The pace is a little slower in softball than basketball, and this is something John Cherne is going to have to get used to — again.
Cherne, the boys basketball coach at Kapaun, is coaching the Crusaders’ softball program this year. He once started a program from scratch — even creating the field — in Strafford, Mo., but that was 13 years ago.
For now, he is taking everything practice by practice as he re-adjusts to coaching softball.
“You tell athletes to cross-train, so I’m cross-coaching,” Cherne said. “It’s exciting. My wife thinks I’m crazy, but that’s just part of coaching. I have a coaching bug. I like being around these high school kids. They are a lot of fun to be around.”
The Kapaun softball program is coming off its first trip to the Class 5A tournament in a decade and returns its entire team.
While still young, the talent is there for Cherne to mold. His first goal isn’t to win, however, but to instill a work ethic that creates winners.
“He pushes us, but it’s a good pushing us,” junior outfielder Lily Channel said. “The past few years it’s been we come to practice and do the same thing over and over. We really haven’t had a base to work around. The pace is a lot faster than it used to be, which helps. If you make a mistake, he doesn’t just let it go. He makes sure you learn from it.”
Repetitions come in droves for the Kapaun players under Cherne, and practices are quicker and more intense. Girls are sore, and many are still mending from minor injuries from playing volleyball.
But so far, the players have bought into it. Their hunger to win is difficult to miss, and their belief in each other might be just what gets them back into the state tournament.
“We all have the same goal — we want to go farther and we want to be taken more seriously than we have in the past,” Channel said. “And I think that it’s going to happen because we have a lot of talent.”
And for the players, there are dreams of doing more than just making state. The next Kapaun team to win a state title will make it 100 for the school. Also, the players have their eyes set on rival and perennial power Bishop Carroll, the defending 5A champion.
But for Cherne, he doesn’t want his players to focus on beating Carroll or winning state titles. He wants them to focus on the here and now and take everything pitch by pitch, much like he is doing as he re-adjusts to being a softball coach.
“Carroll is a big deal, but every game is a big deal,” Cherne said. “If you don’t treat every game like a big deal, then if we do gear up for Carroll and we don’t get the outcome we want, then you have that hangover the next game. It’s really important to teach these girls that it’s next pitch, next play, next play.”