Loving the game

Published 1:37 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Head coach Brian McLendon and the Troy Belles have had fun so far this summer and it’s not all been because they have been successful.

The Troy Belles demolished their way through the district tournament in Luverne last month. They outscored their opponents 58-25 on their way to the championship.

The Belles have spent the last two weeks preparing for what they hope is a deep run in the state tournament in Montgomery.

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The Belles have done their fair share of work during practice over the last few days, but more importantly, they’re having fun.

“The thing about our practices is they are fun,” McLendon said. “We have a speaker out here and I have about 30 Christian hip-hop songs and we just have a good time. I try not to burn them out. I want them to want to come to practice.”

The Belles are chalk full of players that make up high school rosters throughout Pike County and, according to McLendon, they all have one thing in common: they work hard.

“We have had some great practices so far,” McLendon said. “This is probably the hardest working set of girls I have ever worked with.”

The Belles have a wealth of talent to go along with their hard work.

“I have never had a roster to where you could go speed, speed, bat and power,” McLendon said. “This is the only roster that I have been able to look at that way. That is the way you would like your top four. It worked out perfect.”

Many of these players have been playing softball since the spring and they are taking this time of the year to have fun and play a relaxed form of softball.

“They are fired up,” McLendon said. “It gives them a break from a high school coach that they see all the time. It gives them the opportunity to have fun, to play with different girls and to play different competition. You have all four schools from this county represented on this field and they are treating each other like they live in the same house.”

The way the Belles have gelled together so well could be contributed to their head coach. On the first day of practice, McLendon gathered up all his players in center field to give them one important message.

“I told them when they walk inside that fence, parents don’t exist. When they walk inside this fence their boyfriends don’t exist,” McLendon said. “For the hour and half they are playing this game, the outside world doesn’t exist.”

McLendon believes that positive attitudes during practice and in games is the difference in good and poor play. One way he gets his players happy is to dance.

“We have been out here and we had a rough start to our practice and I brought them all in,” McLendon said. “I turn the music on and I point at them and they have to do their funniest dance move. When they get tired, I point at them and say let me see it. Everybody laughs and then we take a round of infield.”

Keeping a positive attitude while at practice and in game is goal one for McLendon and his players.

“I watched a video on YouTube not too long ago and this gus told this other guy that baseball and softball are the biggest confidence-killing sports there are,” McLendon said. “If a coach goes out there and belittles a kid, it doesn’t matter if she is 18 or if she is 12, then she is gone for the rest of the game. You go out there and you say it is what it is, it’s done and shake it off.”

That philosophy was put to the test during the district tournament when the Belles let up five runs in one inning. After McLendon came to the mound, his team got out of the inning and went on to score 12 runs.

“It’s not allowing them to get down,” McLendon said. “I am an upbeat guy. This is my favorite sport in the world. This is fun.”

The Troy Belles have a tradition of winning over the last handful of years. Before missing out on the World Series last year, Troy represented the state in three straight World Series from 2013-2015. McLendon believes he has a team to make it back.

“I told them at the first practice that everyone brings up the team that went to the World Series,” McLendon said. “They always bring up that they don’t know if there will be another team that good again. I told them you have the opportunity to beat the skepticism. These girls have the opportunity and the talent to win it all.”

The next step in the process begins this Friday when Troy takes on East Montgomery beginning at 8 p.m.