A short tour… Weddle’s first stint at helm of Hampton softball brief but productive

Published 3:13 pm Thursday, April 30, 2020

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There wasn’t anyone around Carter County that was more excited for softball season to kick off in the 2020 season than Hampton’s new head coach Chelsey Weddle.
Weddle had spent a lot of time during preseason getting the Lady Bulldog field in top-notch order while working to raise funds to build a press box at the field which would allow for district tournaments to be played at Hampton.
The season had just started and Weddle’s Lady Bulldogs had three games under their belt when the season was put on ice due to the pandemic.
Weddle said with the season being shelved that it has caused some setbacks but has not diminished her excitement to be leading her alma mater.
“It has set me back a year of experience and a year with the girls that I feel like was going in the right direction with the three games we played,” Weddle said. “I know the score never really showed how well the girls played, but it is the little wins that you have to pick out as a coach.
“I hate it more for the girls more than anything. I have never seen a team more excited for softball season. There were days that I had basketball players when we had late practice, they stayed after school to practice softball then go to basketball.
“It hurts me because I know it crushed them,” continued Weddle. “They were ready for a change. They were ready to win a ball game. If I could tell you all the little things I saw, that for a coach is a big win, during those three games I would be writing a novel.”
The changes in play and attitude that Weddle had brought in just a short time didn’t go unnoticed by her peers either in just the games and scrimmages that Hampton had participated in.
“I watched these girls last year, it was just a changed team,” said Weddle. “I had coaches – conference and non-conference, tell me how they looked like a different team.
“Those types of comments I would share with the girls so they would understand that just because the score didn’t show our progress, they were making it. The day they canceled all extracurricular activities, we were supposed to play Cloudland, a conference game and of course a rival, if you could have seen the look on their faces.
“It was like their heart was completely broken.”
With spring sports being completely shut down with the closing of the schools, along with other coaches Weddle is trying to make sure that her girls remain focused and continue to improve by utilizing drills that will make them better players in the future.
“I have been checking in with my girls as much as possible making sure they know that I wish more than anything that I was out on the field with them,” Weddle commented.
“It is hard to do things when you cannot be hands-on, but I am working on workouts for them to work on during this downtime – sending them videos of drills, trying to keep them involved in the game as much as possible.
“I try to encourage them to work in groups if they can, as most of them are really close friends and sometimes will still be together, of course following all social distancing rules.
“I have been in contact with some other coaches and local players who play/played softball at the college level to see what types of ideas I can give the girls for a little bit of variety in drills and making sure they are not getting bored with the drills.”
If there is an upside to the season being over, it is the fact that Weddle will have every one of her players returning next season as she didn’t have any seniors on the team.
However, with the returning players she has, it did hamper the opportunity to develop them further by getting games under the belt and coaching them up in live action.
“In some ways, it has been easier, but I also look at it as these freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are all getting a year of experience taken away from them,” Weddle said. “I know the majority of my girls, especially those who do not participate in other sports, worked very hard for this upcoming season.
“I assist with the basketball team as well so it made it hard for me to do anything preseason wise. If it tells you anything about the girls that I have and their dedication, they were doing things on their own before I even could have a chance to get with them and work on my own. I would look out and see them running, throwing, hitting, different things on their own.
“To say the least, I am fortunate to have all my girls return back to me and have another year and some of them more.”
With a short season under her belt, Weddle now has a better understanding of how she wants to proceed going forward. She is hoping that her initial season will pay off going forward on how she wants to handle things such as her approach to the preseason.
“This will definitely change things,” Weddle stated. “I will be looking to get more scrimmages and more play days in for the preseason.
“As a first-year head coach I was just learning about all the things we have locally for preseason. It was also difficult working around a basketball schedule. Now that I at least have a preseason under my belt and have an idea of what to do, I believe I will be more prepared and able to schedule preseason for softball a little better.”
Outside the coaching arena, Weddle was asked how the pandemic personally impacted her.
“This has been a different time for me as I am usually spending my time in a gym or on a field – it is very rare that I do anything else,” stated Weddle.” I consider my girls (all of them) family. I would stay after if they needed/wanted, I would work with them anytime they called and needed something, even if it was just to open the field/gym.
“You never really realize how busy you are as a coach, especially when you coach two sports. It seems like it is year-round. I have realized that you have to make sure that YOUR actual family is a priority just as much as your team family. I have spent so much more time with my family during this downtime and it has been absolutely wonderful.”
Weddle was a former standout basketball, softball, and golf player at Hampton before continuing her college basketball career at Milligan College.
As a player, one always knows there are times of adversity in sports such as a nagging injury or hitting a scoring slump.
The pandemic brought another adversity that no too many coaches or players have ever had to deal with. Weddle was asked if there was a time in her playing career that she faced anything close to what the pandemic brought for herself and her team.
“There was never a time I had to miss a whole season like this, but there was a time I had to take a step back during college from playing the sport I loved,” Weddle stated.
“During preseason my junior year at Milligan College, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes which was a huge change in my life. I was out for almost 2 months, which sounds like nothing compared to this, but in basketball season that was quite a few games.
“I was out of preseason completely which puts you behind on being in shape and being able to play to the best of your ability,” Weddle continued. “My first game back, I came back and had the game of my life. I will never forget it… If there is anything I know in this life, I do know that adversity can always be overcome.”
Anyone that knows Weddle knows she has competitive juices flowing deeply in her veins. She is the type of person that gives it everything she has whether she was competing in the state basketball championship in Murfreesboro as a Lady Bulldog to playing on an intermural softball team with her cousin.
Weddle’s toughness and winning spirit will be what makes her into a reputable coach and a winner which will also carry over to the teams she coaches.
Even though the pandemic may have won this game, Weddle knows that it’s just like a bad hop that has to be shaken off and the game must go on.
“This pandemic is just another bump in the road for my Lady Bulldogs and I know for a FACT I have made them tough enough to fight through this pandemic and come back next year just as tough,” added Weddle. “I have the utmost faith that my girls are going to shock the Tri-State area soon.
‘It takes years to build a program, but from what I saw in three games, these girls have what it takes to turn this thing around. I just hope my coaching staff and I can lead them in the right direction!
“Oh, one last thing…GO DAWGS!!!”

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