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26 March 2008
McGinnis Reflects on What Makes a Strong Team, Program

By: Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

When the Jacksonville State University softball team began its season this year, the Gamecocks were ranked second behind Tennessee Tech, the team that defeated them in last year’s OVC tournament.

As Coach Jana McGinnis talked to the Jacksonville Exchange Club on March 13, she was already looking forward to the rematch over the weekend.

“Tennessee Tech beat us last year in the bottom of the seventh with two outs on a walk-off solo home run and so we have wanted this rematch ever since we left Tennessee Tech last year,” said McGinnis as she spoke to the Jacksonville Exchange Club on March 13.

The Lady Gamecocks split the doubleheader, coming out on top in the opener 2-1 then falling to TTU in the second game 4-2.

Though the JSU softball team has enjoyed a winning record under McGinnis, she stresses having good character on and off the field more than good ball play.

“I see the importance of leadership and good people,” said McGinnis. “I tell our girls, good leaders aren’t the ones who say ‘Hey, follow me.’ The good leaders are the ones where their teammates say, ‘Hey, I want to follow her.’”

McGinnis calls her current team one of the “funnest, least stressful” teams she has ever coached and she credits that, in part, to the fact they are all good scholars as well as good athletes.

“Last semester we had a team GPA of 3.22 for a team of 18 girls,” said McGinnis as she explained the plaques outside her office for the RBI, Homerun and Grand Slam clubs based on each girls GPA. “It starts at 3.0, that’s our RBI club. Our Homerun club is 3.5 or higher and our Grand Slam club is 4.0 or higher. I’m very proud to say that 14 of the 18 players are on my wall.”

Last December, the group went out for a team-building campout at Terrapin Creek. It turned out to be one of the coldest nights of the year, but not only did the team bond and learn to work together, but McGinnis learned something important about this team – they are not complainers.

“No television, no nothing. It was a team bonding trip. I even made them turn in their cell phones before we went to Terrapin Creek,” said McGinnis. “We had the most fun and I never heard one girl complain.”

The team has had to come together under unusual circumstances this year, but has risen to the challenge. Ten days before the team’s season opener, their star pitcher went in for what was supposed to be a routine surgery and learned she would sit out this year.

“Your pitching is very important in our sport. The nature of our game is that it starts in the pitching circle and then it spreads out. Carla Pitman, who was picked preseason pitcher of the year in our conference, went in for what we thought was minor surgery,” said McGinnis. “Orthopedic surgeons found that, it could have been an injury all the way back to her childhood, her femur bone was dying.”

Pitman is on the road to recovery now, but will be red-shirted this year.

For McGinnis, it takes more than just her own talent and the talent of the players to build a winning program and she feels lucky to have assistant coaches who not only work well with the athletes, but complement her own coaching style as well.

“I’m very lucky that I have two assistants, Mark Wisener and Julie Boland,” said McGinnis, adding that Julie has been with her as a player or assistant for 11 years and Wisener has been with her for 14 years. “They’re in this job because they love it and they enjoy it – it’s fun.”

About Jennifer Bacchus

Jennifer Bacchus is a Staff Writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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