MIKE NIETO: A task, but a worthwhile one at Thornwood

2014-05-08T22:00:00Z 2014-05-09T00:15:49Z MIKE NIETO: A task, but a worthwhile one at ThornwoodMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
May 08, 2014 10:00 pm  • 

When former Bloom Township softball coach Mark Anderson took over as Thornwood's coach last year, many told him he was out of his mind.

When former Thornwood coach Gary Lagesse came aboard as an assistant, people wondered the same thing.

Lagesse won three Class AA state titles at the school and both coaches are in the Illinois Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

The program is nowhere near the power it was in Lagesse's tenure and has become a perennial loser. These two men are believers in doing things for the kids and are great teachers. The program will probably never become a state powerhouse again, but it can gain respectability.

Anderson was the third head coach in as many years, so by coming back for a second year, there is some continuity. Last year, the Thunderbirds won six games. This year, they were 8-10 going into Thursday's action.

"People told Gary and me we were in for the challenge of our life, but that was fine with us," Anderson said. "You have to start somewhere and we wanted to get from Point A to Point B. It's not been easy, but it has been rewarding. You can see the confidence in the girls' faces and their desire to play well and learn the game."

He said numbers are not a problem, but many kids have no prior experience. The youth programs that fed Lagesse's program are not as strong as they once were. The two are trying to get younger kids involved so that when they get to high school, they have some experience. This is not just about winning a few more games n the varsity, this is about commitment from them to get people from the community to commit. When you play the Andrews, Sandburgs and the Lincoln-Ways, you better be ready.

They are not trying to turn back the clock, but they do want the kids to know the history and tradition of the Thunderbird program. The program will have its inaugural Alumni Day at 1 p.m. on June 1 at the varsity field. Anderson wants his current players there to meet the former players and for the former players to give encouragement. Illinois-Chicago softball coach Michelle Venturella, who starred at Thornwood and Indiana University, before becoming an Olympian will be there.

"What we have done is try to improved their softball IQs, not make the mistakes that beat yourself," Anderson said. "We want to make it fun, but at the same time, have  them learn the game, and the wins will come," Anderson said. "We want to teach them how to play the game the right way. I think if you do the right things, the wins will come."

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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