In the small town of Stuart, Oklahoma, under the expansive Oklahoma sky, a group of young women has been quietly making waves in the world of high school softball. The Stuart softball team, under the guidance of Coach Jeff Parnell, is having a remarkable season. With a current record of 22-9, they’re setting their sights on defending their state championship title. I sat down with Coach Parnell to uncover the secrets behind their success.
“Work ethic is a big attribute to our early team’s success,” Parnell begins. “We lost seven starters from last year’s State Championship team. What people don’t know is the ladies we had in the dugout were pretty darn good too. Their work ethic is unmatched.”
This season’s performance has exceeded expectations. “Our goals are always to get to the state tournament to give us a chance to win a Championship,” Parnell continues. “I think winning last year has really put a fire in these younger girls because they know how it feels to win one and they want that again.”
One area where the team has excelled is pitching. “The pitching position has really excelled for us,” Parnell notes. “After losing an all-state pitcher from last year’s team, Keelie Treat has done a great job in helping to fill that position. Keelie is one of the best pitchers, in my opinion, in our class. She is a bulldog on the mound and loves to compete. She competes at a high level and this carries over to all the girls on our team.”
However, the season has not been without its challenges. “Being young and having players play new positions has been tough at times,” Parnell acknowledges. “That saying about you hear about ‘living and learning with young ones’ is very true. Each game we have played, they have started to understand the game, and the game is starting to slow down for my freshmen Miley Davis and Jayanna Walling.”
The players have embraced their roles and adjusted to the changes since last season. “My players understand roles really well,” Parnell states. “We have had some adversity in some games with our younger kids just not having the BIG GAME experience yet, and with some learning that new position early.”
Player development has also been a highlight this season. Parnell highlights several players who have made significant progress, including Reagan Wade, Keelie Treat, Paris Stanford, Jacie Crenshaw, Kiarra Russell, Miley Davis, Joey Steele, Jaydee Hall, and Kaci Justice.
As the playoffs approach, Parnell remains focused on maintaining the team’s momentum. “Motivating players has always been hard for some coaches,” he remarks. “I believe the foundation and work ethic Coach Chance Chapman has laid here at Stuart over the years he was here has carried over and will continue to carry over.”
Team chemistry is another key ingredient in their success. “Chemistry is a huge part of a team being successful,” Parnell emphasizes. “Our chemistry is really good because it’s kids wanting to learn, and we have great upperclassmen that demand the best. We also try to do team bonding activities each month outside of softball. This helps with chemistry and also helps each person understand one another.”
With their eyes on the championship, the team has set clear objectives for the rest of the season. “Some of our objectives and goals as a team are to be healthy and hold each other accountable and to continue to work hard for one another to get to where we want to be, and that’s playing on the last day of the season,” Parnell said.
Parnell’s approach to motivation is straightforward. “I hold each one of our players accountable for everything that has to do with our program,” he explains. “That goes for being at practice, being on time, putting in extra work, and staying locked in on our goal.”
Teamwork and leadership play a pivotal role in their success. “Teamwork is big for any team,” Parnell affirms. “We have great leaders in our one senior and our juniors. I don’t have to worry too much with leadership. Our girls hold themselves accountable and always own their mistakes and want to get better. When you have a standard on how you’re supposed to act or the effort you’re supposed to give, the rest is easy.”
In the heart of Stuart, where the work ethic is as strong as the Oklahoma winds, these young athletes are chasing greatness, one game at a time.
I am so excited to be covering SE Oklahoma, my home! If you have any information to share on your team or you would like to recommend specific school coverage in the Southeast Area, please email me at email@example.com.
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If you’re interested in reading more content about high school sports in Southeast Oklahoma, check out “In their own words” – What did these players think after Week 3 of play? – McAlester Area!