Softball: Young's got the Wolfpack's back
As a Park player slowly makes her way into the dugout following a miscue in a recent game, it was Tony Young who nods, looks her in the eye, and says: "Everybody's got your back."
That's how the Wolfpack, and Young, roll.
Park is having a dream season this spring. At 19-1, they have the best record of any Class AAAA softball team in the state. The Wolfpack won their second Suburban East Conference championship in three years last week. Top-seeded in Section 3AAAA, Park will be going for their third consecutive section title starting this week and a third-straight trip to the state softball tournament.
Getting most of the credit are head coach Bob Loshek and a team of terrific players led by seniors Delaney Young, Heather Degler, Riley Perryman and Shelby Schabacker.
That bunch has led Park to a 61-11 record the last three seasons, going 23-3, 19-7 and now 19-1 so far this spring.
Park has had it all this season. Top pitching from senior Bryanna Olson and sophomore Sam Fohrman, a murderer's row lineup that is averaging 9.1 runs a game and a best in Class AAAA defense that is allowing just 1.8 runs a game.
Helping for years to get the Wolfpack to where they are today has been Young.
"Tony's been fantastic," said Loshek. "Tony has worked with the youth forever. He's from Cottage Grove, went to Park, Park grad. He lives and breathes Park athletics. He bleeds green. He does everything he can to keep Park athletics going well as it can be. As good as they can be. Regardless of his daughter (Park all-state candidate Delaney Young) and her friends come through the system, he's been nothing but an inspiration to the kids in the city, in the basketball program and in the softball program. He's been a leader all-around for us."
In addition to serving as an assistant varsity softball and girls basketball coach at Park High School, Young has a long history of coaching championship youth softball teams in Cottage Grove.
A 12-year-old softball team coached by Young won state championships in the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013. That U12 team included present Wolfpack stars Delaney Young, Riley Perryman, Saren Croker, Megan Morris, Madi Meduna and Bryanna Olson.
Young's coaching philosophy is simple to say, much harder to execute.
"You've got to work to be great," said Young. "You've got to work to compete at the level we're at. The conference that we play in and everything else, nothing is given. These girls out here on this big field have earned it. They knew a long time ago when I had them at 10-years old that we're going to be the hardest working team. Now it's finally paying off for them. They've had a ton of success.
"With the youth girls it's easy to sell it because I have them (the Park varsity)," Young said. "It makes things easy. And on any given night, usually two or three, if not 10 or 12, are at wherever I'm at. Just cheering them on, talking to the young girls and it's like a big giant family."
Young has watched that family blossom the last three years on the Park varsity.
"He did coach Delaney and Riley and Shelby (Schabacker), Heather (Degler) and all these other girls growing up since they've been in T-ball," Loshek added. "And he gets to be with them now and he's had a group of 10U kids which are now 12U kids for the last couple of years. So it just continues the cycle of keep giving back to the community and that's what we love about Tony."
"He's just like really good with words," said daughter Delaney Young about her dad. "That's one of his strengths. He can tell you you're terrible or whatever, but just the way he words it nobody will get mad at him for saying it."
"There's no pressure because he still has to love me even if I do bad," Young said with a laugh.
"When I was younger and I started playing for him, I would not be the athlete I am today without him," said Perryman who has been playing for Young since her T-ball days. "He definitely puts all of us first. He genuinely cares about every single one of us. He's just a great guy."
Getting good coaching early is a key to sports success later, Loshek agreed.
"That's monster," said Loshek. "It's great to get technique and you can go anywhere and learn beautiful technique from different coaches. ... But to get someone that knows kids, that knows kids in the community and knows the game, knows what we're looking for at Park in softball and basketball and is a real good role model and has so many of these girls come back to help. So many of the varsity girls come back and help the 10s and the 12s. So it isn't just the technique, it's the building of that family that we continue to talk about and the togetherness that we've been talking about for years here. Everybody has each other's back."