Beverly Smith Gives Update On Gamecock Softball
COLUMBIA, S.C. —- South Carolina softball head coach Beverly Smith provided an update on Wednesday for fans to catch everyone up on all things Gamecock softball with the events that have occurred since Carolina last played on March 11 against Winthrop.
Carolina closed the 2020 season with a 17-6 record and now turns its attention to a fall campaign in which it will welcome 10 freshmen (Madison Gallagher, Carlie Henderson, Kylee Gleason, Zoe Laneaux, Aaliyah White, Skylar Trahan, Leah Powell, Carly Robbins, Riley Blampied and Leslie Carroll) and returns 17 (Bailey Betenbaugh, Hannah Kumiyama, Karsen Ochs, Madison Owens, Jordan Fabian, Haley Simpson, Kelsey Oh, Rachel Vaughan, Anna Vest, Kassidy Krupit, Lauren Stewart, Kenzi Maguire, Mackenzie Boesel, Cayla Drotar, Alex Fulmer, Katie Prebble and Alyssa Kumiyama).
QUESTION: All right. We’re here with head coach Beverly Smith. We are back at Carolina’s softball team at Beckham field. Wanted to kind of catch everyone up with where we’ve been since we last talked, so the last time we talked, we were playing March 11th here against Winthrop and then in the coming days, obviously everything changed and our players got sent home quickly and we just got them back. What has this process been like for you, emotionally going through the loss of a season and everything that’s happened since then?
“Yeah, that’s it has been awhile since we’ve been together and it’s really unbelievable when you think about it. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to finish the 2020 season, just because I think our team was poised to make a great run and we didn’t get to play that out. However, it’s one of those times where you recognize you’ll know exactly where you were in that moment in time that we’re really living through history and our players are living through history with a pandemic. And so, I think they will never forget the conversation we had in the locker room and the seriousness of the issue. So, it’s definitely a point where we’re living through history. It was interesting to navigate that, and you go from being together every day to Zoom calls and not seeing each other, so I feel really fortunate that we’re all back together now.”
QUESTION: And that last week while we were still transitioning, sending people home, and figuring everything out with this pandemic, what were the conversations like with the staff and with the team? What was it like around here?
“It was just a level of questions. I mean, it’s so rare in our industry, we’re so scheduled and systematic about things that here is something that’s out of your control and you don’t know the answers to it. So, it was definitely unchartered territory and you know for me, it was the missing element of having the team and the daily interaction with the team that was so different.”
QUESTION: And you talked a little bit about the Zooms, but over the summer and as this has gone on, what has the communication been like for meeting as a staff, meeting as a team? What has that been like? What have some of the challenges been and has there been new ways to communicate?
“Yeah, I think one of the things is learning that we can be virtual and be efficient. We’ve kept our standard weekly staff meeting. It was just on Zoom every week. But we tried to stay as scheduled and productive as we could be. I think our staff did a great job continuing their growth mindset. Lots of clinics and learning ourselves, personal learning. And I think for our team, the same thing. We tried to do some programming just about with leadership, with our culture. I think we took on some social justice issues and really dove into that after George Floyd and that awful summer we had from a social justice standpoint, so we did some programming with our team in regard to that, as well.”
QUESTION: And what have some of those conversations been like with the team?
“I think, hopefully, moving. I would say hopefully that conversations with the team have been educational and moving and our team can be empathetic and really better themselves, so I think they were all positive.”
QUESTION: And for a while there, with the loss of the season, we’re waiting for good news and we’re waiting for good news and finally we get the news that you know our seniors get an extra year and then it’s the wonder “Okay, are we going to get all of our seniors back?” And then we get the good news that we get Kenzi back, we get Mackenzie, we get Lauren, and you get obviously Cayla coming back, as well. So, you get the full senior class coming back. How exciting was that, to know that we’re going to get them another year here?
“Yeah, it’s such dark times when the season felt like it was taken away from us. You really felt for the seniors. And so, when that news came out that we could have, we call them ‘COVID seniors’ now. That our COVID seniors had the opportunity to come back. The next factor in that is that South Carolina supported them coming back financially. And then that they all took the opportunity to come back. So, to feel like our whole team is intact with the addition of these freshmen is an awesome feeling.”
QUESTION: You mentioned the administration welcoming them back and being willing to have them come back. How important was that to show that we are standing behind our student athletes like this?
“Well I think that’s how South Carolina treats our student athletes and it’s all about the student athlete experience here. And I think you’ve seen nationally that that’s not the case everywhere. It’s just for some schools, it’s a financial issue. Other schools decided to move in different directions, but South Carolina’s committed to our student athletes and I think that was an example of our commitment.”
QUESTION: And as the summer went on, we continued to look for more reasons to celebrate and we had one. We had your ten-year anniversary that we got to celebrate. What was that like, getting to see a bunch of former players reaching out wishing you well wishes and just getting to celebrate ten years here?
“Well first of all, thank you for that. Cause that was again another just positive feeling during COVID times. So, I was really appreciative of that and gosh, it does not feel like ten years. I’m telling you. Outside of looking at the pictures of myself from ten years ago and knowing that my alumni now have children are the only things that really make me think it has been ten years. But just I felt a lot of pride. Pride for the program and how much we’ve accomplished. Pride for our student athletes and seeing what they’ve gone on to do. I’m just really proud of all their successes and actually that was one cool thing we did during COVID with our alumni. We had a happy hour with each alumni class of mine over ten years and those were a blast. To catch up with everybody and see what they’re doing. Those were some really fun Zoom calls.”
QUESTION: And of course, some of the alumni reaching out were part of your coaching tree that you’ve built. How exciting is that to see in your ten years that you have such an expansive coaching tree already? And that had tons of great things to say about you that they learned here under you?
“Yeah that was honestly that was really that was very special. I think that’s something as a coach when you have players who gone on to be in coaching it’s not just collegiate coaching. We’ve got players who own their own hitting facilities, are running summer teams, who are high school coaches. And I just think so much of what we do is impact others. And I’m so proud that we’ve got alumni who decided to join the profession.”
QUESTION: And another question, I’m curious to see from you that I asked outsiders looking in, especially from that first year, what is the biggest difference you see in the program from that first year to this year? And so, for you, what are some differences you see in the program from that first year to now?
“I think from year one to now: year ten. I mean look around the stadium, you know, just walking up to Beckham field. It’s a completely different look and feel. You know we opened the stadium in 2013, which was my second season and just to have the top-notch facilities that we have here are spectacular. And then, to look and we just added the new video board last year. Another example of our administration’s support of the softball program here. But outside of the facilities, I just think from year one to year ten, the type of recruits we’re able to attract, the talent level, and you know that goes back to all of the players who were here before. I mean they really laid the foundation for allowing us to recruit and compete at a national level.”
QUESTION: When you talk about the facilities. I mean how cool is it every day to get to come out here and you see this beautiful locker room and this beautiful stadium that in the spring has large crowds and you just opened this new video board. I mean how special of a place is this?
“It is. It’s so special and I pinch myself sometimes honestly. Our players were recruited to this stadium and they know what the locker room is like and the crowd on game day and everything. We have everything here that a player needs to be successful, but I say it all the time. Columbia’s a special place.”
QUESTION: And moving ahead then, we had our new Freshman Class move in. A little different looking move in day this year with all of our COVID protocols, but we got them in safely with the masks and testing. What has that been like having this Freshman Class in here?
“Fantastic. This group has been waiting years to be here. They were a result of early recruiting, so they’re really a very highly touted class. High talent, high character athletes and we have ten, so we could have a full-on scrimmage, freshmen versus returners, if we wanted. But a great group of freshmen and I’m just thrilled they’re here on campus.”
QUESTION: And wrapping it up here, next week you get to go out with individuals again, you get to work on the field with the players. What is that going to be like for you guys?
“We can’t wait honestly. They’ve spent the last two weeks conditioning, weightlifting, and we’re just ready to get on the field and get the bats and balls going. But it’ll be exciting just to see the Freshmen work out and be here and I’m just I’m so excited to get on the field with them.”
QUESTION: And last question, overall, what’s the game plan for this fall? What are you hoping to achieve out of this fall with this group?
“Well it’s going to be a different fall. We won’t have outside competition this fall. So, and truthfully, I’m excited about it. I think we’ve got a big roster. We’ll be able to do inner squad scrimmages, so we’ve got a seven-game series scheduled for our team and I’m really excited about seeing what our team can do against each other.”
QUESTION: Coach, thank you for your time. We’re really happy to be back out here.
“Yeah, thank you Patrick.”
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