The McDuffie County Board of Education and administration has put to rest a long-held theory in our community where some said that football was the only sport that mattered. Three years ago, they stepped to the plate and made two significant hires in the Thomson High athletic department. Jason Osborn was employed as head softball coach and Terry Holder was coaxed out of retirement to coach baseball. This was indeed putting experienced coaches with expertise in charge of teams that may not get the publicity that the Brickyard Bulldogs get.
Coach Osborn just led the softball team to state tournament competition for the first time in recent memory, certainly for the first time during fast-pitch play. His tenure started with a 14-10 record in 2005, improved slightly to 15-9 last season and this year the squad finished at 19-13 and qualified as one of four teams from the 12-school Region 3-AAA for the state playoffs. The number of games increased due to participation in the prestigious GreenbriEr tournament against several of the top AAAA teams in Georgia.
"These were the hardest working girls I've had in 10 years of coaching," stated Coach Osborn. "The 16 girls that stuck it out put up with the brutal heat this summer and stayed with me mentally and let me push them really hard. My style is probably a little tougher than anything they were used to, and for that I give them all the credit."
Coach Osborn remarked that a classic example of what he meant was senior second baseman Nichole Usry. He described how Usry would drop to the ground and do 15 pushups every time she failed to cleanly field a ball in practice. After successfully making a sparkling play during the team's stretch run to the playoffs Usry brushed herself off and laughingly said, "I guess that's why I was doing all of those pushups."
It is stories like this that tell me that some kids will still accept being pushed. It is stories like this that tell me that in order to improve at anything a little pushing never hurts. It is stories like this that tell me thank goodness that we have the Jason Osborns of the world around that don't mind doing the pushing.
"Jason is a very disciplined individual that played in a successful program at Westside High School under a great coach, Gerald Barnes," said Coach Holder of Coach Osborn. "He is loyal, hard working and does not mind putting in the hours that it takes to have a successful program."
Holder should know. Coach Osborn also serves as an assistant to Coach Holder with the varsity baseball program, another operation that has demanded that coaches push kids to the limit to become competitive.
Coach Osborn's greatest concern for the future of the softball program is in the numbers. He anticipates six returning starters for next year but is worried about not having a junior varsity team this season. He expressed hope that next summer's weather will not be as discouraging to girls interested in softball as this summer's was. He does not plan on changing his hard-nosed approach. For that I applaud him.
After teaching math all day at THS and coaching, Coach Osborn, 33, goes home to his wife, Aprile, and children Julia, 4, and Baird, 1. Aprile and the kids can be seen at many of the games, and I can tell you that little blonde-haired, Julia, is a real daddy's girl. Baird is getting warmed up for the terrible twos, boy style!
I firmly believe that we do not do children a favor when we do not demand the most from them. I echo the sentiments of Coach Holder that Osborn's work ethic has carried over into the softball and baseball programs. It will not hurt our student-athletes to strain their potential under Osborn's direction and the example that he sets. They will be glad of it when they reach adulthood. With coach Osborn at the helm, the program has a bright future with perhaps more state tournament trips on tap.