2009 Coach of the Year

Published 10:15 pm Saturday, June 6, 2009

Every single one of the Goshen Lady Eagles representing their school on the softball diamond in 2009 must have bought into the philosophy.

Dee Hughes has been the head coach of the Lady Eagles for the past nine years and she nearly led the team to the AHSAA Class 2A state tournament this past season. But Hughes was able to succeed under unusual circumstances.

Hughes was able to succeed with a team full of youngsters, as senior Kristen Dease was the only upperclassman starter.

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“We have a chant that goes like this, ‘Lady Eagles get tough. Whatever it takes. Pride, guts, heart,’” Hughes said. “And we say that because you are not going to win on just talent alone. You have to put heart into it and love the game. You have to have the guts to work year round. And you have to take pride in and want to be the best at what you do. It is a year-round commitment for sure.”

Hughes’ ability to meld young minds together and make them act as a team garnered her the title of The Messenger’s 2009 Softball All-County Coach of the Year.

Working with young players can be tricky, but Hughes said she has a way to develop those players.

“We try to get the girls to understand that when you hit that field you dominate,” Hughes said. “It is not about the age you are when you are on that field. It is about expecting to dominate and win.”

Getting the girls to buy into that attitude is key for Hughes. She knows that the Lady Eagles may not have the best equipment or facilities in the state, but she pushes her team to work even harder because of that fact.

“It is not what your field looks like, it is what you put on that field,” she said.

Having a successful year with a young team can be great for the team, but Hughes said there is also a flip side to that emotion.

“Sometimes the older they get it gets tougher to coach girls, especially if they have excelled,” Hughes said. “You just have to keep them grounded and you have to stick by your rules. You have to make them work harder and expect more. A big part of winning is the girls buying into that they are winners and I think we have accomplished that.”

But Hughes and assistant coach Amy Warrick made shirts for the team and on the back it said, ‘One team, one dream, not done yet.’ Hughes has the talent in this squad to make the state tournament, but she said she knows she has to keep them focused on the prize if they want to capture the title.

Warrick has been Hughes’ right hand man for the past three years and this year’s team was split into groups before the season.

This was not for hitting or fielding drills, but simply for family reasons. Hughes has a “family” of Lady Eagles and Warrick has a “family” of Lady Eagles.

This family-type atmosphere has been great for morale and has led to success on the field, according to Hughes.

“In Amy’s second year we started giving the girls nicknames and it got to the point where I would adopt some of the girls as my ‘children’ and she would adopt some as hers and to this day they still say their last names whether they are her children or mine,” Hughes said. “What it helped build was the team chemistry.”

The Lady Eagles No. 1 pitcher, Alli Warrick, is Amy Warrick’s daughter and Hughes said Alli will listen to her more on the softball diamond than she will her own mother. And that was part of the reason the “family” system started.

“She (Alli) will listen to me and I can be harder on her than her mom,” Hughes said. “What’s funny is that I am not always the hard-nosed coach and she (Amy) is not always the nice one. We have adopted the players that have our personalities.”

The family system worked well for team unity and it was a great tool for Hughes to have during practice time.

“What we found out was that my girls would go against her girls in practice,” she said. “It turned into a competition and it was awesome.”

Warrick said Hughes’ compassion for her team is one of the many reasons the Lady Eagles have had success in her time at the helm of the team.

“She is truly one of the best coaches I have seen,” Warrick said. “I think what keeps us both driven is that we do really want to see these girls succeed. She pushes these girls a lot harder than they think they can be pushed. We have had so many girls turn around and thank us for pushing them so hard.”

Warrick is not the co-head coach, but Hughes can be seen bouncing ideas off Warrick and asking for her opinion. The two coaches have a unique working relationship.

Hughes led the Lady Eagles to success in 2009 and she said she would not have been able to do it without Warrick right there for every run scored.

The Lady Eagles coaching unit is looking for many deep playoff runs when they return eight of nine starters for the next two years.