Lately, most of Delaware has been treated to some unseasonably warm temperatures, giving us all an early taste of spring. This Wednesday, another sign of the changing seasons came with the start of spring practices for high school sports.
While spring is all about new beginnings, the St. Georges Tech Hawks softball program is beginning a new era of their own with a new head coach in former Red Lion and Wilmington University standout Shannon Brantley.
Brantley played five seasons at Red Lion as a pitcher, making the team as an eighth-grader. She helped lead several playoff runs while at Red Lion, captaining the team for three seasons and earning First Team All-State honors as a senior.
Collegiately, Brantley continued her strong play earning CACC All-Conference honors along with being named Wilmington University’s team MVP last season.
Coaching was always something Brantley envisioned taking on one day. Though, with her teaching degree nearly finished, her plan was to work her way into coaching with whichever school hired her as a teacher. As it turns out, the coaching opportunity presented itself first.
“I’ve always known that my playing days in softball would end and that coaching would be the way to stay in the game that I love and have dedicated a huge portion of my life to,” Brantley said. “I love playing softball and I love sharing what I’ve learned in this sport.”
Brantley’s experience as a player and the desire to spread her knowledge and love for the game created an overwhelming drive when it came to pursuing a coaching career.
“I’ve had coaches who coach to build up young lady’s integrity and character and I’ve had coaches who put winning above all else and will demean players for poor performance,” said Brantley. “This had been my motivation for wanting to coach. I want to build characteristics like integrity and perseverance through hard work and encouragement rather than playing for the fear of losing or fear of what others may think.”
Throughout her career, Brantley has built a reputation - one that helped her earn head coaching duties at St. Georges Tech.
“St. Georges Tech contacted me about the position on the recommendation of a former coach of mine and they stressed the desire to build the character of the team along with the success of the team,” Brantley said. “This is what attracted me to this position, I feel the administration’s philosophy at St. Georges and mine match perfectly which is why I’m very excited to have this opportunity to build a program that I would want to play in.”
Brantley isn’t too far removed from her playing days, which she believes will give her an advantage when it comes to relating with her players.
“Having just played college ball last season offers me an advantage in coaching the next crop of softball players coming up,” Brantley said. “I know the mechanics, fundamentals and dedication needed to succeed at the next level. I feel I have an advantage coaching high school softball due to my reputation as a player in this area.”
“Having recent local success earns me respect with the girls as I found out at our first meeting, most of the girls knew me and have followed my career. I already knew many of them, as well, as I have worked with many of them - helping their travel ball teams or had them in pitching and catching clinics both through college and private lessons that I perform.”
As Brantley already mentioned, she met with her team before Wednesday where she was able to spread her message to players and parents and ultimately relay the goals they hope to reach together.
“We have had two interest meetings and one parent meeting - in the meetings I stressed the commitment and intensity level I expect of all players. I also shared with the girls my philosophy to coaching which is to direct and encourage players for the love of the game rather than the fear of failure,” Brantley said. “Emphasis was also placed on academics, first and foremost, and integrity and character of a student athlete. Our expectations presented were respect for all both on and off the field, effort in both softball and the classroom, and encouragement of others. I expect my players to come ready to work and give 100 percent.”
While Brantley has yet to coach a game with the Lady Hawks, she hopes to create something special at St. Georges Tech. When it comes to goals for the season, Brantley first mentioned the expectations she has for how her players present themselves.
“I hope to build the St. Georges softball team into a program - I want my players to demonstrate excellent behavior and character knowing that they are a representation of our team everywhere they go,” Brantley said. “I want outsiders to see a difference in St. Georges’ softball.”
Most importantly, Brantley wants to build her players confidence and push them to be great every day they take the field. After that, Brantley hopes to help mold a conference and state contender.
“My players will be pushed in all areas of life to be the best they can be,” said Brantley. “When we can develop that, we will have something special and I want to give as many kids the opportunity to be a part of something like that. Some personal goals I have for the upcoming season is to win our conference and place in the state tournament.”
St. Georges Tech will take the field for their first game on Wednesday, March 22 when they travel to take on Conrad.