It’s been a dream almost two decades in the making for South Whidbey first-year head softball coach Alexandra Walter.
For most of her life, the 24-year-old San Diego, Calif. native has wanted to lead a varsity softball team. Her ambitions came to fruition after taking the mantle of the Falcon program this spring, which she is eager to build from the bottom up after a downward spiral in participation in recent years.
“I absolutely love the game,” Walter said. “This is my passion. To be able to share that with others, it’s amazing.”
She’s already making headway in cultivating excitement and passion with the sport in the youth community. Walter, along with older members of the Falcons team, often commute to Little League practices where they help mentor future Falcons.
“I’m going to be part of the softball program for a long time,” Walter said. “That’s why I’ve been working with the little girls as well.”
Falcon junior shortstop Kacie Hanson said the effort was Walter’s doing. It’s one of several attributes that’s impressed Hanson at the midpoint of the season.
“She’s definitely making a program out of it and that’s really cool to see that,” Hanson said. “She’s trying to do as much as she can.”
Falcon sophomore pitcher Mackenzee Collins felt Walter’s biggest attribute has been her positivity.
“I think she’s done really well for us so far,” Collins said. She has faith in us and she that’s a big thing.”
Previously an assistant coach at Snohomish High School, Walter sought the position after her significant other, Robert Goheen, found a landscaping job in Oak Harbor. She often draws from her experience as a former collegiate pitcher and first baseman at the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Bellevue College to help mold her coaching techniques. Hanson said her biggest admonishment is “practice like you play.”
While the obvious goal is to motivate the players to perform as best they can in any given situation, there’s a deeper intent, Walter said.
“I realize that these girls need a role model and I need to be a role model,” Walter said. “I think the girls trust me more just because they know I’ve done it. It helps me being able to teach too. I can relate and also I can show them how to do it.”
The Falcons currently have a small roster of 12 players, nearly half of which had never played before this season. Walter said her first challenge was teaching the basic fundamentals. While difficult at times, Walter said the task was made easier due to the players’ willingness to learn.
“It does challenge my skills because I have to go back and take what I’ve learned years ago and break things down,” Walter said. “I’ve been doing pretty good and it has to do a lot with the girls being very coachable. They want to learn and that helps a lot.”
The coaching has made a difference, Hanson said. She recalled what the Falcons looked like during the first week of practice, where some players struggled to throw and swing, compared to now.
“She’s really good with hitting with the young girls and teaching them the mechanics,” Hanson said. “That was needed. I think five of our girls never played before. They didn’t know how to swing and she’s helping tremendously with that.”
Outspoken on her influences during her youth, Walter highlighted her mother as someone who helped her grow into who she is today. She helped Walter connect with star-studded figures in the sport like University of Washington coach Heather Tarr and UCLA standout Lisa Dodd by going to clinics and technique camps.
“If it wasn’t for her, I would have never been so blessed to have the opportunities that I had,” Walter said.
Louis Kennedy, the head softball coach at Snohomish, was another mentor for Walter. Kennedy was aware of Walter’s ambitions and helped prime her for a head coaching position at every turn. She was also thankful for Goheen and his two-year-old son Skylar.
“I wouldn’t be the woman I am now to be able to coach these girls, the way that it should be, if it wasn’t for them,” Walter said. “His son has made me grow into that little bit of a mother figure. It’s helped get these girls on the right track.”
The Falcons are currently 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the Cascade Conference. Walter highlighted Hanson, Collins and junior first baseman Aria Ludtke as standouts thus far for their leadership and play. She’s also proud of freshmen Myah Majestic, Mya Ford, Nadine Kinskie and Lexi Starets-Foote for their progression this season.
Beyond coaching, Walter is immersing herself in the community. She is currently training with South Whidbey Fire/EMS to be a firefighter and emergency medical technician. Her ultimate goal is to be a paramedic.