COVID-19 has forced changes, closures, cancellations and frustration. Throughout this time, coaches have found unique ways to stay connected with their teams. One of those is Amanda Sheffield, coach for Glory Adkins, a traveling softball team which is part of a national organization that boasts teams across Texas and the nation.
Sheffield, who has been coaching for 14 years, is a former Howard Payne University first-team, all-conference softball player who led the NCAA Division III in triples during the 2003 season. Sheffield played softball and basketball for several years while growing up. These accolades, and more in the coaching realm have led to a love and passion for sports, and even more, the athletes.
Hearing the season had been postponed was tough. “It was disappointing when we heard the news that the season was on hold,” Sheffield said. “It is a challenge to not get to do something we love, so it was tough to accept the news.”
The athletes also struggled with the news. “Our girls were so hungry to play that it was hard for them to accept that we would not be playing for an extended time,” Sheffield said. “So many of these girls have worked hard in the offseason to develop their games and so many worked so hard to make the team that it was disappointing to know that things would be put on hold.”
Parents of the athletes were also affected by the season’s postponement. “There is nothing more special than watching your child perform and play something they love, so the news was tough for them,” Sheffield said. “They invest so much time and love into supporting their children in this travel ball endeavor that they too were disappointed.”
With Glory having divisions from 8U to 14U in this area, Sheffield said not being able to play, let alone practice, has been difficult for the coaches as well. “When I was in college, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Cancer. It was a devastating and heartbreaking time in my life and sports career. I remember as I was in warm-ups before a college basketball game just after receiving the news, the assistant coach handed me a note from my dad. The note said, ‘You can't control what happens, but you can control how you handle it.’ That message is exactly how the girls have responded to this challenge,” Sheffield said. “They want to play so badly but are unable to due to things beyond their control and in the mix of all that they have handled it like true winners. They continue to work hard, smile and challenge themselves to get better on their own.”
To combat not being able to practice as a team, Sheffield has been leaning on technology to stay connected with the players and hold practices.
“Life is compiled of challenges and so for us, this setback is not going to stop us from reaching for excellence,” Sheffield said. “We hold weekly Zoom meetings with our teams. We discuss game situations, signals and how our workouts were that week. We use white boards to compose situations the girls can see.”
Maintaining spiritual strength is also important during this time, Sheffield explained. “We create lists of what makes athletes successful, teams successful, and what makes us successful as children of God. Myself and the other coaches are also creating workouts for our athletes to complete each week and once completed they must let their coach know. Often times we encourage them to send us pictures or videos of their workouts. I also post a weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes devotional to make sure their growth with Jesus is also being nurtured, that is important to me.”
Facebook and GroupMe are also used to stay connected. “We try to post drills for our girls to do on our Facebook page and even do drawings for prizes for the athletes that take part in doing those drills on their own,” Sheffield said. “I have also sent the girls care packages with some treats and a handwritten note enclosed. I want them to know how much I appreciate their hard work while we are apart and also how much I cherish the opportunity to be their coach.”
Making sure lines of communication are open between coaches and athletes is important, Sheffield said. “It is really special to see them face to face in a Zoom meeting and keep the connection and bond between us strong. All of these efforts are made by our coaches in the Glory organization in Brownwood because we truly care and take pride in these girls and their families. When you are dealt lemons, you make lemonade right? This is really such a great lesson for these girls to learn, and experience.”
Watching as the players continue to practice on an individual basis is a source of pride for Sheffield. “The coronavirus has been such a sad time of loss and struggle for so many, but in the face of that, I have watched these girls rise to the occasion. They are making me so proud with their work ethic and determination. To be a young lady/girl and not know when your season will ever start but continue to put in the work each and every day is remarkable. They are building character during such an uncertain time, and it is inspiring to watch and see.”
COVID-19 has provided opportunities to learn and grow, Sheffield said. “The girls can learn such a valuable life lesson from this experience. First, they will see how the God of this universe will never leave them, and secondly, they will have the determination to work to conquer any challenge that life may ever throw their way.”
Once the “norm” returns, the plan is to have a season. “We will just have to be patient with the timing,” Sheffield said. “Our season traditionally ends at the end of July and I anticipate it going further into August or potentially the fall. It is important for the girls to get to play because they have worked so hard. At this point, we will be patient and continue to make strides on our own until we can play again.”
Glory Adkins is a traveling softball team which offers more individual attention to detail for athletes because the goal is to develop players for the next age division, high school and even college. “Practices are a bit more intense than what a local recreational experience would offer and athletes compete in many more games than what a traditional city league schedule offers,” Sheffield said. “The girls receive a lot of attention to detail and disciplined workouts, along with so many game reps, that they make great strides from playing tournament ball.”
The local Glory teams participate in tournaments in Brownwood, Waco, Abilene, San Angelo and the Metroplex. “The glory organization has a motto of ‘attitude and effort,’” Sheffield said. “Those are two things every athlete and even person can control, and we want our athletes to display these two characteristics to the best of their ability, because as an organization, we believe these are game changers for our teams on the field and in life.”