No excuses: Lady Braves prepare for upcoming season

The start of the 2015 softball season has been anything but normal for the Lady Braves. Games getting canceled due to the weather, players getting injured, and having the misfortune of a few players leaving the program have been some of the challenges that Head Coach Carrie Calderon and the Lady Braves have had to deal with so far this season.

If there’s anyone who can lead the Lady Braves to a successful season, despite all of the adversity the team is currently facing, it’s Coach Calderon.

This will be Coach Calderon’s 22nd year as head coach for the Lady Braves. Over the course of her career, Coach Calderon has coached the Lady Braves to over 700 victories, 16 Arrowhead Conference titles, and nine Region IV Final Four titles as well. Coach Calderon, who graduated from United Township High School in East Moline, has also won Coach of the Year nine times and she was inducted to NJCAA Region IV Hall of Fame back in 2007.

With all the success that Coach Calderon’s teams have had on the softball field, one may think that winning is the top priority for the softball program, but it’s all about academics for Coach Calderon, who is also the academic advisor for the team.

“Our focus is straight academics. We dominate in overall team GPA’s. Our highest team GPA was a 3.69 and we were ranked second in the nation out of all the Division II Junior Colleges,” Coach Calderon said. “So, we’re doing it both ways here, and that’s what I really like. We’re doing it first with academics and we’re doing it with athletics as well. I’m recruiting students first and athletes second.”

Coach Calderon’s teams have won the President Academic Award twenty times since she joined the program. Recently, Gary Huber, Black Hawk’s Athletic Director, turned the trophy over to Coach Calderon and had her name put on the trophy. “It was an honor, but I give all of the hard work and credit to my student athletes, because they have to be dedicated to do well in both,” Coach Calderon said.

Unfortunately, the team had a few players who left the program during the off-season, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the team also lost some key players for the season due to injuries. Most notably, Brooke Posey, who is an All American and the team’s star pitcher, will have season ending surgery. Between injuries and players leaving the program, the Lady Braves will be forced to continue the remainder of the season with only nine players. However, Coach Calderon is not one to make excuses for herself or her program for that matter.

“The girls that are here working for this program and for me are working very hard. They’re having fun and they know the situation to where they’re not making excuses for the players we ended up losing.”

With one problem after another, Coach Calderon and the Lady Braves aren’t giving up on the season. They believe they have the opportunity to accomplish all their goals for the season, which are winning their conference, getting to the Final Four, and advancing to National’s.

“The only barrier that we have is us. If we want to sit there and feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses, then obviously we’re not going to get too far and we don’t deserve to go any further,” Coach Calderon said.

For the pasty twenty-two seasons, Coach Calderon has never had captains on her team. “I truly don’t believe in captains. I want leaders,” Coach Calderon said. Instead of two or three captains, Coach Calderon wants nine leaders on her team. She believes if she has nine leaders taking care of their job, then that gets contagious and carries over to the entire team.

“I’d rather have the whole team push and support each other, and even get on each other if someone is getting down on themselves or making excuses than just one player,” Coach Calderon said.

With all of the early season drama circling the team, one may believe the Lady Braves are walking around with their heads down, but not this team. The girls have stuck together through the difficult times, and more importantly, they’re having fun playing for one another.

“I would say we’re all really good friends,” said center-fielder Amanda Bowen. I’ve gotten to know these girls so well, and they’re honestly my best friends. I find so much joy playing with them.”

Just like the off-season, the start of the season has been a rocky road so far for the Lady Braves. They started the season in Pensacola, Florida, where they lost their first four games of the season.  Since coming home from Florida, the Lady Braves have had six games canceled due to the weather. They had a split in the double header against Highland Community College, where they won the second game 14-11, and got their first victory of the year.

Despite the slow start, Coach Calderon stresses to her team that back in 2007, she kicked three players off the team and they only had nine girls on the roster. That season the team ended up ranked fourth in the nation. That particular story is perfect for the girls on this year’s team, since they are in a similar situation. It’s safe to say that the team slogan for this year’s team is simply, “No Excuses.”