WHEATLAND – A serendipitous meeting in Cheyenne brought a strong choice in pitching coaches to each her techniques to the Platte County girls.
Jess Yost who played college softball at Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota and was somewhat of a legend in the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, was an All-American second team selection at BSU.
According to the BSU softball website, Yost was selected to the Fastpitch News 2017 NCAA Division II All-American list. This Followed a historic season, which included program record for wins (25) and strikeouts (307). Yost earned a spot on the FPN All-American Second-Team Pitchers list. The award marked the first its kind for a Bemidji State Softball Player and never before had a pitcher recorded over 20 victories at the university.
Yost is coaching in a three-week clinic where she comes in and teaches age-appropriate techniques to the 10U group, the 12U group and the 14U and older group each Wednesday.
“The turnout is just amazing,” Yost said. “I am surprised and shocked but it’s awesome. It’s so cool to see so many young pitchers wanting to learn.”
Yost started lessons Wednesday for all girls interested.
“Jess loved her previous interaction with the Wheatland players last year and could not wait to work more with them,” said Fitzwater. “Needless to say, the players were pretty excited as well. We had over 30 girls come out and attend the initial lesson. Girls were broken up into a 10u group, 12u and 14u group, and a group for those attending or coming into High School. Jess believes on teaching a strong foundation of skills so the pitchers develop their technique so that they can eventually throw harder as well as develop more pitches. She too, is excited for our softball future as there is a lot of talent at all levels! Jess will continue lessons Wednesday, June 30, and July 7 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Catchers are also invited to attend lessons in order to help catch for the pitchers when needed. When not catching the pitchers. Fitzwater has the catchers work on their techniques by completing drills of their own as well as discussing catching strategies.
Fitzwater said that she is very excited to see so many girls out and playing. She truly appreciates all the time that the coaches and players are dedicating to softball.
“WHS Softball has a great future with all of the awesome talent out there in our community,” Fitzwater said.
Yost became a Wyoming resident in 2018, moving to Cheyenne to be closer to her fiancé’ and his family.
She works for the Laramie County School District where she has four years of coaching experience, and coaches volleyball, basketball and she is hoping also to coach softball. She graduated with a degree in exercise science and had an opportunity to play professionally in Germany, but turned it down as life was making other plans for her out west.
“I love coaching,” she said. “It’s a way for me to still stay involved and teach kids the right way to do things. That way they grow up and they learn to love the sport because they are already doing the right things. At 15, 16, 17 these little ones will know the right way, and that really makes me proud of them, that they started so young and continued with it.”
In coaching, doing the right things yields a higher degree of success and a lower level of stress due to a lack of consistently performing. The biggest challenge coaching older kids is that they either had no proper teaching or the teaching they received was flawed in some way.
For a Varsity coach to come down and coach in clinic situations poses its own set of challenges. For Yost, it is the attention span of the younger kids – especially in warm summer situations.
“But, their want and their desire to learn is so big at this age,” she said. “They want know and want to throw all the time. You see them right here after we are done, they are still throwing. It’s awesome to see how much they want to get better.”
A mutual friend introduced Jodie Fitzwater, new Wheatland head softball coach to Yost and the rest is pretty much, as they say, history.
“We used to use a different pitching coach,” Fitzwater said. “That lady is on maternity leave and my friend said, ‘hey I stumbled upon Jess and she’s fabulous’ and he said that he’d highly recommend her.”
Fitzwater said that Yost, in addition to the three-week clinic would be available to lessons beyond the clinic dates if the kids wanted extra help.
This was the inaugural year for softball in Wyoming, and Fitzwater couldn’t have been more excited.
“I’m super excited,” she said before last year’s campaign. “We helped softball get going around here again, and then excited for my daughter because she will be a senior this year. She was worried that it wasn’t going to go through until next year, so just the chance to give the girls the opportunity to play is wonderful.”
This year the state was split into two divisions, one east and one west conference.
“It was a challenge and we saw some really have some tough teams,” Fitzwater said. “The girls were excited this first year and what’s great is I’m hoping to see that excitement with the younger girls knowing now that they have high school softball.”