To celebrate the beginning of Junior High Softball season, we spoke to Dobson Academy coaches Joe Polanco, Sabrina Oliver and DJ Polanco.
Father-daughter-son coach trio Joe, DJ and Sabrina have been coaching Junior High Softball at Dobson Academy for the past 3 seasons together, although they spent most of their lives playing it as a family.
How the season started off
“This has been an off year to say the least for everyone. Due to COVID-19, the season has had a slow start. It was tough scheduling games and unfortunately we have had a few forfeits due to last minute cancellations. The last two years at this point in the season we would have played at least 6 games whereas this year we have only played two so far”, said Sabrina.
“It seemed like we weren’t going to have that many games, but thankfully both our Athletic Directors are working overtime to make it happen!”, added DJ. “We are hoping to compete in 8 games this year”, said Joe.
Goals for the season
“Our Goals for the season are to enjoy having a season, with all that we are dealing with due to COVID-19. We continue having fun and building off the success we have enjoyed the past 2 seasons, but we are not adding any pressure on wins and losses”, said Joe.
Having said that, “we would love to make it to the state tournament. We have a young team this year and for some it is their first time playing softball so I think it would be really cool for them to experience the level of play and the atmosphere that takes place at the state tournament”, added Sabrina.
Players to watch
Coaches agreed that Mikel (Patsy) VanArsdale, who plays SS and is a captain this year, deserved an honorable mention. “She is an 8th grader this year and the skill level she is at compared to 3 years ago is incredible. She was our starting center fielder for the last 2 years, but she stepped up and became our starting shortstop this year. Mikel is a natural at this sport and it shows when she is on the field playing. She does everything so smoothly she makes it look easy. Not only is she a great softball player, but she is an awesome student as well. She is the school president, gets good grades and is all around a great person”, said Sabrina.
Another honorable mention went to Elizabeth Seaton, Dobson Academy’s other captain this year. “She was a basketball player who came out 3 seasons ago to see what softball was about. She has improved so much over the past 3 years and currently plays RF”, said Joe.
Aaliyah Opara and 2nd baseman Asena F. were also mentioned. Both are hard working student-athletes with tons of potential. “Asena has been on this team for 3 years now and always works to get better. Her batting is going to be booming this season! Not only is she great on the field, but off the field she is an excellent student. It’s an honor to be her coach!”, said DJ.
What it means to the students to compete
“It means a lot to them, especially the eighth graders. Three years ago was the first time they played softball so they are excited to put all the skills they’ve learned to the test and show everyone what great players they are today. It also means a lot for our new players who have never been a part of a team before. Each girl on the team loves this sport and you can tell it means a lot to them to have the chance to play and grow together as a team”, said Sabrina.
“It means a lot to get the chance and opportunity to play. Especially with everything going on in the world right now. We’re thankful to have a season!”, added DJ.
Advice to their players
One piece of advice that all three coaches use very often with the girls is “shake it off!”. “When they are on the field and they make a mistake we really want them to understand that mistakes happen and we can’t dwell on them. Just shake it off and be ready for the next play. Not only do we want them to keep that mindset on the field, but off the field as well. We are very big on mistakes being a part of the process to success. Our team knows that mistakes make us better people and that they will happen and when they do it’s okay. Just shake it off and keep going, try again”, they said.
Coach Joe also added that it’s important that all his athletes remember that they are student-athletes first and foremost. “School is first and sports is there to make their years at school even more fun. I hope they are enjoying the game of softball and will continue to have success for as long as they choose to play, while earning their Diploma”.
It’s also important to “enjoy every moment and have fun. It goes by so fast so make the best of it and cherish the moments you make here”, added DJ.
What it means to be part of the CAA
“Being a part of the CAA has been very rewarding. They are well established and have made it easy to coach in the leagues offered. We love that it is a competitive league, but that there is a lot of patience with players that are new to the sport”, said the coaches.
“They offer a very competitive and fun experience for the schools and their athletes”, they said. “With the CAA all skill levels feel welcomed and I think that is very important. It gives those that maybe have never played a sport the chance to grow and learn within the league. You don’t find this level of patience and understanding amongst league officials and umpires often”, continued Sabrina.
“To experience what hard work they have put in to have a successful organization when it was just AIA in Arizona, shows up in all the scheduled games, tournaments, and All Star events. We at Dobson Academy have embraced their philosophy and hold our standards high to be well respected and show great sportsmanship”, finished Joe.
Thank you coaches for spreading your knowledge and love for the game of softball and for your team at Dobson Academy. We look forward to following the Dolphins’ successes throughout the season. Check out the full CAA softball schedule here.