I’ll be the first to tell you that growing up I was never athletic. People always seem to find that hard to believe since I’m a sports reporter. But there was a time that I was really interested in trying softball.
When I was little (aka the age I should’ve started playing a sport if I wanted to be any good at it) I never really knew about or watched softball. When I got into middle school, I had a friend who played and showed me an incredible video of a softball player shattering a piece of glass from her fast-pitch. It was obvious that she was extremely strong and worked very hard to be one of the best in her sport.
I was inspired to say the least, and I almost signed up to join a church league with another friend of mine. But sadly at that point it was too late for me, and I think it was for the better anyway. Combine my age and lack of experience with my lack of athleticism and I probably would’ve been a guaranteed bench warmer.
Anyway, the point of this week’s edition of Sports talk Thursday is not to mope about my sad past with athletics, but to praise these hardworking ladies for what they do. And covering the Lumpkin County Lady Indians softball team as well as some of the other local high school teams has truly opened my eyes to what an incredible sport softball is. And while most of my experience is with Lumpkin County because I cover them on a regular basis, these are observations that I’ve made about high school teams across the board.
The first thing I love about softball is how encouraging the players are for their teammates. Unlike softball or basketball that are typically played in louder conditions, the atmosphere for softball is fairly quiet. So it’s easy for the players to make themselves heard when they’re cheering each other on, and I assume it’s also necessary in some instances to keep them going! There’s never a quiet moment at a Lumpkin County softball game, because whether it’s for the batter when they’re at the plate or the pitcher when they’re on the mound, the Lady Indians are always chanting words of encouragement. And when I’ve traveled to cover the team at other high schools, the other team is the same way. And not only do the teams encourage their own teammates, they’ll also give a shout out to players of the opposing team if they make a good play.
The athleticism of the players is another thing that blows me away about softball. I’ve seen basemen go into full- on splits to make a catch for an out, numerous running catches and a couple diving/rolling catches. On offense there have been several out-of-the-park home runs (a couple lead-offs!) and other perfectly timed triples, doubles and singles to bring the team ahead. This isn’t to say that I would expect anything less from a group of hardworking women, but it amazes me nonetheless. Possibly because there’s no way in this world I could do that stuff myself!
As a sports reporter it’s always exciting to catch that perfect moment on camera when the ball connects with the bat for a home run. Then to be able to share that moment with the player or their family makes the job so rewarding. I know as a reporter I’m not *technically* supposed to show favoritism at a game, but there have been several times I’ve had to sit on my hands to keep from cheering when there was a great hit or awesome play on defense.
Long story short- these young women work hard, you should come watch them, and I’ve enjoyed covering them.
If any of you are under the age of 18 and reading this article, then I imagine this week was probably a tough week for you. I say that because the majority of schools in the state of Georgia started back this week.
I can remember being in high school and having a knot of dread in my stomach the night before the first day of school. I’ve never been a morning person, so having to get up early was my first problem. Add in all of the homework and having to spend my days in one building…it was easy to tell I wasn’t a school person.
The good news is there was always one bright spot in all of this gloom, and that was football season. I know I’ve said it before on our sports show, Instant Replay, and probably in this column as well, but in high school I lived for football season. I never missed a game, home or away. Granted I was in the colorguard with the marching band, so most of the time I HAD to go. But I can still remember a handful of games where we weren’t required to go, and some of my friends got together and still went anyway.
Those were good times, but I dare to say that these are even better. I’m thankful to have a job that pays me to follow a sport that I love. But on the other hand, it’s a job that’s helping me to get an inside look on other sports that are sometimes forgotten, especially in the South where football is a religion.
I covered my first softball game on Tuesday. I have watched and worked softball games in the past, so in my defense I knew what to expect, but it was my first time reporting on a game. It was the Lumpkin County Lady Indians against the Pickens Dragonettes in the Lady Indians home opener. One thing I loved about this game was that it wasn’t just smooth sailing, if you will. Just to give a brief recap, the Nettes put three runs on the board first. By the fifth inning, it was looking as though the Lady Indians might lose their home opener. But as with all great teams, the Lady Indians weren’t going down without a fight and ended up coming back to win 4-3. Ironically, I went to the next game where they played each other tonight and the Nettes ended up winning 9-4.
Softball is just one of several high school sports that is played in the fall. There’s also volleyball and cross country. While I haven’t gotten the chance to go cover either of these events yet, I know that I probably will be in the near future.
I’ve never personally played volleyball competitively, but I know several people who have. And from what I do know about it, there’s more technique to setting and hitting the ball than there seems. Whenever I play for fun at the beach I just feel lucky to get it over the net. But there are certain ways to prepare before you serve the ball and where to place your feet when you’re in an official match. I don’t see how players keep up with everything, other than that they practice. I know it’s got to feel great whenever you take all of your frustration out by smacking the ball.
Now I enjoy running, but I could never run cross country. I’ve seen the joke that says “my sport is your sport’s punishment” and to be honest, that’s how I feel because I don’t know how they do it. I can remember talking to cross country runners in high school, and them telling me that they would get up at 6 a.m. to run. And for some of them, the distances they would run blew my mind. But the other incredible thing to me about cross country is how much of a mental sport it is. Not only do runners have to be trained physically to maintain a certain time, they also have to be trained physically to encourage themselves to keep going.
The point I’m trying to make is that even though I’m still learning about other sports, I respect them because I do know how hard they work. I see the social media posts, I know people that play, and I see the teams out practicing well before their season starts. And even though the summer is ending and we’re back to school, the exciting thing is we’re past the days of camps and well on our way to the actual competition. I can’t wait to see what all of these young athletes accomplish.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Recreation Director Matt Youngblood attended July’s county commissioner’s meeting to inform the community about the county’s sports facility, including the reason he believes an interest in youth football has decreased.
“One thing that has been a concern for us at the rec department is the interest level in football. I know a lot of people are wanting to know what happened with football in our area,” Youngblood said, explaining that parents have raised concerns about head injuries – specifically concussions – that could result from tackles, and that only two children had enrolled to participate. The recreation director reported that the center began offering flag football as a milder alternative, although only five children signed up for the added sport.
Enthusiasm for other physical activities is different story, however, with 67 athletes participating in the center’s basketball camp, Youngblood said. Towns County Recreation Center offers the annual basketball camp in association with Young Harris College Division II Basketball. The program began in 2017 with the help of YHC Assisant Men’s Basketball Coach and former player, Steve Viterbo. With the vision of giving youth an opportunity to learn fundamentals from Division II athletes while they impart knowledge, show offensive and defensive drills, and create an energetic atmosphere where youth can prosper.
The sport center offers two high school regualtion size basketball courts with a drop down divide to separate the dual courts, and multi-purpose flooring with a 2 millimeter cushion to help prevent injury. Soccer was added to the roster this past year, drawing approximately 90 players of both genders, Youngblood said.
Two ball fields were constructed at the Young Harris facility that can be used for both baseball and softball. Located separately, within the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, are three ball fields that will soon receive updated scoreboards. The area consists of one 14u baseball field, and two fields that serve as multi-purpose for 12u, 10u, coach pitch, and T-ball. An outdoor pickleball complex, located near the fairgrounds, boasts 14 courts, and an indoor pickleball court is available at the former recreation center, just west Hiawassee city limits on State Route 76.
Towns County Recreation Center features a one-tenth mile indoor walking track, along with a fitness center, provided free of charge for all Towns County residents. Fitness equipment ranges from treadmills, ellipticals, recumbant bikes, bench press, and a line-up of Cybex body equipment.
The state-of-the-art facility is located at 150 Foster Park in Young Harris. Additional information on Towns County Recreation Center is available by clicking this link.