Featured Story

Getting ready for games, and life: Softball coach on learning skills

It was a tough defeat for the Shelter Island varsity softball team on the road against Pierson on April 12. But the final lopsided score didn’t tell the whole story, according to Coach Kristin Andrejack.

“We had a rough start,” she said. “We showed a lot of nerves, but then we settled down and were evenly matched the rest of the game and our team showed a lot of confidence.”

The coach, who also is a physical education and health teacher at Shelter Island School “from Pre-K to seniors,” said coaching is in many ways an extension of teaching. “It’s a split between teaching skills and structure to players who are just learning” and coaching strategy and in-game decision-making. “We have some returning athletes, but a lot of newcomers.”

Any sport requires practice and repetitions, and even the returning varsity players “always have to improve their skills,” the coach said.

The varsity squad is a large one, with 17 players, a testament to Coach Andrejack and the girls who came out to wear the Island’s colors. She was especially pleased at the number of girls joining the team who were not completely familiar with the game on an organized level.

“It’s the first time for some of them to play softball, and it’s great to see them taking a risk, to get out of their comfort zones, to join a varsity team,” she said. “It shows the courage of these young women.”

A stand-out high school athlete herself, the Jamesport native played volleyball, basketball and softball for Riverhead High School. A graduate of SUNY Cortland, Coach Andrejack lives in Westhampton.

Getting athletes to focus — especially young ones — is a key to a successful team, and the coach stresses it, but has also delegated that skill to what she described as “the team leaders,” the returning players.

There are two captains on the squad, Isabella Fonseca and Bella Springer. The co-captains and returning veterans “always want to get better, and the younger players see them enjoying the game and the competition. We have some real role models on this team.”

The players are learning skills, which will go beyond the softball diamond. “Those leadership skills will help these players in future endeavors throughout their lives,” Coach Andrejack said.

It’s gratifying to see the communication among the players, she noted, by getting each other ready before they take the field on defense, and calling out to each other during plays when they’re in the field. 

One game circled on the coach’s and her players’ calendars is May 10, a return match against Pierson, this time on the Islanders’ home field. “It’s a big game,” the coach said.

The game will be Senior Day for the players and also a fundraiser for “Strikeout Cancer,” a national organization that uses funds for cancer research and aid programs. It will also be a second chance to take on Shelter Island’s longtime rival, and maybe even the score a bit.

“Oh, we’re looking forward to seeing Pierson again,” Coach Andrejack said.