Experienced head softball coach, James DeFeo has started the new softball season with big plans in mind for the team. DeFeo has been coaching for over 20 years and this is his second year as a head coach at Mercer University. DeFeo took a spare moment to speak with The Cluster about the starting season, the team, and a little bit about his coaching career.
Cluster: How long have you been coaching for?
DeFeo: Coaching in general, over 20 years right now. This would be my 16th year in Divison I and I’m starting my second year here at Mercer. Previously I was at LSU for the last 12 years.
C: How did the team perform last season?
D: We faired decently. We didn’t perform up to expectations. At the end of the year, our pitcher had an injury which really strained us. So, we didn’t finish as strong as we would have liked but we had potential and we’re bringing that potential to its fruition this season.
C: How would you describe your coaching style?
D: Well, I’m very detail-oriented, process-based. We focus on fundamentals, focus on the little things and we focus on what we do well and make that better. We just strive to play like Bears. We go out, give 100 percent hustle, 100 percent effort and great attitudes every time we take the field.
C: How do you keep the girls on the team motivated?
D: We like to keep it fresh, we like to keep it fun because it is hard and it’s a lot of hard work. We don’t let things get stale. We don’t have the same practice ever twice. We like to mix it up and keep things fast-paced. We do a lot of things in short bursts and get a lot of stuff done that way so their attention to details are a lot better.
C: The season is just beginning, what do you hope to improve this season?
D: Right now we have a lot of talent but we don’t have a lot of bodies. We have a very small roster right now. We’re down to 16 players and just hoping that nobody gets hurt. We have a lot of versatile athletes that can play multiple positions and that makes us a very dangerous team. We pitch well, we play defense and we can score in a lot of different ways.
C: What are your best memories as a coach?
D: The first time I got to coach here at Mercer was one of the best memories. Just really fun having my own program and seeing my work pay off and see the kids bind into the system. Another great memory is going to the World Series three times with different teams.
C: What is your worst memory as a coach?
D: My worst memory was last fall at our first game. In the first pitch of the first game, we got a home run hit off us. It was a very foreboding moment, but then we came back and we won that game so it ended up being good.
C: So in coming here to Mercer, is this the first time you’ve been able to do what you want with how things are run?
D: I’ve been very fortunate to coach with a lot of people that let me coach and help the team in every way I could. But, this is my first actual coaching stint where I get to make all the calls. Slowly but surely once we get all the recruiting here, we’ll be very talented.