New coach steps up to bat in Park City
It’s going to take a lot for Park City High School’s new head softball coach Scott Chester to hit this one out of the park.
This past fall, he took over the reins of a varsity program that has had only a small handful of wins in three years and a nearly non-existent developmental program feeding into it.
The adjustment was a big one for the Southern California transplant. When he brought his family here two years ago, he came from coaching young girls the fundamentals of the game. Suddenly, he found he was faced with teenagers at roughly the same stage.
But Chester isn’t much for whining and making excuses. He wasted no time in organizing pre-season fall drills and is attempting to revamp the youth recreational softball program. This past week, he picked his high school team and has already told the girls that practicing and winning were "non-negotiables" under his system.
Before taking over the Miners’ program, Chester coached two teams in the Park City recreational league. It was there he said he saw potential and knew he could help the struggling prep program.
"There was a contingent of girls that are athletes," Chester said. "It’s a scenario where it hasn’t been a successful program for a few years. I thought I could bring a new energy."
That energy has turned into a non-stop fundamentals clinic led by Chester and his coaching staff that includes drills, game strategy and repetition.
He has also concocted a game schedule that the whole team can handle. In the preseason the girls will face .500 or less teams, and will hopefully be confident and prepared when they embark on the Region 10 schedule.
"The schedule isn’t easy, but we have a chance to compete," Chester said.
That chance is the basis of Chester’s coaching philosophy. The preseason workouts were the first chance. Then came the scheduling, and his final chance to compete came in the form of game strategy. The first game of the season was scheduled for Wednesday at Cyprus until snow forced a change, but Chester has already devised a plan to rattle their star pitcher.
Chester says that the first time he showed the girls a game strategy they were a bit surprised, but slowly and surely they are learning that there are plays that can target and take down any team.
One of the Miners’ positive attributes this season is their speed. Despite their lack of experience, Chester says that their ability to make quick plays should help them.
He also has confidence in his starting pitcher, Ivy Jorquira. She has been working for months on developing her repertoire of pitches and Chester is excited to see her perform on Wednesday.
"She’s a real gamer and works hard in practice, so hopefully that pays off," Chester said.
In previous years, the Miners weren’t always confident about pitching to some of the leagues best hitters, but this year, Chester says that the girls are heading into games with no fear. This confidence stems from a stepped-up defense that will allow the Miners’ pitchers to put the ball in play.
To address the girls’ focus, Chester has made all practices mandatory and maximum effort is demanded. With an earlier time change this year, Chester moved many games back to 3:30 p.m. so the girls wouldn’t miss a lot of school. He also demands that travel time in the bus be divided into, study and homework time first, and then game preparation.
"I think they are getting used to it. It is hard," Chester said. "I felt like they didn’t have a bad attitude, but they saw it as a party."
Chester hopes that this year is a new type of party, where the girls can celebrate after they compile a number of wins.
"They see I’m serious about it, but we’re going to have fun," Chester said. "It’s a process of change. I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen."
Now, the only obstacle Chester has yet to tackle is the uncooperative weather. No home games are scheduled until April due to snow; practicing on an actual diamond is out of the question. Until then, practices are being held at the Basin Recreation Field House and the Park City High School gymnasium until the girls can find some grass in Salt Lake on the weekends. Hopefully by mid-April they will be on their home field.
"It really affects outfielders, because they haven’t seen balls from 84 feet, but with all the snow in Salt Lake, those teams are dealing with the same thing," Chester said.
The Miners’ new plan doesn’t stop at the end of the prep season. Chester is already planning 16-and-under and 12-and-under competitive summer teams to help the girls maintain their skills year-round. During the season they will run a Little Lady Miners softball clinic to help the young girls in the recreational softball league learn the fundamentals at an earlier age.
"We’re trying to build youth softball here," Chester said.
Chester has outfitted the girls in new uniforms to go with all of the other changes. He has also decided to call them the "Lady Miners," to help them build a new identity.
"We’re the pansies of softball or at least teams see us that way," Chester said. "Our new mantra is ‘Same game, new attitude.’"
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