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Softball Team Rejuvenated by New Beginnings

For the past few years, the Carl Sandburg Softball team has had a steady reputation of success throughout the Chicago suburbs. Early on in the 2024 season, the team welcomed a new coaching staff who brought with it uplifting spirits for a new beginning. 

Last year, the softball program had two levels — a varsity and a junior level. This year under head coach Amanda Allison, the team has returned to a three-level program. 

Upon restoring the program to a three-level organization, the teams were able to begin a new journey of growth. With a focus on the varsity level, Coach Allison began to see results in the gameplay and attitude of her athletes. 

Four year varsity player Zoe Jeanes has seen the program evolve throughout her years in high school and explains that in this “positive environment, it inspired [them] to want to do better because [they] have someone who is supporting [them].”

Jeanes continues that this year “everything kind of feels like a success. Even if we lose a game, there’s always something to talk about and learn in our huddles, and I think that’s the biggest part of success. It’s that we learn from our mistakes and are supported and uplifted by those mistakes. We’re not brought down negatively, so it leads us to more success in game time when we have success in practice, huddles, talks, and anything like that.”

Photo courtesy of @SandburgSftball on Twitter

In general, the girls describe that the communication between coaches and athletes has been a key factor to the success of the program and the establishment of the culture within it. They share how all coaches will support them through rough days, make sure to celebrate their accomplishments, and motivate them to keep pushing themselves.

Diaz emphasizes this, sharing that “they communicate so well with us, and even when we mess up or do something they don’t agree with, they’ll ask. They won’t yell at us.”

Diaz recalls a game where she “was having a really rough day and was convinced that [Coach Allison] was going to pull [her], because from previous experiences, having one rough inning, you can get pulled. I was expressing to [my teammate] how much I was freaking out, and Allison kept me in the game.” Upon thanking her coach for believing in her, Coach Allison looked at her and said, “you got it, you just have to believe in yourself that you got it. I trust you.”

“They’re not soft on us. Sometimes, when we describe it, it makes it sound like they’re soft on us, but they’re not. They hold us accountable. It’s just their approach towards us [that’s] so different,” explains Diaz. 

All three new coaches have prior experience with the sport. Head coach Amanda Allison was the former assistant coach; one assistant coach was a pitcher who played at Sandburg, and the other assistant coach was the team’s former coach, who retired and won the team a 2010 state championship.

With this experience, coaches are able to understand and work with the players to help them reach their full potential. Jeanes describes how she sees Coach Allison “working on practice plans throughout the day and has everything step by step by step from player to player. She always says ‘I do things for a reason. Nothing is without reason.’”

 “They always take practice seriously. They’re always willing to go out, maybe run with us, or hit the balls — do our practice with us. They always make time for us and seem to put us first, in softball and in general,” Jeanes extends.

These changes of coaching strategy have brought big changes on and off the field. The team has gotten to connect through gameplay and outside team bonding activities. Amongst the most memorable is a rare in-the-park home run scored by Angelina Diaz, and the many critical wins that have built the team’s confidence. These moments fill the team with hopes of continuing to build their record and inspire them to set goals for significant success at the end of the season. 

Jeanes explains, “Our goal [this year] is to get that plaque for Coach Allison and make her proud of us and the program that she’s going to build and has built.”

“This is Coach Allison’s first year [as head coach]. We had her first win ever, which was also our first game. This first win, we all signed a ball for her. We had our first conference win. Then we had our first win against Bradley in so many years. Our first w[in] against Lincoln Way West in so many years. We always talk about having a legacy, planting our roots, and doing more than just our year, and I think having a regional championship will set a stepping stone for the next years,” adds Diaz. 

All in all, the girls intend to finish the year strong for their coach, seniors, and underclassmen. Diaz reports that there are three seniors on the team that will be playing at the collegiate level, and that they want to end the season on a high note for those who will be playing their last game of softball at Sandburg.

As for underclassmen, Jeanes and Diaz say that they “want to show them that it’s not just playing: It’s a family. It’s a community. It’s an environment. It’s so much more than just softball.” This attitude is what has been the key in transforming the team into a dynamic and cohesive family.

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