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
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
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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