PLYMOUTH -It is uncharted territory for Plymouth’s softball program in the new season with a new head coach in John Johnson now dealing with the uncharted waters of dealing with the nation’s reaction to a pandemic and the uncertainty of maybe not even having a season to worry about.
While Johnson is new to the Plymouth softball program he is far from new to coaching with several stops in several sports along the way.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything even since I’ve been here at Plymouth,” he said. “I coached some junior high football here, I coached basketball when I was at Argos, football at Culver and Glenn, and even coached some track at Glenn. I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
He’s no stranger to the game of softball either even though this will be his first stop as a high school varsity head coach.
“I’ve done some youth softball with some travel stuff with my daughter really took a liking to it,” he said. “When the position opened up a couple of years ago I applied and they went with somebody that had more experience and when it opened again I applied again and I’m happy that I got it.”
Johnson teaches at PHS and while he’s not been their coach his players do have some familiarity with their new coach in the classroom.
“The good news is that I’ve got some of the girls in class and I’ve gotten to know them since the beginning of the year,” said Johnson. “Then it came out that I had the job the other girls came and sought me out and I’ve gotten to know them and alleviate some of their concerns about what was going to happen.”
“They’ve been great,” he said. “They are soaking up things like a sponge. You talk to them about making adjustments and they can do it and that’s nice.
“We have good numbers and we have girls that work hard and that’s really what we want to hang our hat on,” he said. “We had really good turnouts for our winter workouts and we had about a week of practice before the virus hit, but that week of practice was really good.”
“We are seeing growth in areas and one of the big things a year ago was the big inning,” said Johnson. “They’d be in a game, and be in a game and be in a game, and then all of a sudden mistakes would pile on themselves and we couldn’t get that out when you needed to.”
That led to the approach in the early season workouts.
“We started right away putting them in situations each day with some adversity to see how they’d handle it,” said Johnson. “They’ve done a good job with that. We got outside for the first time and saw some kids making plays that they might not have made a month ago. Of course, now we are treading water.”
A young squad with a lot of upside has the new coach feeling optimistic as the year waits to get underway.
“We have good numbers, the majority of the girls in our program are freshman and sophomores and our core we have some girls that can play,” said Johnson. “Pitching wise we don’t have that one stopper that can get everybody out all the time. We will have to play some defense and pitch by committee and put some runs on the board to get some wins.”
Right now the only concern is having a season to be optimistic about.
“We have to keep spirits up,” said Johnson. “I made a podcast today and sent it to all the girls to keep them enthusiastic. The last thing we were told was that early games would not be played but we just want to keep them going, get out and play catch that kind of thing.”
Even if school does re-convene again this year, the question is will that happen in time to make a season feasible.
“They will have to have 10 practices in before we can play a game,” said Johnson. “Who knows what that’s going to look like. Nobody knows.”
“I feel awful for the kids,” he said. “I feel awful for those basketball kids that didn’t even get to play in their regional and for a lot of those seniors that’s it and they will always wonder how far they could have gone. Then you have spring sports kids wondering if they are even going to get a chance to play.”
“I remember in my time when you were a senior it never hit you until it was there that this might be the last time I get to play a basketball game or a softball game,” he said. “My heart goes out to those kids and hopefully this will get solved and they will get a chance to play.”
If and/or when the season can begin, Johnson says it will be a work in progress.
“We have to take it slow and understand that there are going to be positive things happen as well as negative,” he said. “We just have to make more positives.
“We need to show improvement with that we need to play the game to win and get some wins,” said Johnson. “We need to beat some teams that we haven’t beaten before and I think that can give us some momentum.”