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The Grizzly Growl

The J’s Leaving the Nest

Legendary Coach Taking a Break... For Now

Girls+softball+team+huddled+for+game+strategy.+
Girls softball team huddled for game strategy.

Girls softball team huddled for game strategy.

Karlee Jacobson

Karlee Jacobson

Girls softball team huddled for game strategy.

Portia Price, Sports Editor

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Twenty-four girls walked into Coach Jentry Johnson’s classroom on the first day of school, fully anticipating a normal, first-week-type, softball, power-lifting class full of disclosures and expectations. Instead of these dull abominations, they were met with a heart-sinking announcement: After 6 years, and following another successful season in 2017, Coaches Johnson and Darby Freeland had made the decision to step down and resign from their softball coaching positions for personal reasons, leaving the girls speechless and unsure.

“My initial reaction when they told us was complete shock. I had no idea. My heart dropped and it didn’t really sink in until a few days later,” says Jordyn Forbush, Junior. Hearts are heavy with the idea of the change of leadership. Some of these girls have been coming to open gyms for 6 or 7 years with Coach J and Darby in charge, and they spent the last few years getting close to these coaches. During the season, they all spent 6 days of the week with each other between hours and hours of practices, games, and bus rides. Makaiya Gomez, Sophomore, adds, “Maybe they won’t be with us during long practices and games, or on the bus ride to Arizona, but I still and will always see them as my coaches.”

Nelly Villalabos, Senior, says, “I think coaches have everything to do with the success of the team. If the players and the coaches have the same mindset of working hard, then we will have a great end result.” Coach J and Darby constantly held all of these girls to high standards with high expectations on grades, attendance, work ethic, mental toughness, and behavior. They always kept the team on the right track and they played a huge part in the success of the softball program. Addy Tibbits, Junior, comments, “I expect us to have a little bit of a rough start as we try to learn to trust a new coach, but our team is tough and I know we will work hard to reach the goals that we have. I think we can still go far this year.”

Softball had a great season last year. The girls snuck up on a lot of teams and ended up placing third in state, suffering a heartbreaking 4-3 loss against Bingham in the semifinals. This all happened with a team lacking seniors, meaning every girl has the chance to return and the girls will have almost the exact same team as last year. Chloe Crebs, Senior outfielder, adds, “Losing a coach is hard, but I expect nothing less from the team this year. We had a great run last year, and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again with the same girls.”

Due to the resignation, the softball, power-lifting class was handed over to Coach Martinson. Kamryn Groce, a senior player said, “I think a lot of the girls were skeptical about the boys soccer coach taking over to train softball girls for the season, I know I was. Softball and soccer are two completely different sports, and we were all scared that he was going to make us run miles every day, even though we don’t really run distance in our sport. It’s definitely different without Coach J, but Martinson is doing a really good job pushing us to continue to work hard the way that we know how to.”

Benjamin Morley, the girls basketball coach, says, “Coaching is stressful. As high school coaches, we are doing a nearly full-time, year-round job guiding our programs, and at the same time, working full-time as teachers…not to mention the many other responsibilities we have. The demands on our time are tremendous.” Coaching isn’t an easy job, and many programs see mentors come and go all the time. Chloe Crebs, says, “[There’s] no question that we’re all going to miss J and Darby, but we know that they’ll always support us anyways. Regardless of who our coach is, we’re going to have a great season this year.” Softball is currently recovering from a minor setback, but the team fully expects to bounce back quickly and work hard to finish they started last year.

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The J’s Leaving the Nest