NORTH FORSYTH HIGH SOFTBALL
In their final season of slow-pitch ball, this Georgia high school girls’ softball team is more determined than ever to continue their streak and win the State Championship.
By Laura Dayton
Published: Winter 2000
“Now some of the boys aren’t going to like hearing this, but our girls hit the weights with more aggression than they do,” says Coach Jim Bishop, strength conditioning coach at Georgia’s North Forsyth High School.
A coach for more than 30 years, Bishop has been at North Forsyth six years. He’s seen the programs change with the influx of young women into his weight room, and the metamorphosis that occurs when all the elements are in line. A quick survey of some of the athletes on the school’s winning team tells it all.
The Team Talks
Junior Valerie Bennett is one of the softball team’s top defense players. This 16-year-old left-hander plays left center and bats right-handed with an average over .500. In addition, she’s also a great basketball player and credits her contributions in both sports to the weight training she’s received.
“I’ve gotten much stronger,” says Valerie. “At a bodyweight of 135 I’m doing a 145 bench and 135 power clean. Most of all, I notice it in my throws--I throw much harder than I used to. My speed has gone way up as well.”
Senior Courtney Moore, with a batting average of .481, is starting to feel the pressure to finish this year on top. “I know the weights have helped me in softball and basketball. Coach Bishop teaches us to push ourselves, to try to train a little harder every session. So I’ve learned to push myself in other endeavors as well.”
Stephanie Pass finished last season with a batting average of .583, 11 HR and 67 RBIs. Again, she credits the weights. “Weight training is important because it makes you a better person all around. It gives you confidence and makes you feel better about yourself, so that you can support others.” She maintains a 3.6 GPA and competes in basketball, tennis and powerlifting as well.
Senior Jessie Martin has been with the team four years and reflects on how the team improved their camaraderie. “The weight training really pushes you; it caused us as a team to become very close. Weight training disciplines us not only in athletics but in other things in life. You learn to watch out for your teammate, to help them along and encourage them. It’s not just about bettering yourself.”
A Great Record
In addition to being State Champions, three of the girls have won Player of the Year for ‘97, ‘98 and ‘99--their names respectively are Keva Brown, Crystal Carlyle and Lauren Gains.
Coach Bishop cites several factors beyond the athletes that make his team a winner. “After the athletes, you’ve got to look at the coaches,” says Bishop. “When you look at Coach Byron Orr, head softball coach, you see a guy who has been Coach of the Year twice, and four times regional Coach of the Year.
“The next factor that counts is support from the administration and parents, and we’ve got that. Our field is immaculate, second to none, and the support from the student body as well as parents and the administration is incredible. We’re a town really behind our high school teams.”
“The other important factor is a great speed, strength and conditioning program. Our girls have won 165 games and lost 35. They were state champs in ‘97 and ‘98, runners-up in ‘95 and ‘99 and fifth place in ‘96. We’ve won four regional titles, and I couldn’t even name the number of tournaments.
“Before the weight training, our girls hit six home runs; last year it was 43. The batting averages went from an average of .341 to .479. Stats like this show they got stronger and stronger. It’s not uncommon to see every player with All State status in the lifts--we’ve given out in the past 5 years at least 100 different T-shirts for All State status, and our softball girls must have 80 of them!”
Weight training is offered before school, all day long as a class and during the summer. The North Forsyth girls hold team bests with a bench of 205, power clean of 195, squat of 285 and a vertical jump of 24.1. Team member Megan Thacker is a state track champion in the 800m, and Keva Brown and Lauren Gains both scored over 1000 points in a single basketball season.
“Our philosophy in weight training is simple,” says Bishop. “We are going to work harder and smarter. There are no excuses; we are going to work as hard as possible. Coach Orr has the same attitude with the team--if they lose and they’ve done everything they can do, then it’s okay. Of course, we want to win, but more importantly we want to teach them about life, to make them better people, to make them work as a team, and learn to overcome adversity.”