The Fannin County Lady Rebels had a season to remember last year, finishing third in their region and earning a trip to the Region Tournament. The group of eight senior starters on the varsity team had played together literally their entire lives, and it was the first team head coach David Dyer took from inception (7th grade) to graduation, with the culmination being as impressive as their gameplay itself.
Talented, yes. Motivated, definitely. Experienced, absolutely. And with the graduation of nearly half the varsity roster, it goes without saying: The 2016 Lady Rebels have some work to do.
Although the team’s practice doesn’t officially begin until August 1st, the group of girls have been meeting voluntarily with coach Dyer and assistant coaches Jill Armstrong and Neil Armstrong. With literally no seniors on the team – that’s right – zero seniors – the underclassmen are wasting no time getting to work on fundamental softball with the limited time available before the start of the season.
“We’re young,” coach Dyer told the Focus Tuesday morning. “I’m proud of these girls for working hard and having the right attitude, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We graduated eight starters last year. That’s more than any other team in our region. We don’t have near the experience our competition has, we need all the time on the field we can get.”
Dyer explained that with the region realignment set forth by the GHSA late last year, the region lost West Hall but picked up a really tough North Hall program. Dyer shared his thoughts that North Hall could very well find their way to Columbus for the State Playoffs later this season. He would know – two of the coaches for that program are former Dyer student-athletes of the coach.
“North Hall is going to be good. Two of their coaches actually played for me. I know they’ll be ready to play.”
As for the Lady Rebels, the ball coach isn’t looking to put any added pressure on his team than simply putting one foot forward at a time. “We’re not going to judge our success by how many games we win. Our success isn’t about wins and losses, it’s about the work we put in, and I know these girls are going to work hard.”
While tackling the lack of experience, coach Dyer said he and his coaching staff have had to take a few steps back and reassess their entire strategy and coaching style. “We’ve had to rethink how we do this,” he explained. “They’re working so hard and have so much to learn, so we’ve gone back to the fundamentals.”
He wasn’t kidding. When I pulled up to take a few photos of the players on the field, he had them working a crow-hop fielding drill that Dyer said they start their seventh and eighth graders with each season. The first girl participating in the drill didn’t even have a softball in her hands yet. She was practicing the drill with an empty hand and glove. “It’s small steps. We aren’t assuming anything,” Dyer said. “We’re going over every single drill that we have.”
The action kicks off soon as the Lady Rebels face White County on Thursday, August 4, for a scrimmage. Their first game is at Murray County on August 8 and their first home game will be against East Hall on Tuesday, August 9 at 5:30pm. Come out and support your young Lady Rebels softball varsity!