By Alyssa Layton
Once spring comes around that means softball is starting. Rain or shine, the passion on and off the field is something that the Johnson Creek Softball program does not take lightly according to coaches and fans.
Dean Herman became the head coach in 2015 and changed the softball program.
Herman has been coaching for 12 years. He started right out of college and assisted coaching Division III college softball for two years. Herman then went on to high school softball for three years and has coached club softball for the remaining time. Having many years of background knowledge for the game, the fans agree with what he is doing for the program and how he is helping the team grow.
“My expectations are that we finish out the season strong,” Herman said. “I look for us to get on a roll and by the end of the year hopefully playing our best softball to get us to regionals, sectionals, and state.”
Before Herman came aboard, the team struggled for years. According to Wisconsin Sports, the Lady Jas hadn’t had a Regional Championship title since 2008. By 2014, the team hit a low with 16 wins and eight losses. Herman is credited with turning that around. During 2015, he led the team to 24 wins, five losses and a return as Regional Champions.
“I am super excited to see what this year has in store for us,” Herman said.
Herman also started a summer softball traveling league called the Yellow Jackets. Many of the girls who are on the high school softball team also play for this traveling team. The girls work and play all through the year and practice seven days a week.
The team, fans, and coaches all have one thing in mind, going to state. The players and coaches are ready to see where this season takes them. Many girls on the team hope all their hours in the batting cage and on the field have finally paid off.
“My expectations for this team is work hard and have fun,” said Cathy Joseph, whose daughter starts in the outfield. “I’m really hoping they make it to state. The girls deserve it.”
The coaching staff preaches fundamentals and Herman believes, with a solid defense, the team can conquer anything they put their mind to. But softball is not just about winning. A lot of what teams are about is chemistry. A majority of the team has been playing together since middle school, if not earlier. Others started playing together over the summer on the Yellow Jackets travelling softball league.
“My favorite thing about playing on this team is how dedicated everyone is and how much work we all put in in the off season and how we have each other’s backs,” said Kaylee Jablonski, second baseman and outfielder for the Lady Jays.
Herman is much more than a coach to many of the players. He is a role model and someone they look up to.
“My coach has been very important to me,” starting varsity catcher, Bre Caminata said. “He has been like my father figure. He has been there for me since I started playing softball and ever since.”
In the past, the team practiced five days a week. Once Herman came aboard, he told the players he expected more from the team. He added an extra day of practice. The more time added into practicing fundamentals, the better the outcome, he said.
“Dedication and determination, that’s what I like to see,” Herman said.
Herman has scheduled games with teams from different divisions to help the girls stay grounded. He said this benefits the team by playing against bigger schools and better teams. The team wants to go far and the fans think with their help in motivating the girls, they can potentially make it to the end.
With blood, sweat and tears, the fans, the coaches and the team say they are ready to see where the season will go.