FORT PAYNE — Editor's note: This is the second installment in a question-and-answer series with DeKalb County coaches, taking a look at their playing journeys and their coaching experiences. In Part 2, The Times-Journal interviewed Geraldine’s fourth-year softball coach Julie West.
Q: How long have you been involved in coaching as both a head coach and an assistant coach?
A: Prior to being the head coach at Geraldine, I had never coached softball at the high school level. I had assisted with travel ball teams. I came to teach at Geraldine in 2016. My parents graduated from there. My husband and his siblings had all graduated from there and we had family there. We made the move to Geraldine so my girls could be around family and be close to home. The idea of being the varsity head softball coach never crossed my mind. However, the school found itself in need of a coach and I was asked if I would take it. After a lot of prayer and consideration, I decided to coach the team. ... I have a supportive staff to help me. Alicia Satterfield has been my sidekick the entire time. This year we were happy to add Jadie Chester to our staff as the (junior varsity) coach.
Q: What led you to coaching?
A: I have been around the sport since the early 2000s. My cousin, Whitney Brown Clark — who is more like a sister — played at the collegiate level. It was very inspiring to watch someone put in so much effort and collect countless achievements on and off the field. She then inspired my daughter to become interested in softball and that quickly turned into a passion. As any parent, you want to support your child to the best of your ability, which in turn, led me to want to learn and become even more knowledgeable of the sport. Countless hitting and pitching lessons and camps upon camps, I wanted to learn as much as I could to help her be successful. I was never the drop-off-and-leave parent. I volunteered to help do things just so I could listen to some of the most amazing local coaches in both college and high school. Softball became more than just a game. It has taught so many valuable lessons. I get to see that every day on the field with my team. It teaches skills, patience, endurance, ethics, hard work, discipline, sportsmanship and much more. Softball will also give you the gift of family. A softball team and the parents that surround it can become your ‘softball family.’ I tell my girls every season, ‘At the end of this season, I want to teach you the game. I want to teach you to strategically win. However, if I don't teach you how to be successful Christians, women, wives and mothers, I have failed.’
Q: What are among your favorite sports memories as a coach?
A: These girls have given me so many memories over the years. One of my favorite memories of Geraldine softball was the first year I was coaching in 2017. I had two seniors and six starting seventh-graders. I was a new coach and together we were rebuilding a program. We won our area that year. It had been over six years since Geraldine had been to regionals. All season long, I had ensured them that even though they were the youngest team out there, if they worked hard and remained steadfast in their journey, they would come out on top. That moment, I had probably never seen a bunch of 13 year olds so excited. I was so proud. We were repeat area champs in 2018. One of the funniest things that has ever happened was when my catcher, Tinsley Satterfield, celebrated a hit. She had been struggling at the plate and finally got a hit. She ran straight through first base, cut the corner, jumped up and chest-bumped the field official. I laughed so hard and thankfully he did too. She never thought twice about it. It was pure excitement. Of course, being able to be out there with my daughter, Lydia, and all of her friends is something I wouldn't give anything for. I am thankful for this opportunity to spend time with her making memories.
Q: What encourages you about the future of Geraldine's softball program?
A: I tell everyone the best part of being the coach of these girls at Geraldine, is that they put in all the work. Many of them give countless hours during the season as well as offseason. They are always looking to get better. They not only have the skills, but the mental game. There is no other group of girls that I would rather stand with on that field. They are all like daughters to me. They make my job easy. I am nothing special. They have all the talent, I just push them to use it. Although this season was suddenly halted, we made the best of what time we had. We were the undefeated champions of the Fort Payne Varsity Invitational Tournament. We won the only area game we were able to play and we finished the season 7-3. Those last two losses were in a doubleheader to Madison County. That day, the whispers of COVID-19 had started and we just weren't focused. Next season, I will have one senior and six juniors. That season will be something to see.