Tallmadge softball took unique training approach ahead of 2021 season

Ashley Bastock
Kent Weeklies
Tallmadge right fielder Chloie Brown catches a line drive by Copley's Cassie Bauer.

When Tallmadge softball coach Brittany Lightel could begin team workouts again this fall, out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she opted for a unique, all-virtual program.

"I developed a conditioning grid system where workouts were worth one point, two points, all the way up to five points,” Lightel said. “I put the girls on teams with different seniors, and then they reported to me every Saturday with their scores. 

"I made it into a big game. So each team that won, or if I did individuals one week, or top three girls that week, I would get them prizes and drop them off at their house. I tried to keep them on their own as much as possible for as long as I could."

Lightel, a Tallmadge alum who played under former head coach Ed Seeker, is entering her third year at the helm of the program.

Two years ago, the Blue Devils posted an 18-11 record that was ultimately adjusted to 12-17 due to an ineligible player and six forfeited games.

After mostly virtual workouts in the fall, Lightel said the team began training together after Christmas break concluded.

Overall, she said the events of the last year have made this group even more grateful for the upcoming 2021 season. 

The Blue Devils open the year with a game against Elyria at home at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 27. 

“I feel like as soon as we could get together, it was life-changing,” Lightel said. “The girls were so excited. I was happy to just be playing again. But I keep reiterating to them that you never know when your last game could be. So it's all about doing what you can to make an impact when you're on the field, and I think a lot of them are buying into that. We've had amazing practices, we had a scrimmage last weekend, and I'm telling them just leave it all out there.”

When it comes to returners, Chloie Brown is the only senior that has ever played in a varsity game on Lightel’s current roster.

Tallmadge’s other seniors include Lani Gray, Lauren Adolph and Samira Dadich.

“I am looking to all four seniors to be a big impact on our young team,” Lightel said.

Over half of the varsity roster is new with five sophomores and two freshmen who are all playing in their first varsity season.

Lightel said that over the last year, however, she has been especially impressed with the dedication from her sophomores.

“I was extremely fortunate enough that my now sophomores that were freshmen are all athletic and so talented,” Lightel said. “I think almost all of them played summer ball and that whole group played summer ball on the same team. So I got to go watch them all summer when they were local.

“I'm just lucky that I have a group that is just so into the game and dedicated throughout the whole summer."

Lightel added that because of a lack of varsity experience, she can see nerves from some younger players at times; however, overall she continues to be impressed by their continued improvement and athleticism. 

"That part I can definitely tell," she said. "And they are so uncomfortable in certain positions and definitely with a new coaching staff they're not used to. But they are opening up. I feel like I have just been fortunate enough that my whole sophomore class is extremely athletic and involved in the sport.”