COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton may have a new softball coach in Virginia Tucker-Smith, but she is far from new to the Lady Rams’ softball team.
Tucker-Smith, formerly Virginia Waters, stepped away as Lady Rams head softball coach four years ago but decided to come back to take the reins of the program once again. Even though she hasn’t coached in four years, she said she’s never stopped learning about the game.
“Whether it’s (at Newton) watching, watching college ball on TV or going to the UGA games, I’m always a student of the game,” said Tucker-Smith. “I’m always looking to make sure that my philosophy and the steps I think should happen does happen with these college coaches. I’m always learning and finding things I could implement with these girls because I know a lot of these girls do want to go to college. My goal is to try to get them ready for college ball.”
While none of the current Newton players were on the roster when Tucker-Smith last headed the team, she is familiar with many of them from when she coached them at the recreation department when they were on the 6u and 8u teams.
“I’m glad to have the support of parents that I’ve known for years,” Tucker-Smith said. “When we had the informational meeting, I had a lot of hugs and a lot of ‘We’re glad to see you back out.’”
While it is not surprising that Tucker-Smith has missed the game, she didn’t exactly jump at the chance of getting back to coaching it. But after talking about it with her family she decided that coming back was the right thing to do.
Even before she said yes, she was already thinking about the future of the team.
“As soon as I sat down with (Newton athletic director Vincent) Byams and told him that I would accept it I started planning,” she said. “When he first started talking to me before I accepted I started looking and researching to know what I was coming in to. Anytime I coached, my focus was always there. It was to get the players to focus as much as I do.”
Once she made the decision firm, her own family was among those happiest to see her return to the dugout.
“They (the family) were very encouraging, especially Jennah, my daughter,” she said. “She was all about wanting me to get back into coaching. I’m excited, I’ve missed it and you can only watch so much college softball.”
One of the first things Tucker-Smith has to do is make this her team, which is probably easier said than done, as the seniors have had three coaches over the past four years. Not only will the girls have to learn her philosophy and way of doing things, the coach will have to learn the girls and their way of doing things as well.
“I don’t know a lot about what happened on the field last year,” she said. “It will be me learning the girls; it will be me learning the experience they had last year and try to take the good from the experience they had. This should be fun, but they also want to learn and get better everyday.”
The Lady Rams finished the 2017 campaign with a 10-13 overall record and a 5-5 mark in Region 8-AAAAAAA play in its one and only season under now-departed coach Erin Steele. Newton lost a two-game sweep to Parkside in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAAAA state playoffs.
Tucker-Smith’s last Newton squad was the 2013 team that finished second in Region 2-AAAAAA. She had the opportunity to coach such players as now-Georgia Bulldog Ciara Bryan.
The one thing that Tucker-Smith knows coming back in is that she will have something that seemed to evade her at times when she coached before —quality pitching. Although last year’s ace and first team all-region performer Britney Ellis has graduated, a solid stable of hurlers will return for the 2018 season — a fact that has Tucker-Smith pumped.
“There was a year when I didn’t have a pitcher and had to pull someone out of the outfield,” she said. “This year we have a handful, I mean five, that claim pitching as their primary position. Just to have the option of a handful of girls to throw out there is a blessing. I’m really excited, I’ve never had more than two pitchers.”