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Tim Collins takes over flailing Falcon fastpitch team
Falcon fastpitch head coach Tim Collins is a man who repeats himself a lot. That’s because he believes repetition will breed success for the high school girls team.
“Catch the ball out front. Catch the ball out front,” said Collins to one player who was late stretching out to the ball from a base during Monday’s practice.
During situational drills in which runners are simulated on a base, Collins knocks fly balls and line drives to the outfielders. A few throws are too high, too slow or too low.
“Hit the girl in the head,” Collins said, referring to the outfielder’s need to throw fast and straight. “Hit the girl in the head.”
“Come on ladies. Come on ladies.”
Repeating himself is not a tic; it’s a teaching style. One of the most often repeated phrases is Collins’ main point of emphasis for the girls: practice like you’ll play.
“It’s an everyday Tim Collins philosophy: You play like you practice,” he said. “I think as the season progresses, they’ll get it where I won’t have to remind them quite as much.”
The hope is that Collins’ steady attitude and calm demeanor will bring the program back to prominence at South Whidbey High School. The team has enough players to field a full varsity team, and that’s it. There will not be a deep bench from which to draw reserves; there is no junior varsity.
After a couple of seasons under former coach Ashley Lopez, a former Falcon fastpitch player herself, Collins was tasked with picking up where she left off.
It’s been several years since South Whidbey’s softball team finished with a winning record.
Collins has coached sports most of his life — since he was knocked out of collegiate basketball after a car crash cut his career short. He coached high school sports for 18 years, most of which were in Eugene, Oregon. That included a state championship softball team in his earlier years as a high school coach. The most important lesson he learned from that experience was that in order to have a winning program, the team needs strong pitching.
“It’s a pitcher’s game,” Collins said. “If you have a dominant pitcher, a pitcher can carry you all the way to a state title game.”
For the past five years, Collins has become a private pitching coach, often working with his daughter in one-on-one sessions near the South Whidbey softball field while the Falcons practiced.
Despite his consistent admonishments for missing the ball, throwing over the cutoff player or rounding a base too wide or too sharply, Collins comes across even-keeled. His voice rarely rises from its level tone, not even when an errant throw nearly hits a note-taking reporter.
“They’re still high school kids,” Collins said. “I don’t think cursing at the kids is appropriate, I don’t think yelling at the kids is appropriate.”
As a parent of three children — one recent South Whidbey alumnus, one 11th-grade boy and an eighth-grade girl — Collins said he understands how to work with teenagers. Patience will be important, as will the clear explanation of raised expectations.
“The kids want to work hard,” he said. “And girls, in my view, don’t get pushed in the appropriate manner to be competitive when they want to.”
Practice is serious, when it needs to be. He reminds the girls to jog or run when convening around him between drills. Yet he pauses during the explanation of the cutoff drill to hear the girls’ explanation of the origins of “Bless you” after someone sneezes. Fun, he said, is an important piece in rebuilding the softball program.
“To have the opportunity to coach the kids, I feel privileged to work with those kids,” he said.