By Jacob Tylich
Although this is the first year TJC has ever fielded a softball team, Nicole Dickson, Head Softball Coach nonetheless is confident that the Apaches can be a “team that people fear.”
“I am a highly competitive individual, and I know that with the group of athletes that I have right now … and just the commitment and work ethic that we have, I believe we have a chance to be one of the top teams in the region,” Dickson said.
Last year as head coach, Dickson led Paris Junior College to a 37-19 record and a tie for ninth at the NJCAA National Tournament. She and her staff won Coaching Staff of the Year honors for Region 14.
Dickson said that although she is feeling no pressure from the administration or athletic department to field a winning team in their first season, she has high expectations.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to make the regional tournament and contend for a championship,” Dickson said. “But watching and seeing how the kids have grown up and matured in just the last two months, has been an amazing process.”
Dickson said she is pleased at the progress the team is making.
“Right now we are in our fall season, so that’s just scrimmages, and we typically try to play four-year schools, so our kids can get recruited. It’s going well so far.”
Dickson said that because of TJC’s reputation for excellence, it wasn’t a problem to find players who were excited to come here.
“If you look at all the other athletic programs, especially the women’s, they are all very successful here,” Dickson said. “With TJC being a beautiful campus, with great academics, it wasn’t hard at all getting the players that we needed, just because of 50 national championships, along with conference and regional championships. It’s a pretty good set up.”
Dickson is excited about the possibility of turning TJC into a softball powerhouse.
“Not only am I excited for this year, but also next year. But don’t get me wrong, I plan on going all the way this season, and being a team that people fear.”
Dickson recruited players from as far away as California: freshman outfielder Brittani Whitten, and freshmen infielders Jacalyn Edwards, Marina Duran and Madison Langston.
Among her recruits from East Texas are Kristi Springer, a freshman pitcher from Tyler; Halie Vance, a sophomore pitcher from Chapel Hill; and Haleigh Moore, a freshman outfielder from Van.
Moore said she is finding the transition from high school to college to be challenging.
“It’s hard coming from high school into college,” she said. “You have to take up different habits. You go from getting everything handed to you, to dealing with it all yourself. Being a college athlete is hard, but it’s even harder when you put it on top of schoolwork, laundry and all that. It’s pretty much a full-time job.”
Some students are anxious to see the softball team in action this spring.
“I’m ready to see how they do,” said Katelyn Dodd, sophomore from Jacksonville. “It’s going to be fun seeing a new sport here at TJC, and especially for me playing softball in high school, and loving the game. It’s going to be fun going and cheering on my Apaches.”