Blue Springs South High School softball credits 'family' and fun to team's success
An alert on Blue Springs South softball coach Kristi Williams' phone, which was sitting on the bench inside the team's dugout, indicated that lightning was in the area.
No sooner than you could say, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the Jaguars were off the field, and packing their gear.
It had been a competitive and fun-filled two-hour session, which Williams and seniors Elle Smith, Bailey Brumley and Lauren Good all anticipated because Tuesday was the team's annual classroom session, in which they confirm personal and team goals for 2021.
Before practice, the Jaguars met in Williams' classroom and wrote down a set of goals. They have been doing this since 2016, and it has led to unparalleled success.
"Not all the girls are going to have the same goals or the same leadership qualities, but by writing them down, if a player is struggling in one area, she can look to a teammate for help, watch and learn, and it always works," Williams said.
Smith, who has enjoyed a leadership role since her break out freshman season, said it works.
"One big reason for our success over the past several years has been team building and team success, and that all comes from Wills (Williams)," said Smith, the all-state center fielder who has committed to Indiana University. "Coach is all about bonding, and team building – she has been since I was a little tiny freshman, wonder what being on this great big varsity team was all about.
"Well, it was all about love, and respect and competition as we cared about each other like we were members of the same family."
That's how the Jaguars won back-to-back state titles in 2018 and 2019 after finishing second at state in 2016 and 2017. Their state final four run was halted last season by eventual state runner-up Lee’s Summit North in the district title game.
"We are a family," said Brumley, a stellar glove at first base who made a legacy first-to-home double play to end the 2018 state semifinal game. "And we love each other and we love our coaches. I remember back when Elle and Lauren and I were newbies, and we were immediately treated like members of the family. And that is a great feeling.
"And that is why we have had so much success over the years – because we care about each other, well, and we've had some great talent."
Good, a rock-solid third baseman, agrees with her senior teammates.
"Everyone says to enjoy your high school years because they go so fast – and that is so true. I still can't believe I'm a senior," Good said. "And I feel so lucky to be a part of a great team, with so many great girls. My best friends are on this team, and while Elle and Bailey and I are the only seniors, after just a few practices we all felt like we've played together forever."
She paused for a minute, and added, "And I feel sad knowing this is our last year, just because we have so much fun."
As if to punctuate that comment, the girls line up outside the dugout, with many jumping on their teammates' backs, for a goofy team picture.
"They have so much fun, but they are so competitive," Williams said. "They smile while they are kicking you in the teeth! I love that competitive side, and I love them. I came to practice today and didn't have a lot of energy, but just by being around them, I'm energized and don't want practice to end."