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Softball team undergoes coaching change

author: alexa lawlor | staff writer

Softball
Cougars softball looks to enter a new era/Elma Kaus

Continued funding of chief concern

Since its inception, the University of Regina softball team has reached many milestones. But change is coming to the team as they look forward to their next season.

Andrea Wolf will be taking over as head coach of the varsity team in 2017. Wolf mentioned that the team has “been fairly dominant in [the] league, and got bronze last year in nationals.” She went on to say that, “I think moving forward, the girls see what they can achieve and now they know it’s attainable. We had a team meeting already, we set some goals, and we really want to work hard for it.”

Former Head Coach Mike Smith originally started the program in 2006. He coached baseball for a long time before switching to women’s softball. At that time, he recognized a need for a university softball team and his enthusiasm is where it all began.

“I knew John Papandreos in the rec. [recreation services] office long before that, and I approached him and said, ‘Hey, I think there’s enough U of R students to form a team.’ I knew of a league in Alberta that we could play in, and so the first year we just went and played a doubleheader in Lethbridge, and then the following season, 2007, we entered the league. To look at the program now compared to eleven years ago, it’s not really even in the same ballpark; so many things have changed since I’ve been around. In the very beginning we couldn’t even use the Cougar name. We just operated within rec. services.”

After eleven years, Smith has decided to step down from that role, although he will still be involved with the University of Regina softball program. Smith states that the decision stems from the fact that the league is missing a piece in its organizational structure.

“Our league has been without an executive director for I think about six years now, so I thought I’d take on a new challenge”.

He offered his services, and was named executive director of the league. In taking on this role, he hopes that he will be able to “do a lot of the things [he’s] done for [the University of Regina] program for [the] whole league.”

In order to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible, Smith will be taking on a position in more of a management and advising role with the University of Regina softball program, while also taking on the new challenge of being the executive director of the league. However, he’s not worried about the future of the team.

“I had four assistant coaches last year who were all fantastic, so I’m leaving it in great hands.”

Andrea Wolf will be stepping in as the new head coach, and will be co-coaching with veteran player Mikaila Etheridge. Wolf has been involved with the program as a guest coach and then moved on to become the assistant coach for the past three years. In making the transition into the head coach role, Wolf is looking forward to “refreshing everything that’s being done, trying to do a few new things and maybe just going after that national title.”

When further discussing new things that may be added, Wolf stated, “Some of the things we’re implementing are classroom sessions, weekly we’re going to be doing power training, and we’re going to offset that with some mental training in the classroom.” She continued saying that they are “just kind of touching up the way the practices were done, just a little bit of change in some philosophies.” Overall, she says that the changes are “nothing too drastic, just a few tweaks.”

Although Wolf is looking forward to making some new changes, she appreciates the hard work that Mike Smith has put into the program.

“What Mike has built is a very strong foundation, and they’ve achieved a lot.” She mentioned the team’s many successes, like competing in various places in the United States, and she hopes that they will be able to “just keep moving forward at that level.” She emphasized that “it’s more important for the team to develop a team chemistry than it is to actually be able to physically work together. We don’t even call it team, we call it family”.

While the coaching aspect is now in place, there are also some financial obstacles to overcome. The softball team is formally recognized by the University of Regina Students’ Union and is sanctioned through the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies as a varsity sport club. It is a student-based club, where recreation services provide the supervision, or leadership. Therefore, the softball program is mainly self-funded. There are some funds allocated to the program through URSU and the Varsity Club Athletic Board [VCAB] program, but the team relies heavily on fundraising.

Due to this, some financial issues have arisen for the program, but John Papandreos, head of recreation services, assures that it’s nothing to worry about.

“Softball is the only competitive varsity club at the University of Regina that competes in a league every fall. They compete in more games than some of our U Sports teams. From the end of August, through to the middle of October, every weekend they’re competing. For the most part, they’re travelling. So, there are some costs for that program, and the only opportunities that they really have to fundraise expenses are either before the season, during the spring and summer, and/or immediately following the season. They’ve been very successful in their fundraising, and they’ve identified a fundraising strategy to try to get their financial position in a better standing.”

He also added, “They still have a significant amount of money coming from VCAB. So, while the program may seem to be in a large deficit, in reality, it will be less than half that once they get their VCAB funding allocated.”

As far as upcoming events go, the softball team has a lot planned.

As Andrea Wolf mentioned, “We’re going to be doing some fundraising for the upcoming season. We have some poker nights, some burger nights. We’ll hopefully be taking a trip down to Jamestown College. They came up to play us, so we’re hoping in April to go down and return the favour and get a bit of a spring trip. We’re just looking forward to our fall season.”

About Ethan Butterfield