COLUMN: Softball is young, but just wait
Even if Margo Jonker’s players had no hands, she would still expect them to throw hard.
If they were blind, she would still expect them to hit.
But for Jonker, the Central Michigan head softball coach, it’s not good that there’s not much of an excuse for youth. It’s not good because Jonker is a no-excuse type of coach. In the team’s double-header last week against Oakland, with temperatures just above freezing, she did not allow her team the excuse of having numb hands that factored into six errors.
Jonker is the kind of coach a softball team needs. CMU has recognized this — it’s why she’s been the softball coach for the last 31 years. She has shown year after year that if the team works hard, excuses don’t matter.
The team’s near-.500 record — 20-18 — hints at inconsistency.
Twelve of 19 women on the roster are underclassmen. There are four freshmen and eight sophomores. The raw talent is there, but it doesn’t equal performance. That’s where Jonker comes in.
Coaches take raw talent and refine it into a competitive product that can be utilized every game. That’s the process the softball team is in now, developing talent, but Jonker won’t say it.
She said the players are already mature and know what to expect. She’s right, but she’s also leaving out one thing: the team, with all its youth, is still learning to be consistent.
Talent takes time to develop. “Rebuilding” years don’t really exist in college programs where the rosters constantly change. In college sports, programs can only do two things: recruitment and development.
A key component of consistency is confidence. Senior infielder Molly Coldren said confidence is probably the most important element to being successful at the collegiate level. Confidence, in a softball sense, equals consistency.
Just ask Coldren how important confidence is.
She’s practically hitting piñatas, with a .639 slugging percentage. Fourteen of her 35 hits so far are doubles, triples and home runs.
When the underclassmen get consistent and confident, and the team can play solidly in all facets of the game — hitting, pitching and defense — expect a strong finish to the season.
When the Chippewas find a way to be more consistent, they could be a team poised to make a surprise push through the Mid-American Conference tournament.
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