It has been more than seven years since the Tennessee State University softball team has finished with a winning season. The past three seasons alone, the Lady Tigers have gone for a subpar 47-112 win loss total. The Tennessee State University ball club looks to turn things around this season after they hired their fifth head softball coach back in May 2014. The team has found a new leader in Hyde Park, NY native Tom Opdenbrough who has replaced former head coach Jeff Dabney. With no returning coaches, Coach Opdenbrouw will have his hands full as the team only returns five players from last season, which means the girls will have to come in focused and ready to learn.
“We’re new, with a lot to prove. We are a hard working group of players that each bring something different to the team and are coming into the season as underdogs in our conference, which is only motivation for us all. This year’s team is hungry with high expectations,” said Knoxville, TN native Lauren Dreitlein.
The teams training camp was nothing short of challenging but did what they needed to do to better themselves as a team.
“Other than team practices and conditioning, I keep my body healthy and ready for the long 56 game stretch. Extra practice on my own is where a lot of my preparation lies. I make it a priority to get in extra reps or work on anything weak in my game. The team worked hard in the preseason with practices (sometimes 2-a-days), weight lifting, and mental toughness exercises. Team moral and chemistry has been great so far and will only continue to improve as the season progresses,” said Dreitlein.
“Well, everybody’s new to me, so it’s one of those situations where I’m treating everyone the same. We’re trying to get to know each other, they’re trying to get to know different coaches. Throughout the process, they’re trying to understand the importance of work ethic and the “how-to” win,” said Opdenbrough.
Whether talking about the focus points, expectations, or individuals, Opdenbrough always had a “day-to-day” mentality.
“The expectations are to get better every day, and to win every game…pursuit of excellence, to let the process manage the results. I feel like if we do the right things in the process, the results will take care of themselves. One thing we have to remember is that our mental game is just as important if not more important than our physicality.”
Because these girls come from places ranging from Maine, California, to Hawaii, theres no telling the different coaches styles they have had to learn, but Coach Opdenbrough will make it his goal to get them all on the same page. Coach also adds that the challenge is not the talent, but finding how that talent fits together and describes his team as a “puzzle,” and is determined to get all the right pieces in the right place. This hard working gritty group of girls as coach described them, concluded their season opening double-header with losses to the University of the Incarnate Word, and Central Arkansas. The Lady Tigers captured their first win of the season against the University of Memphis and now hold a 1- 4 record under Opdenbrough.