Bringing softball knowledge home from Down Under
Shelly Koehler and Shannon Buhler rode their softball ability all the way to Australia.
Koehler, a local player and Summit High School coach, and Buhler, the Tigers’ starting shortstop, recently returned from two weeks of games in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sydney. The pair returned from the trip, organized by the Coast to Coast softball program, on Monday.
Koehler coached the team, which consisted of more than a dozen high school girls who had never met or played together. Buhler overcame a shoulder injury and played infield with and against some of the best players she has ever seen.
Both expect the experience to help the Tigers when they reconvene for the 2003 season in August.
“She played with those who are better than her. That is what is going to make Shannon a better player,” Koehler said. “She can bring that to the team. Plus, I learned a lot from the college coaches.”
There were two American teams, and Koehler was the head coach of one. Her fellow American coaches all came from the college level.
Koehler said the Tigers will notice a slight difference in her coaching this fall as she begins her third year as head coach.
“Some of them may not like it,” Koehler said. “It won’t change a whole lot how I do things. My expectations might be a little higher, especially for myself, to make sure I communicate exactly what they are capable of.”
The real triumph of the fortnight was the speed with which the team came together and understood each other’s roles.
“When you have a team you don’t know very well, you just have to get to know the players,” Buhler said. “Everyone bonded really well for playing together for just a short amount of time.
“I had so much fun,” she added. “I just wish it was a little longer.”
Buhler tried out for the team as a freshman. She was selected for the team then but couldn’t pull off the trip financially until this summer.
“It just sounded like a really good opportunity to play with girls from all over the country,” she said.
The team went 3-2 in its practice games leading up to a tournament at the 2000 Olympic stadium in Sydney. Eight teams from America, Australia and New Zealand competed. Koehler’s squad went 3-7.
“For the competition we were up against, I felt we did very well,” Koehler said.
Forgoing summer ball
Buhler is playing with a travelling team in Eagle this summer, but most of the incoming SHS varsity roster has stayed away from the diamond.
That is different from the past two summers, when Koehler coached a 16-and-under team with Summit Competitive Girls Softball. The club does have a 14-and-under team this year under coach Don Clark, which will help the high school team in terms of incoming freshmen. But most of the varsity players will come in fresh when practice starts Aug. 11.
“It could be really great,” Koehler said. “The girls could just be so excited to be there for the next two months that they give it their all. Whereas, in the summer, they’ve been playing for three months in the heat, and they are pretty much over it.
“I’m not quite sure what the expectations will be. I might have to ingrain the skills a little bit more, but I think the desire will be higher.”
“It will be different,” Buhler said. “A lot of the team hasn’t picked up a bat or a ball all summer, so it might take some time to get back into it.”
New assistant coach
The SHS team will go from two assistants to one this season. Koehler hired Laura Wieher, who will fill the role of former assistants Lori Testa and Courtney Walton.
The program didn’t have a junior varsity team last season, and Koehler won’t know whether it will this season until the first week of practice. For now, though, two coaches is plenty.
“I think it will be a lot more efficient with just two of us,” Koehler said. “Three was great. It worked while we had it. But I didn’t see any reason to have three (this year).”
Wieher was a junior varsity assistant last season at a high school in Illinois, which happens to be Koehler’s home state. Wieher moved to Breckenridge last month.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at email@example.com.
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