Winning is in paying attention to detail, and through a long sportswriting career, I've learned that's what help makes good coaches great.
I saw it this week at a Jacksonville State softball practice earlier this week. Head coach Jana McGinnis and assistant Julie Boland went over every weird and unusual situation they've ever seen happen in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
At one point, they even told freshman Anna Hood to stand in the batter's box and then pretend she hit a home run. She was to run around the bases, and her teammates were told to cheer and celebrate at home plate like they usually do.
After Hood crossed the plate, and teammates laughed and slapped her on the back over her "home run," McGinnis and Boland pointed out what they did wrong:
Nobody made sure Hood touched the plate.
They told the players that when they round third base after hitting a home run, don't look at the happy faces of their teammates and instead focus on the plate. Later, two freshman pitchers (Macy Bearden and Lexi Androlevich) were told they were in charge of making sure home run hitters touched home plate. If they didn't, they were to stop the player before she left the home plate area and tell her to go back and touch it.
What kind of emotional downer would be it be to have a home run erased after an opposing coach appeals that you missed the plate?
After seeing that, I've watched other teams in this tournament when someone hits a home run. Nobody has missed home plate, but nobody but JSU seems to be watching, either, even though you know the opposing coach is always looking for something like that.
During JSU's opening win over Austin Peay, The Anniston Star's Stephen Gross got a great picture of Anna Chisolm about to touch home. In the photo, every set of JSU eyes are trained on the plate to make sure Chisolm did what she was supposed to do.