Catoosa Athletic Director Courtne St. Clair was looking for a way to put a spark into the Lady Indians’ softball program. The team, like every other school in the state, has had to deal with the uncertainty of the upcoming season due to COVID-19. With a new coach taking over the fastpitch program, the timing was right to shake things up.
July 15 was the first day schools could begin organized fall sports practices and the Lady Indians didn’t waste a second beginning their season. At exactly midnight, the team enthusiastically ran onto the field for their first official practice.
“I wanted to get the girls excited and do something different,” stated St. Clair, who used to coach softball at Chickasha. “Why make them wait and play in the heat of the day? Let’s get them out here at midnight and get them excited and ready for the season with something they can look forward to.”
Midnight practices became vogue in the 1990s when college basketball teams would hold similar events in an attempt to get fans excited for the season. Catoosa is hoping it has the same effect on their team.
“The main thing is to just get back around each other again,” said first-year coach Jon Yates. “They haven’t seen each other. We’ve got a lot of senior girls and they’re kind of fired up about having a new coaching staff and changing the culture. They’ve bought into what we want to do.”
Most high school kids want to sleep in during summer break. What did the team think when they heard they were going to have a midnight practice?
“I was really excited,” said senior shortstop Kirstyn Reich. “We’ve struggled in the past with team bonding, so this season I’m hoping we’ll get a lot closer. I think this will help.”
Practice may have started at midnight, but the team arrived two hours early and ate pizza and played games in an effort to reconnect and have fun before stepping on the diamond.
“They’re glad to be doing something as a team,” said Yates, who will also coach the Catoosa baseball team in the spring. “Not having school and not having softball, having it taken away makes you eager to get back into it. They don’t realize how much they really miss it until it’s taken away. They’re just happy to be out here.”
After losing their spring slow pitch season due to COVID-19 and with plans changing on a nearly daily basis, the Lady Indian seniors know their final prep season isn’t guaranteed.
“I think it’s been a blessing in disguise,” said senior catcher Kylie Standingwater. “It kind of gave us a break to be a kid and it re-passioned us for the game.”
“I just want to make the most of it,” added senior Emma Roy. “It’s the senior season for half the team. I definitely want to have my senior season, my senior night and all the stuff that goes with it.”
“It makes you anxious,” admitted Reich. “Most of the team are seniors, so we all really want to play our last season together. We’re all real excited for Senior Night and all that. We’re going to be sad if it gets cancelled but we’re hoping and praying that we get to play.”