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Softball with Style: An Interview with Coach Tammy Claussen

By Dorinne Dorfman

CoachTammyClaussenLeland & Gray’s softball team played a very competitive 2015 season, all the way through the Vermont Division III finals on June 19th. When the end-of-year tumult ended, coach Tammy Claussen and I caught up to reflect and look forward.

DD: What drove L&G’s softball team to the finals?

TC: I had an extremely committed group of young women who believed in each other right from the start. They took this statement to heart: “It’s not always the best team that wins, but the team that plays the best together.” At the start, they had talked about their goals in the weight room, which you happened to see. As a team, we clarified that, “We want to be State Champions.” Then we got so close to accomplishing our vision; it’s just an amazing testament to their belief in each other. If you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it, right?

DD: Not only did you ask for goals, you asked for SMART goals.

TC: It’s important for kids to know how to set goals for all kinds of activities. They’d heard about SMART goals, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. They changed it from their original, “We want to go to the state finals,” to “We want to be state champions!”


DD: Would you share some highlights of the final game?

TC: For three of the girls on the team, it was their second time at the finals. The last was two years ago. They had a taste of the championship atmosphere. This time they appeared a little more relaxed and having fun at the game, acting as if this were just another game and not the finals. We scored in the first inning, so that was a great launch. It was the only score off of Richford through the finals. That was energizing, but it was a really tight ballgame. One hit here and there would have tied us up. A 4-1 score in softball is pretty respectable; they never gave up and I was definitely proud of their ability to stay poised under that pressure.

DD: What are the life lessons from playing high school softball?

TC: I would hope something that they take from this season is teamwork. Then you can accomplish great things, something you cannot accomplish yourself. It was that teamwork that made us successful. It’s okay to make mistakes, because someone is there to pick you up and you move forward. Baseball and softball are not about perfection. No matter what level in this sport, perfection is not possible. You’re not always going to get a hit or run. A good batting average is 300-400. Out of ten times you only hit three or four times, realistically. In our jobs, we really do rely on each other to be successful, our work or business. Obviously with teamwork comes relationship building. The ladies seem to enjoy being with each other every day. They’ll continue the season outside of sports, which to me is what it’s all about.

DD: Forgive my ignorance, but there’s an expression, “Batting a thousand.” What does this mean?

TC: It means you’ll always get on base. Actually it’s not much of a reality in baseball.

DD: According to Google, it means you never fail – you’re always successful. There are many metaphors from baseball and softball. For example, my father likes to say, “My grandson is a home run.” How long have you been coaching?

TC: This is my sixteenth year with varsity. I had nine years with the JV team. From 1991 to 2000, I was the L&G athletic director. When I was about to have my second child, I had to stop being the AAD. The hours weren’t working with a family. Four kids later here I am, and they all go to the games. My biggest fan is my six-year old. He made the greatest signs for the team: He wrote, “The Rebels are the best in the world,” and “My mom rules!”

DD: My son is an athlete and he loves to talk sports. He hasn’t met you, but he wishes you were his mother. Actually, this is a great thing. He really has goals to aspire to beyond his parents. He’ll want his kids to make signs, too. Are you going to coach next year?

TC: I plan on it, yes. It’s the joy the students experience that brings me back year after year. I’m their softball mom, watching them grow as players and as people. Consider the contributions that Emily Thibault, Emily Stockwell, and Erica Cutts have given to L&G. They brought leadership to our team. They took the younger players on. They consoled them when they were sad, and were true leaders and role models for the younger players on and off the field. When they leave L&G, they will be the same individuals in the community. It's through these programs that they have been able to become who they are.

DD: In softball, they have learned to fulfill their potential.

TC: In my eyes, yes. How much more could they accomplish? Whether we’re #1 or #2, they reached the top, and they should be very proud of their accomplishments. I’m confident they’ll always treasure those memories and take their skills with them.

DD: Any last memories that you would like to share from this amazing season?

TC: Keltsey Rushton and Jessie Stockwell just got better and better together as the battery. They communicate nonverbally, what kind of pitch to throw. Softball sign language is their job together. Keltsey pitched phenomenally throughout the playoffs and well enough for us to win. That was pretty cool.

DD: Thank you for being a great coach to the L&G Rebels and a terrific physical education teacher for all our students.

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