Softball team aims for daily improvements

Autumn Schulz, Softball Reporter

Asking any team at Eastern to reflect on what happened back in March is a difficult thing to do and it is not getting any easier by any means. No one is safe from feeling the effects that COVID-19 has imposed. As COVID-19 spread in March, so did the feelings of immense heartbreak and fear of what is to come.

These feelings were anything but strange to the women’s softball team as players all faced an immense challenge: telling the seniors their season was officially canceled.

“At that point, we didn’t know if they would have the opportunity to come back. So telling them that our season was over was extremely difficult and heartbreaking,” head coach Tara Archibald said.

Archibald was hired as the new head coach in August 2019 and was able to lead her team through several games before the season was cut short in March. She admitted that her first season as a Panther was nothing like she expected. However, she credits the hardworking dynamic of her team for making her first year extremely enjoyable. She is excited for the seasons to come.

“They worked so hard, and it was so exciting to see their progress throughout the year,” Archibald said. “When it ended so quickly, it was obviously devastating in many ways, but overall I would say my first year as a head coach was extremely enjoyable,” Archibald said. “I feel so blessed to be here at EIU, and I’m so excited for the years to come.”

Returning to the field during a global pandemic has been anything but easy for the team. The players have come to realize that it’s the little things they miss most, yet Archibald and her team have come to appreciate every opportunity that arises to get their cleats dirty. Archibald said she reminds her team and staff that returning to the field during a global pandemic is a gift that everyone should be thankful for.

“It’s the little things like social distancing in team huddles, no high fives or hugs, small things that we are just so used to and really miss. However, we are just so thankful to be back on the field,” Archibald said. “So as tough as some of the challenges we are currently facing may be, every day we take the field is a gift and we are very grateful for that gift.”

Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on the team, they still manage to keep their goals in sight. Of course, the OVC Championship is always on their radar. But Archibald said there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to say they all got 1 percent better after a long day of hard work.

“Our players are very excited for this season and look forward to having the opportunity to continue building on the great progress they made last year,” Archibald said. “The ultimate goal is to win an OVC Championship, but our daily focus is on continuing to grow as a team and working hard every day to get 1 percent better.”

With any NCAA Division I team, there is a great sense of leadership from coaches to players. The softball team is no stranger to this concept. Archibald stresses that in order to be successful as not only a head coach but as a team, you have to empower all players to be leaders. There are many different types of leaders on a team, one just as important as the other, Archibald said.

“We try to empower all of our players to be leaders,” Archibald said. “Some are vocal leaders, some lead by example, some are strong academic leaders and some are still working to figure out what their leadership style is, but I want all of our players, regardless of their age, to learn to lead in some way.”

The women’s softball team looks forward to starting its highly anticipated season once the spring semester begins at Eastern.

 

Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]