By Clay Whittington
The Belton Journal

Just weeks ago before hosting the Lady Tigers’ annual summer softball camp, Morgan Birkel was hired as the program’s head coach, so when the three-day event began Monday, she made sure it served multiple purposes.

Along with helping all the participants enhance their fundamental skills, Birkel built relationships, bonding her with the community.

Additionally, she gelled with her team.

Aiding in overseeing the 28 third- through ninth-graders in attendance each three-hour session, Birkel utilized her new assistant coaches and players from her rosters, accelerating the familiarization process.

“This summer has been such a whirlwind,” Birkel said, “so it was nice to be able to get to know the girls and let them get to know me as a coach. This is a two-way street. I’m the coach and I’m in charge, but they are the people who make up the program, so we are all in this together.

“It’s been so nice to get to know their personalities and quirks and goofiness and talkativeness. In just two days on the field, I can already see the leadership in this program.”

While older kids between sixth and ninth grades accounted for a majority of those in attendance, Birkel believed the enrollment was fairly balanced across ages and skill levels.

Regardless, however, all followed the same fundamental program.

The event opened with a defensive-oriented session before transitioning to hitting and base running on the second day, and throughout, games, contests and races were interspersed among lessons to maintain interest and enjoyment.

Now, with camp complete, Birkel can turn her attention toward the reason she arrived – potentially guiding the Lady Tigers to district victories and playoff appearances.

Prior to opening the season next spring, Birkel and her team have a lot of intense work to do in order to prepare themselves, and soon, softball will become serious.

So, Birkel made sure to enjoy the fun-loving environment camp provided.

“It is so nice to be able to just teach a little kid the correct way to slide and see their face light up,” she said. “I could teach a high school kid the same thing, but they aren’t going to light up like a third-grader will. I’ll get to teach them some skills, and they will kind of figure it out on their own, but with these little kids, you get to see them have these ‘a-ha’ or ‘lightbulb’ moments.

“It’s just great to see them realize things they’ve been missing.”