Aberdeen Girls Softball League Led by Dedicated Parents

 

By Tom Rohrer

aberdeen softball
The Aberdeen Girls Softball League is in its second season.

Strengthening the bonds between teammates will often lead to success. From youth sports to the highest levels of professional play, team camaraderie can be a strong indicator of success.

In the case of the Cosi Fire Department U8 softball team, within the Aberdeen Girls Softball League, friendship between the nine players has been as equally important as learning and practicing the games fundamentals.

Head coach Justin Walker, a three-sport star at Aberdeen High School in the early 1990s, has enjoyed witnessing the bonds and team play develop between the young sluggers.

“You can see those bonds form very easily,” said Walker, in his first year as a head coach within the league.  “Once it’s evolved and they become better friends, their play improves.  They have more trust and confidence in themselves and their teammates, and that’s what sports at this age is really about.”

Walker moved with his family to Aberdeen as a 10-year-old in the 1980s.  He would eventually run through his own little league experiences in both baseball and a variety of other activities.  Along with assisting league co-founder, Kyle Scott, last year, Walker is drawing upon his extensive playing experience at the youth and high school level.

“Seeing how Kyle approached coaching at this level was pretty big for me,” said Walker. “You want to learn how to teach the kids the right way.  I know the game and the fundamentals, but it’s important to understand who you’re teaching the game too.”

“It’s the same feeling you have as a dad,” said Walker, reflecting on coaching his daughter, Jaiden.  “When you see them catch the ball, or complete a double play, there is a lot of pride inside.  It’s a great feeling, and those moments are the best thing about coaching.”

aberdeen softball
Fifteen teams with girls ages five through fourteen make up the Aberdeen Girls Softball League.

The Cosi Fire Department squad is one of 15 teams spread across four different age groups (for ages 5-14) within the league.  Now in its second season through the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department, the league saw participation increase by 30 girls from the inaugural season to this spring.

For years, softball was played at the youth level through association with local baseball leagues.  Thanks to the efforts of Scott, Stacie Barnum and many others in the Aberdeen community, girls now have their own league, simplifying local logistics and providing local players with a sense of pride.

“The baseball leagues were always great but there was no set softball league, no board, those sorts of things,” said Scott.  “Now, it just makes things easier in the community in terms of where and when we can play and I think parents and the girls enjoy being able to say they belong to their own league.”

At the younger levels, coaches pitch to their own roster, up to ten players can be featured in the field defensively and batters receive five pitches no matter how quickly they reach three strikes.  Even though score is rarely kept and the rules differ from the older levels of play, Walker notices a strong competitive spirit on his team.

aberdeen softball
The Aberdeen Girls Softball League grew by thirty players in its second season.

“They want to do well and be successful and it’s a little surprising considering how young they are,” he said. “It’s not so much they want to win, it’s that they want to improve and see their teammates do well.  As a coach, you cannot ask for more.”

Jaiden Walker is joined by Emma Loomis, Savanah O’Connor, Lilly Camp, Alissa Dudley, Kaitlyn McCracken, Zoe Vessey, Laynie Yakovich and Emmersyn Yakovich.   Walker and his volunteer assistants Johnny Camp, George and Craig Yakovich, Steve McCracken and Josh Vessey are all inspired by the effort and perseverance the nine girls put forth.

“We practice two times a week and also have games twice a week.  And at the practices, we are working hard and a lot of times the weather is bad or we’re practicing in a gym,” said Walker.  “But no matter what, the girls are having fun.  That’s refreshing to see always – just young athletes playing for the love of the game and each other.”

According to Scott, coaches and parents, like Walker and his assistants, is what makes the AGSL so special.

“We run entirely off volunteers and the enthusiasm of our coaches and parents,” said Scott, who coaches two teams within the league.  “You go to Justin’s games, and there are six other parents in the dugout coaching and supporting the kids.  That’s what sets the foundation for this league.”

aberdeen softball
Parent volunteers, like Justin Walker and his assistant coaches for the Cosi Fire team, are critical to the league’s success.

With the season ending on Friday for Walker and his team, sights can be set on the future.  For Walker, coaching remains on the horizon.

“I have a younger son who I will probably coach as well, but I will coach for as long as these girls keep playing together,” said Walker, a painting contractor in Grays Harbor.  “It’s a journey I want to be a part of.”

For more information on the Aberdeen Girls Softball League, click here.

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