Hillcrest softball coaches change during COVID-19, program building to be competitive
Aug 03, 2020 11:08AM
By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High senior softball players only got to play a couple games this season before the cancellation of spring sports in response to COVID-19 pandemic. (Ashley Anjewierden/Hillcrest High softball)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
It wasn’t the way Hillcrest High’s Scott Carrell expected his last coaching softball season to go—shortened after three games.
“I was ready for a break, but didn’t expect it to be this quick,” he said, after the Utah High School Activities Association cut the spring sports season short and terminated the rest of the season, because of social distancing and health guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had the most athletically talented team and could have competed for the region title.”
Carrell has built the softball team from 10 girls trying out his first two years to an average of 50.
Although Carrell is stepping down and his five-year assistant, Ashley Anjewierden, will take the helm, he isn’t leaving Hillcrest. Carrell will continue as co-athletic director with Sally Williams, and teach in the career and technical education department. However, by not coaching, he will be more available to watch his Riverton High freshman daughter play as well.
“I’ll miss the relationships we built with the girls and their families. We become united and into a family ourselves, so it feels as if I have 26 to 28 daughters,” he said.
In fact, even though the team’s season ended during the soft closure of schools, Hillcrest softball coaches still held a virtual banquet to send on their six seniors as well as announce Carrell’s retirement and the hiring of Anjewierden as head coach.
Along with Anjewierden, Carrell said he expects great things next spring from some of his returning players: pitcher and junior Maddie Sluga and pitcher and right fielder, senior Aspen Small.
“They’re student-athletes who know how to compete,” Carrell said.
Anjewierden said she expects to have a “full roster with a decent senior class” next year as well as some promising freshmen.
“We had many younger players this year, some with a lack of experience, so I’m hoping to focus on developing player skills and get them mentally focused,” she said. “So much of this game is mental.”
Anjewierden said she has an advantage into stepping into the head coach role since she has learned from the past seasons and has a perspective of where the team needs to go.
“Our girls are resilient, so it’s a matter of physical fitness and understanding the game and gaining that mental part. We’ve built this program so our returning upper-class players understand the skill base. Some of them started having never even seen a softball in their lives, but now they can hit a line drive. Right now, we’re wanting the girls to get into condition—drilling, fielding and taking care of their bodies,” she said.
She also wants to breakdown skills and go over footwork in the offseason.
Many of the softball players are multiseason athletes so Anjewierden said eating healthy and being in condition are priorities for all their sports.
“When it’s another sport, for many of them that’s basketball, then that sport is their priority during that season,” she said, understanding that as she lettered four seasons in softball and basketball and two in volleyball at Jordan High before graduating in 2012.
However, every season is homework season.
“Just like in years past, we’ll spend Wednesday mornings before school having study time, seeking teachers and catching up if they’ve fallen behind on game days. We want them to work together on and off the field, but as student-athletes, they’re students first,” Anjewierden said.
They also may help in their community performing service projects.
“It’s all part of community. The community raises you up, it brings the culture of success around you, so it’s good for us to build up the community, and it makes us a better team,” she said.
Anjewierden also hopes to hold more middle school clinics to introduce the sport to those student-athletes and to build more interest in the sport. She already introduces softball in classes she teaches at Mt. Jordan Middle School, where she is a physical education and health teacher.
“I’m really excited about our program and our players. We’re looking forward to playing a full season next spring,” Anjewierden said. “I’ve had five years as an assistant to help me grow into the coach I am and want to be. We have something special at Hillcrest; we’re a family and we’re wanting to work to get better.”