In her inaugural season as head coach of the Farmington High School softball team, Betsy Harvey and first-year assistant Kim Church have led the squad out to an impressive 4-2 start.
Ironically, just six years earlier both coaches were on the roster for FHS softball, bringing the Indians to the Northwest Conference Championship in consecutive years. Now, instead of leading the team on the field, they will try to bring success to the school from beside the bench.
Harvey graduated in 2005 after a successful softball career at FHS that earned her the chance to play at Sacred Heart University. Church, a 2006 graduate of FHS, also went on to play after high school at Eastern Connecticut State University. The two would stay connected while playing together in summer league softball during their college careers.
“The talent level was a lot greater,” Harvey said of playing college ball. Church was more impressed by the commitment girls put into the game, which was she said, far greater than what she saw in her high school career.
The former teammates didn’t plan on coaching together after college, but things fell into place after Harvey received a degree in psychology from Sacred Heart last spring and moved home to save money. Church finished her degree this winter and was looking for something to do this spring to stay busy.
“I had no idea [Harvey] was going for the coaching job,” Church said. When she found out from Farmington Athletic Director Jack Phelan that she was gong to be working with her former teammate, she couldn’t be happier. “I was so excited,” exclaimed Church.
The time commitment of coaching a team fulltime might seem daunting for a post-college graduate with practice everyday and at least two games a week most of the season. Harvey and Church don’t see it as a problem, and haven’t had any trouble adjusting so far.
“We were players for so long that you just get used to it,” Harvey said.
The Indians, who need eight wins to qualify for the state postseason tournament, are already halfway to that goal. Harvey and Church are confident the team will get to that eight-win mark, if not exceed it with the way the team is improving.
“We’re a pretty good hitting team,” Harvey said. A weakness of the team is pitching, agreed the coaches. Harvey explained that at the beginning of the season, they’ve had to teach and re-teach many of the fundamental aspects of the game.
“It’s hard because we don’t have girls who play year round,” she said. But as the season moves on, she has seen the improvement that any coach of any sport seeks in their team.
Ultimately, the goal of any coach for their team is to win a championship. That isn’t always possible in the first year, but Harvey plans on staying with the team for a couple of years to build the team back up to that competitive level.
Church originally only put in a one-year commitment to the team, but she isn’t sure how she'll proceed after getting a taste of what coaching is like.
“I’m falling in love with it,” she said.
Both have been very pleased with the reception from people around town. Many of the same teachers, coaches and administrators are still at FHS from when Harvey and Church roamed the halls as students.
“In general, it’s just been positive feedback,” Harvey said. “Everyone has been very supportive.”
As young coaches who can relate to the experiences of their players, and with the familiarity Harvey and Church bring to the table leading the team they used to play for, there is little doubt they will leave a positive footprint on the future of the Farmington softball program.