By: Jeff Strange

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins Championships.” It’s a quote that coach Ashley VanBoxmeer of the Louisville Lady Sluggers 16u – VB holds in high regards for her nationally ranked squad.

For VanBoxmeer’s squad, 2023 featured many key highlights, including:

  • Runner-up at Top Club Invite – Oklahoma
  • 3rd place at Triple Crown Nationals – Dalton, GA
  • 17th in the Colorado Sparkler POWER POOL Division – Colorado
  • Top 25 at the Alliance Nationals in the Tier 1 Division – California

Coach VanBoxmeer attributed much of her team’s success in 2023 to their persistent approach to compete at the highest levels.

“One thing about championship teams like this one is that they’re resilient,” said VanBoxmeer. “No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity. We play the toughest schedule week in and week out from the end of May to the end of July in the biggest events, on the best fields, against the best of competition. As a first year 16u team, this group earned the respect they deserved and are currently nationally ranked as #14 in the country.”

Now looking ahead into 2024, Coach VanBoxmeer and her Louisville Lady Sluggers 16u – VB squad are eyeing another season of challenges and success. Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach VanBoxmeer to get her feedback on several key elements for her team’s 2024 season:

Can you give some background information on your coaching staff and coaching styles?

“Andy Paalhar is one of the very best coaches in the Kansas City area. He handles all of the outfield and scouting and also assists in the offensive strategy. He is always investing in his knowledge of the game, to not only benefit himself but also the players. Andy gives 110% to each of the girls and is either staying after or coming early to get the girls extra reps. The amount of time and energy he spends on this team is a huge reason why we are so successful.

I have played and competed at the highest level, under the best coaches and trainers in the world. I have been coaching for almost 10 years now and am a full time coach/instructor. I have been there and done that, which is a huge benefit to my players as both a mentor and coach.

To me coaching is taking a player where she can’t take herself. You have to have a sense of confidence about what you are building. You have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you are trying to accomplish on and off the field. I view the softball field as a character-building arena. I consider building the character of the person just as important as developing the skills of the player. I teach my players through my words and actions the values of respect, resilience, empathy, teamwork and sportsmanship that will benefit them long after their playing days are over.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules (drawing athletes from multiple states, perhaps)? If yes, how do you manage that?

“No, we don’t have any challenges with out of state players. Players from all over the country see what we are doing, how we are doing it and want to be a part of it. However, not just anyone can make it on this team. We look for a very specific type of athlete and family. Yes, a certain skill level is required to compete at this level, but mostly we look at the knowledge, work ethic and personality of the athlete. Finding the passion, commitment and love for the game is something you can’t teach and is what matters the most to us.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our team always has one goal – “Hustle, Compete, WIN.” We focus on our purpose and process, which then leads to the results. Individual success comes from the success of the team. Especially during the recruiting process, which can add a lot of stress, we stay focused on our #1 goal and each player’s responsibility to contribute to that goal. The rest takes care of itself.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“I think the finished product that we put out into the world is what makes us unique. We don’t define our organization’s success by the amount of players we have put into college, or the individual achievements our athletes’ produce. Is this exciting, expected and valuable? Absolutely, but it is not what makes us unique. We produce amazing young women who are not only prepared to compete as freshmen on the softball field and in the classroom, but young ladies who are organized, respectful, smart, disciplined & confident. They are great leaders and teammates who make anyone around them better and will do the same when their playing days are over and as they enter their next chapter of life.”

Can you give some analysis/perspective on your team for 2024?

“We have added some big time talent to our already talented team! We are very well rounded in all areas of our game and we feel like we do not have any areas of weakness. Our goal is still the same – Hustle, Compete, WIN!”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“To stay consistent on our developmental path and focused on the task at hand, both as a team and as individuals.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To help them achieve greatness, continue to grow and evolve as young ladies, and prepare them for the next level and challenges life brings.”

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