By Paige Lambert
Aspen Ellzey walked onto the field for Hays Rebel softball tryouts. Even though this was her first try at high school softball, camp from the summer before had well prepared her for the fast-paced drills and approaching season.
In the summer of 2013 Hays softball coach Aaron Fuller, who left in June of this year, organized a softball camp for grades third through eighth.
The two-session camp was geared to build an interest in the program and show the girls what a typical practice was like, Fuller said in a recent phone interview.
“We had a handful of incoming freshman in the camp, and during tryouts you could tell a difference from the girls who didn’t attend,” Fuller said. “They moved faster and knew what to expect during practice.”
The campers would work on various drills for three hours a day, everything from fielding to bunting to a customized infield practice called Rebel B.
The luxury of the long hours, compared to only 45 minutes each offseason class, made a huge difference in the team’s performance, Ellzey said.
“It would’ve been much harder if we only had 45 minutes to learn and run the drills,” Ellzey said. “During the camp we had as long as we needed to get it right.”
Fuller was the only coach who conducted the camp, since both of his assistants weren’t available during that timeframe.
However, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules allow seniors to help with camps and practices, Fuller said.
Multiple senior mentors worked with the campers individually and provided insight into the high school softball experience.
Ashley Louk, Hays High sophomore, said the mentors helped grow her confidence during the camp.
“I was really nervous at first, but they’ve been through everything and helped us understand what to expect,” she said.
Ellzey is not a stranger to softball, having competed on select teams for years. However, she said she knew it would be a whole different set of challenges once she made the junior varsity team.
“In high school you’re actually working towards something, like a state championship or ranking,” Ellzey said. “You’re building up for more than a trophy.”
As the 2014 season came to an end, some of the players expected to start seeing flyers for the summer softball camp. However, Fuller knew those flyers wouldn’t be sent out this year.
“Once I decided on another job, I didn’t want the questions to start coming about why I wasn’t doing a camp and have that going on during the season,” Fuller said. “So we just never announced it.”
Neal LaHue, Hays High athletic coordinator, said the camp would most likely not occur this summer.
“It’s unfortunate that the coach’s leaving happened when it did, but we won’t plan anything until we have a coach,” LaHue said.
With only the offseason to learn drills and tryouts usually a month before the first game, the upcoming season will be hard for the incoming freshman, Louk said.
“Not having the camp sucks,” Louk said. “The freshman won’t be as prepared or know what to do.”
Ellzey said she was shocked when she first heard about the camp, but it made sense once she realized the coaches were leaving.
With a new coach on the way, not having camp based on last year’s could be a good thing, Ellzey said.
“It wouldn’t be pointless, but we don’t know how the new coach does things,” Ellzey said. “She, or he, probably has drills and techniques that are completely different from coach Fuller’s.”