œContinuing to build and ramp that up so once district and regionals comes around; we hope that confidence can take us very far.â€
Sophomore Jordan Ridge, whose confidence has grown, firmly believes the team has what it takes to reach their goals. To achieve them, they must â€œtrust in Coach Pinkstonâ€™s plan and trust that we can really do it and take it. We have the skill to do it, but we just need to believe we can do it.â€
There is, without question, a strong faith and belief that these Rockets can and will soar high, not just for this season, but also in years to come. Next season, the program will be adding a freshman team â€“ in addition to the junior varsity and varsity teams â€“ with 15 freshman coming in. Pinkston says this will continue to draw more kids and â€œraise our level of play.â€
The expectation is to rise to a level of play at which Assumption will remain a consistent state title contender and a powerhouse in the state of Kentucky.
â€œFor the future, we are going to be competing for the regional championship and for the state championship,â€ she said. â€œWe have all the pieces in place here to be successful. There is a focus on softball here, and it is nice. As these young kids gain more experience, the culture is going to be different. Theyâ€™re going to hold each other accountable. The standard is going to be set higher, and the system is going to be set into place so that as each freshman comes in each year, my job is going to be easier because the system is going to already be set.â€
Photos courtesy of LISAÂ PINKSTON