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New coach meets parents and team

POSTED: May 31, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee’s new softball coach, Matt Allen, addresses parents and potential players at Thursday’s meeting.

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With Mike Cavey’s surprise exit on May 6, Apalachee was left with a vacancy at two key coaching positions: baseball and softball. At Thursday’s parents and players meeting, people finally had a chance to meet the man who will fill one of those roles.

"We found someone who will be here a while who shares our values," Apalachee’s athletic director, Ralph Neeley, announced Thursday night.

New coach Matt Allen met with families and prospective athletes on Thursday evening to introduce himself, his philosophies on coaching and the new era of Apalachee softball.

"The teams I coach always do the right things on and off the field," Allen shared with the crowd.

Allen is a former assistant softball coach at Stockbridge High School, his alma mater, and a former assistant at Union Grove High School. Allen also spent time as a graduate assistant coach in the softball program at the University of West Georgia before returning to the Stockbridge area for a short time.

Despite his entire high school coaching career taking place in Henry County, Allen recognizes that now is the best time for him to make the move to a new place for a new start, and that this area might just be exactly what he was looking for.

"I learned when I went back to Henry County this last time that you really can’t go home again. You have to go out and make a new life for yourself," Allen mused. "Apalachee gives me an opportunity to be in a place the reminds me of where I grew up. It reminds me of the same kind of community and I feel so fortunate that I am able to get a foothold here and hopefully be here for many years."

The Henry County native is new to the area, but he already has a healthy respect for the level of play and the existing softball talent that Apalachee has to offer.

"I’ve heard that there is some excellent talent here. I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it," Allen preached.

When speaking to parents and players Thursday night, Allen focused on the concepts of work and character, reaffirming Neeley’s comments earlier in the week that the new coach had a blue-collar sentiment about him.

"There are no secret tricks to getting better. You just go to work and get better," Allen told the future and returning players. "You can make yourself better if you put the time and effort into it."

To that end, Allen has already scheduled summer practices and workouts for potential players. Starting Tuesday, Allen will offer morning batting practice at 10 a.m. followed by workouts at 11:30 a.m. from Monday to Wednesday. While these practices are not mandatory and cannot be compulsory, Allen admitted that such workouts would only benefit young ladies hoping to make the team come Aug. 4 tryouts.

"The more chances I get to see you workout and practice, the more chances I get to evaluate your talent," Allen stated.

Practices were supposed to begin on Monday, but Allen cancelled them for family reasons. As he told the crowd in attendance, Monday is his mother’s birthday and he intends on celebrating it with her.

Allen inherits a program that recently made a deep run in the state playoffs and was just one round shy of playing in Columbus. He also inherits a program without a dramatic personnel change, which makes this new hire a unique situation for both Apalachee and Allen. In fact, Neeley said earlier in the week that Cavey had actually helped with the hiring process and directed Apalachee on the kind of coach they should be looking for.

"I’m fortunate that I get to come into a situation where we have an established team where we have a lot of talent and a community that all works to move in one direction," Allen praised. "We’re looking to help these girls build on what’s already here. There’s a foundation in place that I believe we can take to the very next level and really have an outstanding program where we have girls who are outstanding members of our school, outstanding members of our community and also make some noise on the field."

In Allen’s mind, then, the Lady Cats have a good chance at making another good run in the GHSA playoffs.

"I have three goals for softball at Apalachee, and Coach Allen agrees with my philosophies," Neeley said. "First, we use athletics as an academic tool to help students succeed. Second, we want to reach the postseason. Third, we want to beat Winder-Barrow. We’re measured by Winder-Barrow, and we want to beat them."

Allen echoed Neeley’s comments, especially regarding academics and postseason play. With the returning talent and obvious community support, Allen believes that the Lady Cats are in great position to pick right up where they left off. In his opinion, they should be back at Columbus in due time.

"I’ve got short-term goals and long-term goals. The short-term goals, with the talent level we have coming back, are to make a deep run in the playoffs and make it to Columbus," Allen acknowledged, referencing his prior experiences in Columbus. "The goal for every team every year should be to get to Columbus.

"For long-term goals, I want to have a program that the entire county is proud of."



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