By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
With her team leading, 10-6, and runners beginning to fill the bases in the seventh inning of the championship game in the 16-and-under age division at the Ohio Jaguars Summer Showcase at the JAGS Complex, Northern Ohio Softball manager Amy Metsch didn’t panic.
She didn’t yell for her pitcher to focus or for her defenders to make better decisions.
Instead, she chose to instruct her players to concentrate on the batter, focus their attention on what was going to happen in the next few moments. All the while, she was letting her players know she believed in them.
That little bit was enough to give her players the edge in an exciting 10-7 victory.
“When she’s relaxed, we’re relaxed,” Sam Ohley said of Metsch.
“She makes us focus, but lets us have fun,” Tara Weaver said. “You have to enjoy yourself.”
Metsch, just 22, has built such a close relationship with her players that they almost mirror the way she approaches her job.
“It’s awesome to see what the girls can accomplish when they have fun,” she said. “There’s also a line you have to draw for when to have fun and when to keep it serious. You can’t have it be life and death and you’ve always got to believe in your players.”
Metsch clearly enjoys coaching. She’s continuously smiling throughout a game. She’s upbeat from the first pitch to the final out. She has plenty of compliments and high-fives to go around.
“I’m the type of person who believes you always build off of encouragement,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of coaches in my years as a player and coach who get too into the game. I feel that reflects on the girls on the field. The girls have to have confidence and they have to have confidence in what you’re teaching them.
“I think back to when I was 16 and know what they were going through with boys and all the other stuff. I try to bring in what I felt. It’s about life, not just softball.”
The players follow Metsch’s lead in that area. When they are hitting, 10 girls can be found in a cluster at the entrance to the dugout, shouting and cheering their teammates on. Between batters, the girls exchange jokes, or advice. Not one of them is doing anything but smiling.
The girls are carbon copies of their coach across the field in the third-base coach’s box. That’s not because they’re parroting her. It’s because of the influence she’s had over the course of the summer.
“(Metsch) brings life to the team,” Ohley said. “We have a relationship with her outside of softball.”
It helps Metsch’s players to know she’s been through everything they going through.
“We feel we can relate to her,” Weaver said. “She’s been where we’ve been. We feel like she knows all the things we’re going through.”
It doesn’t hurt that Metsch practices what she preaches with her team.
“She gets right out there and does the drills with us,” Ohley said.
There’s good reason for Metsch doing that.
“I believe that if I can’t do something myself that I’m asking the girls to do, I shouldn’t ask them to do it,” she said. “I feel a coach should be willing to get on the field and do things with them.”
It’s not been all sunshine and rainbows for the Northern Ohio Softball team. But they enjoyed a great weekend in Jefferson, causing Metsch to run out of the dugout smiling ear-to-ear as she congratulated each of her players individually.
“This weekend feels 10 times better than last weekend,” Metsch said. “We had a lot of struggles last weekend. To see them pull themselves up and make the adjustments is an awesome feeling.”
It was more than a coach happy to record a championship. It was a young woman who cared about each girl under her tutelage.
“It’s a good feeling (to watch them succeed),” Metsch said. “The girls have become part of my life. I care about what happens to them on and off the field. It’s a great group of girls.”
And those are the types of coaches, no matter how old or young, who have the greatest influence on youthful athletes.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at email@example.com.