It’s a new beginning for the Newton softball program, as father/daughter combo Greg Cowan and Ashley Coles take over as head coach and assistant head coach respectively.
The Rams are coming off a solid season that saw them go 9-8 and reach the state playoffs before getting bounced in the first round. Cowan is taking over from previous coach Virginia Waters who he served under as an assistant.
Enter: Coles and Hodge
“Coach Waters was good to me. I helped her over the years. I’ve got my daughter Ashley Coles, she’s the assistant head coach with me. We’ve hired Heather Hodge —she’s a girl that played here locally at Eastside High School like my daughter did. She (Hodge) winded up playing four years of college so I’ve got two assistant coaches this time that have four years of college under their belt. That’s really helping the program,” Cowan said.
Coles will work with pitchers and catchers, Hodge with the infield and outfield and Cowan with the operation as a whole.
“I’ve been working with the girls mostly every week on pitching,” Coles said. “I haven’t worked too close with the catchers because they’ve been playing a lot of travel ball so we’ve kind of had times where they weren’t at practice and things like that. Mostly with the pitchers we’ve been working just on location and nailing down exactly our plans for the season; what pitches to throw when and at what times.”
Coles has significant collegiate experience as a player. She played two years at Georgia Perimeter and two years at Georgia State. Cowan and Coles believe that experience will benefit the team immensely.
“The best way to learn is by experience and I think I have played so much ball in my life and I’ve seen so many different situations. Not only will I know how to coach the girls on the field and make decisions, making calls and things like that, but I also know what the girls are going through,” Coles said.
“I know it can be taxing on you when you’re practicing every day and all those things. I know mentally what kind of work it takes, I know the type of attitude it takes to go far and deep into the season. I know that it takes a lot of commitment from everyone and starts at the top with coaching. I think that I have so much experience that I can share my experiences and everything that I learned growing up and through college to help these girls get further,” she said.
All new everything
The Rams have been using the summer to get faster and become stronger mentally. Cowan said that the team is treating the season like everything is new.
“We’re treating everything as new. That’s our motto when we’re coming into practice — this is a new time and a new team,” Cowan said.
“I think we’re going to be a more scrappy team this year. We’ve been working really hard this summer,” Cowan said. “We’re working more of the mental side of it. We’re going to look like a total different team. We’re going to have all new uniforms, the varsity is going to be decked out. We will look better in our uniforms than any team in our region, and probably any team around here.”
Although looking good is nice, Cowan wants the team to play just as good as they look if not better. The Rams have a young nucleus, as they only lost one senior from last year and have only two seniors returning.
“They’re going to get the experience. Most of the girls in the sophomore/junior range were starters on the varsity last year. We’re only replacing one senior from last year. Every girl I have other than two freshmen are the same players I had last year,” Cowan said.
Watch the throne
Cowan acknowledged the softball throne in Newton County belongs to Eastside. Cowan said his goal is to compete with the likes of Eastside and Alcovy.
“My whole thing is we’re building a program at Newton County High School, where to be honest, we’ve been way behind Eastside and Alcovy and other schools around. We’re ready to stand up and be reckoned with too,” Cowan said.
“My goal is to get where we were last year and be competitive. Make it into that first round of state and be competitive instead of losing two five-inning ball games. [We want to] keep the games real close and have a chance to come out with a win in the end if we can,” Cowan said. “Those last two games [last year], that team went through us like we weren’t even there and we wanna make sure we stand up and fight as coaches and players.”
Although the two teams are not in the same division, the Rams and Eagles will be playing each other this year, bringing rivalry to it.
When asked what her role is in helping the team reach their goals Coles said, “Being there for the girls and being a motivator. Letting them know if you work hard, if you put the time and effort into it and your heart into it you’ll come out better. Not to let anyone look down upon our program. The past is the past and we’re moving to a new day. I think this year that we have more talent than we’ve had in the past. I think that us as coaches are going to try to do our best to work the kinks out and utilize that talent that we have. I think that with all of that combined that we’ll come out doing well against those teams."
Headed into the season, Cowan is excited to get to work with his team and see the fruits of their labor. He wants them to get back to the playoffs, but with a different result.
“We’re not really going into it (the season) nervous. We’re not going into it too ahead of ourselves thinking we’re going to run away with games either. It’s going to be a lot of close games just like it was last year. We just hope this year they go our way,” Cowan said.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to make all of our home games a 5:55 start, so we can have more fans. We’re looking forward to having fans. We’ve got a booster club that’s going to stand behind us, we’ve got parents standing behind us. Our field is incredible, we’re working on our field, it looks great. This is a new beginning.”