The Charles Page High School softball program now has a junior high team for the first time in school history.
Sand Springs has varsity and junior varsity, but a junior high team will give coaches a chance to see players before they join the team as freshmen. The junior high team is comprised of 7th and 8th graders.
A junior high team is like a feeder program into the high school, but it also allows the players to learn the drills they will run through with the high school team. They will also learn head coach Shelli Brown’s style of play.
“It’s extremely important to have a junior high team,” said junior high head coach, Sandy Gilstrap. “My goal is for the girls to play for Coach Brown.”
Gilstrap graduated from CPHS in 2001 and was planning on playing college softball at Northeastern State University, but a shoulder injury in the annual powder puff flag football game ended her career.
“My best friend tackled me and tore my shoulder. I had to have surgery, actually, I’ve had numerous surgeries since,” Gilstrap said.
Budget issues prevented Brown from starting a junior high team in the past but she was able to make it happen, this year.
Now, Gilstrap is at the helm of the junior high team after being out of softball for a few years.
“I know the game,” she said. “Seeing it and saying to myself ‘Oh, I know this.’ Getting that feeling back is awesome, and I still have a love for the game.”
Gilstrap said she expects solid fundamentals, but she wants her team to be mentally tough, as well.
“They have to understand that it’s up to them. They are going to have to deal with issues as young adults. I want them to be mentally tough,” Gilstrap said.
Right now, Gilstrap is assessing each player and trying to instill Brown’s offensive and defensive philosophies. However, she’s got a talented group just waiting for their shot to prove themselves.
“These girls are really good ball players. They play at a high level on their competitive teams, and they are traveling all over playing really good ball,” Gilstrap said.
There were around 30 girls that showed interest in the junior high program, but, at this point, the team has around 15 players.