ARGOS - It was the worse doubleheader possible.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic (World War C?), Alyssa Thayer saw two of her biggest responsibilities change dramatically in an instant.
Schools closed and went to e-learning so her job as an emotional disabilities/resource room teacher at Knox Elementary became totally different. Spring sports were canceled so as the Argos softball coach, she had no team to lead. She also plays in a number of different slow pitch softball leagues, including one in Kokomo. All of those, of course, are on hold right now.
One plus has been spending more time with her 3-year-old son, but it has been a big adjustment not being around the softball diamond this time of year.
“I have played sports my whole life,” said Thayer, who went to Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Indiana, followed by Lincoln Trail Junior College in Robinson, Illinois, for two years on a softball scholarship, then Indiana State University the next two years. “I've played basketball, softball and volleyball. I've been on traveling teams with all three sports. I started off playing baseball with boys and I was the only girl that made the boys all-star team. They made me switch to softball when I was around 10 years old.”
As a high school athlete, Thayer was part of a sectional-winning softball team her senior year at Edgewood, beating two ranked teams to win the title. That same year in the fall, she set a new digs record in volleyball. After her college softball playing days finished, she continued to play on numerous traveling women's and coed teams.
“My favorite athlete to watch when I was younger was (former Chicago Cub) Andre Dawson or (Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith, which may have just been because he did backflips,” Thayer added. “Now, I think watching Sis Bates play for The University of Washington is just great. She makes so many plays that are just amazing.”
Besides other players, Thayer was influenced greatly by her coaches.
“I've had many different coaches over the years,” she said. “I’d have to say my favorites that I had in high school and for travel ball were Jon Sims, Jeff Carmichael, Mick Hammett, Jay Brown and Jeff Farmer. They were always the best. They always seemed to know that you could be better. They pushed all of us to be the best. Practices weren't always easy and they always strived for us to be better on and off the court/field.”
Thayer got her first taste of being a coach herself right out of college, when she worked as an assistant at Rose-Hulman for three years before taking the head job at Argos HS.
“My favorite thing about coaching is teaching the game of softball,” the Lady Dragons leader said. “Argos isn't known for its softball program. A lot of girls come out to play for the first time when they get in high school. I just want to teach them the game and teach them that they can compete with anyone. I like when you see girls who have never played before have that one great play or great hit that you have been working on all year. It's fun to see the progression of the girls throughout the whole season.”
Some of Thayer’s coaching highlights include beating Morgan Township when they were ranked (circa 2013). In 2015, the team went 11-12, winning the Tippecanoe Valley Tourney, the first trophy that Argos has ever won in softball.
“Best season I've had as a coach,” she admitted.
But now, she is trying to adjust to life without softball and her team.
“I enjoy doing team bonding activities,” Thayer said. “The girls seem to enjoy these things as well. Practice-wise my favorite drills include ‘Double ground balls’ and ‘Scatter’. For conditioning, the dreaded ‘W’. All the girls LOVE this one.”
Double ground balls is a drill where two positions are fielding while two positions catch, going through all the scenarios for the infielders. For instance, if the third baseman is fielding and throwing to first base, the shortstop would field and go to second. Then you filter through each position so that each one spot fields and throws to each base.
For ‘Scatter’ players line up on the first or third baseline. The coach hits a ball and when it hits the outfield only the outfield can take off to their positions or where they should be according to where the ball is hit. Once the outfielders reach the outfield, the infielders take their positions. At the same time, the coach will tell a player to take off as a runner. This could be one to two players and the fielders have to get in the correct position, communicate, and keep runners from advancing or scoring.
The ‘W’ works like this: all players line up single file at home plate then sprint through first base. Next, they jog from first to the RF foul pole, jog back to first, sprint from first to second, jog from second to the CF fence, jog back, sprint from second to third, jog from third to the LF foul pole, jog back, sprint third to home to complete the W. Makes you tired just reading it.
Thayer would love to see her softball team doing the W though, and as much as it is dreaded, the team would probably volunteer to do it if it meant games were being played; even better if it were a doubleheader.
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