Leah Francis, head coach of the lady Bulldogs softball team isn’t just an ordinary coach. Francis attended North Mason High School in Belfair, Washington, where she was a multi-sport athlete. “I played soccer, basketball, ran track and threw javelin, played high school slow-pitch and summer ball fast pitch. I actually played baseball until I was in high school. I loved the competition, the smell of the grass and the feeling of hitting a ball in the sweet spot. I fell in love with the sport of baseball and naturally transitioned to softball when I got older. I absolutely love the game and the camaraderie it provides. This sport has given a lot to me and I will always cherish any opportunity I have to be a part of it.”
Francis’s love of the game resulted with her playing at the University of Washington, where as a sophomore, they took second in the 1996 College World Series. In 1997 and 1998 the team took third at the World Series. When reflecting on the experiences, she said it helped her a lot as a player and a coach. “Having the opportunity to play with and against some of the highest level of talent was a great experience for me as a player. I learned what it meant to play and be competitive at a very high level and was taught the fundamentals of the game that are necessary to be successful. I have been able to use these experiences and skill sets to make me a better coach for my players, and in turn help them to become better ballplayers themselves,” Francis said. “I use my experiences and some of my stories to help my players understand what it takes to play at a high level. The stories I share provide my players insight as to who I am as a coach and what I am helping them to achieve as players.”
With a combined record of 248-66, and a winning percentage of 78.9, Leah is obviously getting the job done. “In terms of what we do right as a staff, I believe we are very strong at teaching the core fundamentals and techniques of the sport to our players to make them better ballplayers. We believe that we have a strong program and have set very high expectations for our coaches and players and try to instill in everyone around us the desire to be not just good, but great, at what we do. As a coach, there is always room to grow and improve. I have to grow, just as I expect my players to grow. I am constantly dialoguing with the other good coaches to try to find ways to improve upon what we do. In addition, I try to surround myself with a great supporting crew of assistant coaches, who provide greater depth and knowledge to my team than I could as one individual.”
With a record at 22-2 and dominating the north division, the Bulldogs are looking for another NWAACC (Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges) championship. “Every year, we set out with a goal of winning an NWAACC title. In order to be a top team in the NWAACC’s, we have to set and believe in that goal every year. We work throughout the year with the anticipation and belief that we are one of the teams capable of winning a NWAACC championship. So far our players are achieving at a very high level, and it’s our team’s expectations that we will continue to do so. We always have room to grow, and must keep building on our current success in order to have success at the end, but I am very happy with the level we are playing at right now. It’s my job as a coach to stay committed to, and keep our players focused on the prize.” Playing at the level in order to obtain the “prize” isn’t unfamiliar to Coach Francis. Come show your lady Bulldogs support in their next home game Tuesday May 1, against the Everett Trojans at 2:00 p.m.