New coach, new goals for Tabor softball
While softball coach Bryan Howard had to wait an extra five days to make his Tabor debut, the added practice time before Tuesday’s game was appreciated.
“We haven’t been able to get outside, so we’re looking at it as a positive that we get an extra week to prepare,” he said. “Let’s take advantage of that time.”
The Bluejays were supposed to travel to Texas to play reigning National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national champion University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, but Tabor’s Friday and Saturday games were canceled due to travel conditions.
“They won it all last year, so that’s who you measure yourself against,” he said. “We want to play them and see how it goes.”
Howard and the coach at USAO are in discussion to set up a game later in the season.
Howard’s decision to coach Tabor was influenced by the attitude and support surrounding the team.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere I didn’t think I had the opportunity and support to win a national championship,” he said. “I feel like we have that here.”
The Bluejays are coming off a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship, NAIA tournament bid, and they return all but two starters.
Among the returnees is two-time all-American junior pitcher Madison Byrd, as well as all-conference selections Taylor Kathler, Hannah Jones, and Madison Primrose.
Continuing where the team left off last year is important, but adding his identity to the team is also a big step as a new coach, Howard said.
“Any head coach wants his team to eventually take on his personality, to a degree,” he said. “That’s why we want to be fast and we want to be aggressive. That bulldog mentality, that’s what we’re after.”
Prior to his arrival at Tabor, Howard was the assistant coach for Div. I Tulsa University, and had a .750 winning percentage in 324 games in his time as a high school coach in Oklahoma.
As the son of a pastor from a rural church, coming to Hillsboro and Tabor College held a familiar feeling, Howard said.
“I’m comfortable in that small-town atmosphere,” he said. “That community and family feeling is important to me and building that with my team is super important.”
Over winter break, Howard and the team started cross training at Mac-Town CrossFit in McPherson, which pressed the players outside of their comfort zones, Howard said.
“Being more mobile makes you a better player, and there’s no doubt the strength aspect of CrossFit makes them more explosive,” he said. “That’s not even counting the mental aspects it provides for players, because it tests your limits mentally.”