The leader of the Pack
Managing a team extends way beyond the game day Xs and Os. A manager must also manage egos, both frail and prideful, as well as expectations. It’s a task that becomes magnified when your team is comprised of mostly ninth and 10th grade girls, especially if they are all talented.
Every coach dreams of having a young, up-and-coming roster, but that dream can lead to many sleepless nights if not managed properly. However, Doug Whitehead did not have much need for Sominex this season.
Washington’s fourth-year softball coach led the young Pam Pack to a 19-6 overall record and a 10-4 mark in the Coastal Conference, which was good enough to tie for third place. In the postseason, Washington topped Southern Nash in the first round before getting edged out 3-2 by defending NHCSAA 3-A state champions D.H. Conley in the second.
All said and done, the Pam Pack’s season was a success as Whitehead managed to steer clear of all the potential trappings this year had waiting in the on-deck circle and by doing so he managed to earn the Washington Daily News Softball Coach of the Year honors.
This season started with more questions than answers. While Washington returned only four players with varsity experience, it was bringing in a group of talented young freshman and sophomores whose travel ball success had reached mythical proportions.
The abundance of talent led to new problems, the biggest being that you can only play nine players at a time. It’s a challenge that is presented to many softball and baseball coaches, but Whitehead and his staff did not allow it to fester and destroy the team chemistry.
“A lot these girls get to play travel ball and play their positions and then all of sudden you have 15-18 girls who are used to playing every inning and you have to reduce it to nine ballplayers,” Whitehead said. “It makes it very difficult. I probably had more discussions about playing time this year than I ever had before and that was with a winning softball team.”
In high school sports outside influences can lead to on field disasters, but a good varsity manger also has to play part politician and part salesman and Whitehead managed to get most to buy into his vision once the Ws started racking up.
“It seemed like we were putting girls in the right position and everybody seemed to jell,” Whitehead said. “It was one of those things where I didn’t hear much griping about. There was no ‘so-and-so should be playing here and so and so should be playing there.’ I think they realized we were putting the best on the field and I think they realized that’s what you have to do on the high school level.”
The Pam Pack fed into Whitehead’s we-before-me philosophy, which lead to everybody on the roster making major contributions by season’s end.
“We gave a lot of girls opportunities and they all did a good job,” Whitehead said. “It’s a credit to the players. They came out and worked hard and made things happen. It was a fun year of coaching. It was stressful early on — you never know how that youth is going to do — but we saw the talent we had and took advantage of it.”