By: Jeff Strange

Upon completion of a challenging and successful 2023 spring/summer campaign, Coach Rhett Reliford was positively optimistic as his Select Fastpitch 13u squad entered the fall season. Although technically a “first year” 14u team, the athletes had been exposed to 14u competition throughout the course of 2023, playing up in multiple 14u tournaments as a 12u team. One key highlight for the 2023 spring/summer season was bringing home the Championship at the PG 14A Elite 40 KC Showcase last May, going 7-0 overall in the event enroute to the title.

Coach Reliford’s optimism was rewarded with a 26-6 fall record as Select FP added some additional talent, expanding to a larger roster. It was in late October that Reliford believes that his squad really came together.

“I feel that the key to our fall was finishing up the season out in Chesterfield, MO going undefended 5-0 at the Fall 14U St. Louis Softball Showcase,” said Reliford. “The offensive potential of our lineup really came together, putting 45 runs across the plate. Seven girls hit over .400 for the event, with multiple girls putting the ball over the fence. We were able to produce overall consistent production and power throughout the lineup. The offensive production was paired with excellent pitching and a stingy defense that only allowed eight runs. There were a lot of great individual performances and highlights from the fall – from walk-off homeruns to run saving throwdowns from the outfield – but this tournament was a great example of the team’s potential. We have had an aggressive offseason development schedule and are excited to get back on the field and build on how we ended the Fall this Spring.”

Now looking ahead to 2024, we caught up with Coach Reliford on his thoughts for the upcoming season:

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

“We have a group of coaches with various degrees of knowledge and experience. Some came from a baseball coaching background and have been with the team since the beginning. We have coaches that have gone through the recruiting & college exposure process with older players that can provide some guidance as to what coaches are looking for at the next level.

Our coaching style has always been about player development. We believe in developing on the field skills, mental toughness, and a personal drive in our athletes that will translate outside the game of softball. We strive to install a “Do Damage” mentality at the plate and always a strong emphasis on basic fundamentals for each position. Our staff continues to drill the basic glove work/footwork drills and the attention to detail is evident on the field.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules? If yes, how do you manage that?

“We recently acquired a pair of talented players from the Omaha area, and we also have a girl from mid Missouri that makes the 2.5-3 hour drive to practice. With team practices at a premium, we are very focused on our practice plans and maximizing our time together as a team. Overall, we have a great group of athletes that have a strong work ethic. They’ve fully bought into the mindset of embracing the grind and that the work doesn’t stop once our team practice is over. So before we even have the chance to remind them to put in the work, these girls have already laced up their shoes, got some dirt on their gloves and our Do Damage mentality at the plate has focused individual hitting work built in.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our primary goal has multiple layers, and each one is built in a way where the ultimate objective is for them to be able to move on to play at the collegiate level. But first and foremost is to establish a strong foundation of skills that will allow them to be ahead of their peers when they hit the high school level. Then we keep building on that skill set by increasing their softball IQ and introducing more advanced techniques.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“Select Fastpitch has grown a lot the past few years but hasn’t lost its primary focus of player development. Eric Jones has built a culture based around the player and providing each player opportunities to grow, develop and leverage years of experience throughout the organization. The opportunity that our girls have with being able to learn from older athletes that play at the highest levels has been very impactful on their passion for the game and development.”

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

“We have a strong core of talented athletes that have played together for years, and we have been fortunate to continue to add additional talent every year, creating an environment that provides healthy competition at all levels of the team. Offensively, we focus on our Do Damage mentality and have multiple girls with out of the park power. With speed throughout the lineup, we focus on aggressive baserunning and putting pressure on defenses. We are excited to have a deep pitching staff with four pitchers that bring a lot of talent and experience to the circle. Our pitching staff will allow us to attack lineups and matchups in different ways and paired with a talented group of catchers we expect a lot of great things from this group. Defensively we are blessed with a very talented infield that has great range and multiple big arms that are able to make the hard plays. Our outfield has really developed over the past year and their speed and talent has been a major factor in our success.”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“To stay focused on player development and foster a love for the process, hard work and mental toughness it takes to play at a high level. From a schedule standpoint, we want to continue to push the team to play the best competition.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To prepare our athletes so that they can have an immediate impact at every level as they progress throughout their softball journey. Eight of our 13 athletes will start High School ball in the Fall, so that is a major focus.”

Recommended Posts