EVERYONE HAS A STORY

Sulphur coach devoted to his Sweethearts

BY WARREN ARCENEAUX AMERICAN PRESS



   SULPHUR _ There's a spot reserved for Greg English on the Sulphur Parks and Recreation Department's Hall of Heroes. It won't be filled anytime soon.


   -They can't put the picture up until I retire, "and that is not going to happen anytime soon," said English, who wrapped up his 25th year of coaching girls softball this year.


   English became a head coach out of necessity. After volunteering to help on his daughter's team, he unexpectedly was put in charge when the original head coach went on vacation. More than two decades later, he is still coaching the 12-year-old Sweethearts.


   "I don't have any girls playing, no one in my family plays any more, but I have always enjoyed the game and teaching it to the girls, - he said. "This year was a lot of fun. The girls really got along well with each other, so everyone was at each game and each practice. They were a great group."


   English took a different approach to the team this year. Instead of choosing new players himself, he allowed the players from last year's team to select the newcomers at the draft.


   "We had a good group last year, but about half of them moved up to the next age group," he said.


   "I let the girls from last year decide who the new players would be. I told then not to look for the best players, but to pick their friends and the ones they would want to play with, the ones they would have the most fun with. When all of the girls are friends and feel close to each other, none ever wants to let the others down, so they always want to be there."


   This year the Sweethearts went 11-1 in the recreation league. English entered the team, as is, in all-star tournaments, even though they would have little chance of winning there.


   "Since the state tournament for this age group was being held in Lake Charles, we entered some tournaments, even though we are a recreation team and really don't belong in the allstar tournaments. But it gave the girls a chance to play together a little bit longer, and allowed them see what it is like to play at a higher level. The parents liked it because they did not have to travel every weekend like the allstars did. So we have had fun even though we have not been winning games.


   English said his career has lasted so long because of a stroke of luck in falling into the 12-year-old age group.


   I am a middle school teacher, so coaching that age group is just like my day job, said English, a history teacher at Oak Park Middle School.


   The big difference is that kids in the classroom have to be there, and kids at the softball park choose to be there. So you have to put on more of a show in the classroom to make it fun for the kids. It is the same philosophy in softball: keep it fun for the kids. In both cases, a lot of it is listening to them, making sure they have an equal say.


   English and the team's history is now maintained on a Web site, www.SweetHearts83.com. The site includes boxscores from every game English has coached, photo galleries, a history of the team's colorful uniforms, team photos, and more.


   Now, the girls will call an hour after the game and ask why that night�s box-score is not up, English said. It used to be that I kept the old scorebooks and no one ever asked about it. But know the Web site makes it easy, I can just put practice and game information up there instead of having to call all of the parents.


   English formally coached all-star teams in the competitive summer tournament circuit, but says his style is more suited to the recreation league, which places more emphasis on participation and teaching of the game.


   I am not going to fight someone over a softball game, English said. I did that tournaments for a while, that is much more intense. In rec ball, it is more about making sure the girls have a good time and learn the skills needed to play the game. No one gets all worked up about it. After the game, the girls may want to know if they won or lost, then they go get something to drink or a snow cone and they are fine. I enjoy teaching the girls. I have a great time every year, no matter if we were 1-13 or 13-1.


   English's style drew praise from members of this year's team.


   He works with you on your weaknesses and helps you get better, said Terrah O�Quinn.


   - "He is a good coach, he is fair and does not get mad and yell all the time," said Taylor Watkins. "Last year we did not win that many games but this year we only lost one in the rec league. It has been a good year because we have all become friends."


   - "That helps us win because we are not selfish, we play as a team because we are good friends," said Jeanette Fontenot.


   - "Coach Greg, he gives you more experience that a lot of other coaches. He is fun to play for," said Blanche McGee.


   English said his space on the wall will remain empty for quite some time. I told them they might as well put someone else up there. I am going to keep coaching as long as it is fun. It still is, and I am going to keep right on going.


Warren Arceneaux, Everyone Has a Story, column runs each Monday. Know someone with a story to tell? He can be reached at 494-4086 or warceneaux@americanpress.com.

photo by KEN SHEARMAN / AMERICAN PRESS

Teacher Greg English has been the coach of the Sweethearts softball team for 25 years.

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