A transitional phase got underway this fall for the Concordia University Softball program, which is now led by Tatum Edwards (“Coach T”), former standout at the University of Nebraska. After being named head coach in August, Edwards has hit the ground running while intensifying the fall practice and workout schedules. Naturally, there’s a feeling-out process that takes place.
Above all else, a high level of excitement exists within the coaching staff and student-athletes. Edwards has been pleased with her team’s desire to improve.
“From our first practice until now, we’ve seen a lot of growth,” Edwards said. “I really believe in putting in hard work all the time, so we’re not going to take our foot off the gas. It is a sacrifice if you want to compete with the best. They did a really, really good job. I’m pleased with seeing our growth on defense. I think we’ve gotten quicker to the ball and our fundamentals have been sound. Getting lots of reps has been helpful. We have to put the work in now if we’re going to be successful in the spring.”
There’s certainly talent inside a program coming off an appearance in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament. It’s been helpful for Edwards to lean upon accomplished veterans in Caitlyn McGarvie, Camry Moore and Kylee Nixon. They have been instrumental in setting a standard in terms of work ethic and culture development. Such leadership comes in handy when things can feel a bit tedious during the fall, with no games against outside competition to look forward to.
First and foremost this fall, Edwards wanted to assess the talent, climate and her unfamiliar surroundings. Being a head coach is also something new for Edwards, who is managing a staff that includes her sister Tristen, Bre Hamilton and Alan Moore (father of Camry).
“When we first started, I wanted to make sure that I had a chance to evaluate where our team was,” Edwards said. “Being new, I wanted to make sure I had an idea of what we had. We’ve practiced pretty hard with our whole team. We also split up and did some scrimmages against each other, mixed up the teams and gave them a chance to play against each other. I didn’t want to put them out there against another team without me knowing who they were. We’ve had a lot more small group instruction the last couple weeks and then a lot of hitting.”
In other words, the focus has been much more process-based than results-based. No one is talking about a certain number of games they should win next season or where they should finish in the GPAC. Coach T’s expertise should bolster the pitching staff while Tristen has been working extensively with the hitters. However, success will be determined by more than just skill development.
“We’ve been focusing on building a team culture that they want to be part of and are proud of,” Edwards said. “With that, there’s an expectation of holding yourself to a standard. You should want more for yourself, more for your teammates and more for our team. We’re doing things with intention and with purpose in everything that we’re doing, whether that be really small or big. That means in the classroom and in fielding, hitting or whatever we’re doing. We do it with a purpose. Building that team culture that we want to have moving forward is one of the biggest things we’ve focused on. We want to find a way to push through and be mentally tough.”
There are a lot of good things in place for a program that has finished .500 or better in seven of the past eight seasons. During that stretch, Concordia has won 30 or more games four times and has reached the national tournament three times. The program’s most recent GPAC championships came in 2015 for the postseason and 2008 for the regular season.
As for the 2022 squad, it has moved on without stars like Hhana Haro and Tori Homolka, who graduated this past May. Far and away, Moore and Nixon are the most experienced players left on the roster. Moore has the ability to finish as one of the top players in the history of the program. She was a major reason why the 2021 team reached the GPAC Championship Series.
Said Edwards, “Cam and Kylee lead by example and really put in the work. Down in the weight room, they’re super strong. On the field, they’ve established who they are and are doing a good job with showing leadership in how they move around and do things. We have players who are asking to do extra and go above and beyond. They are wanting to get better by themselves and without me having to ask.”
More from Coach Edwards:
They really want to play someone other than themselves and see who they are. That’s going to be the real test for us. I think once we can see what it looks like against another team, we’ll be better able to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. They’ve done a really good job this fall of just getting better with fundamentals. If we can’t catch the ball and throw the ball, we’re not going to be successful. We’ve seen a lot of growth as a staff. I really want to continue to see that when we play somebody else.
Becoming a head coach has broadened my ability to think of everyone as a whole. I’ve tried to hone in on what we can do to get better as a team and also what people can do their job to make us more successful. I’m not going to lie and say it’s been super easy, but it challenges me to be my best self for them. They deserve to have a coach who will grind it out with them and really figure out what can take this team to a championship level.
We have to continue to put in the work with intention and purpose. You have to really want to do it for the people around you. That’s what I’ve been preaching since I’ve been on campus. Let’s have purpose in our actions every single day, whether it’s softball-related or not. We want to continue the growth that we’ve seen and be ready to go when the spring hits.
2022 Schedule: The 2022 Concordia Softball schedule was unveiled on Nov. 12. Find the complete slate HERE. Edwards will officially make her head coaching debut along with the season opening doubleheader at the University of Saint Mary (Kan.) on Feb. 19.