Harvey continues tradition of leading powerful Lady Panther softball teams
By: TRACEY JAGNEAUX
There is a saying that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.
So, when a coach takes over a successful program that he/she has been a part of for the past several years, he/she just keeps the wheels greased and turning in the right direction.
Such is the case for this year’s Evangeline Parish Coach of the Year, Pine Prairie’s Woody Harvey.
Harvey has been a part of most of the Lady Panther’s player’s softball careers for several years now, including being the assistant coach the previous four years and coaching a number of these same players in the Dixie softball league. Because of that, the transition for Harvey to head coach been about as smooth as it can get.
“Two things, I know what to expect out of the players and they know what to expect out of me,” stated Harvey. “But, a successful season does not come with just one coach. I had some great assistants this year. Travis (McFarlain) and Shannon (Ortego) have been along on this ride for a long time and this year we were fortunate to have Alycia (Hebert) be a part of this also.”
“We have been fortunate to have players that want to be here,” Harvey continued. “Somebody once said ‘Give me a kid with drive before you give me a kid with talent, because I can make something with that kid’. And, I think that is what we have here, kids with talent but more importantly with a ton of drive. They may whine and complain, but when it is all said and done, they want to play ball. It is a nice thing to have.”
One thing is for sure, the transition from assistant coach to head coach is a tall task. However, according to Harvey, having a mentor like legendary coach Carolyn Deville to coach under, that tall task becomes less daunting.
“It wasn’t such a hard transition for me,” said Harvey. “Last year, with her illness, Coach Carolyn was not here a whole lot. But, she was such a good person from the standpoint that she never thought that she was better than you. If you had an idea and it worked, she was willing to listen to it. All the years that I was doing my best to help the squad, she pretty much gave me the leeway I needed. We really missed her this year, and I still use her as a sounding board.”
This season was a whole different entity onto itself. The Lady Panthers were forced to find replacements for several graduating key players off of a team that made it to the semi-finals last season. Having to evaluate and find those missing pieces was a challenge.
“When you have freshmen having to step on the field like they had to this year, evaluating what they can and can not do is a big task,” commented Harvey. “They really have not played in the situations that they are accustomed to. And, they may be placed in a position that they do not feel comfortable in, because there may be a veteran in the position they have played most of their career. So, to get them to be comfortable is a big challenge.”
That challenge was met head on, as three of those freshmen were a big part of the line-up that brought the Lady Panthers to the state championship game. Now, with only two seniors leaving, the future of Pine Prairie softball shines as bright as ever.
“We will definitely have some experience next year,” said Harvey. “But, we will have to replace two key players off of this year’s team. That will be difficult. For us to be successful again, we will have to try and fill those shoes.”