• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Les Anderson named WCHS head softball coach

LES ANDERSON talks strategy with a Woodford County High School player during a game last year. Anderson was named the new head coach of the Lady Jackets on Tuesday, July 19. He replaces Sasha Turansky, who was head coach for the last four years. (File photo by Rick Capone)

On Tuesday, July 19, it was announced that Les Anderson has been named the new head coach of the Woodford County High School softball team. He replaces Sasha Turansky, who had been the head coach for the last four years. Anderson was her assistant for three of those four years. “I’m just excited,” said Anderson about his new position. “We’re going to get after it. My history as a coach is that we work extremely hard, we’re very well prepared, and because of that we’re successful. And, these kids typically

respond to the challenges of hard work, and I expect this group to just jump right in and it’ll be fun. It’s going to be a really incredible ride for the next several years.” WCHS athletic director Jay Lucas is happy with the hiring of Anderson and believes he will do a great job with the team. “Les is an outstanding coach who will have success as our new head coach,” said Lucas. “He will work extremely hard for our softball program at Woodford County High School.” To say that Anderson knows softball would be an understatement, as he has been involved with all aspects and all levels of the sport in Woodford County for many, many years. Most recently, he was the head coach of a travel team, the Louisville Stunners, that won the elite Triple Crown National Softball Championship at Randall Park in New York City, N.Y. On the team were four WCHS players, Lindsay Anderson, Caitlin Karo, Paige Hampton and Bethany Todd. Playing Monday through Friday, July 11 to 15, the team finished the tournament undefeated – 8-0 – and defeated the Firecrackers of Southern California 6-3 to win the title. Anderson got involved in coaching softball in 1998 when he worked with Woodford County Parks & Rec as president of the Little League. Then in 2000, he started the Rockers Softball Organization with two 10-year-old teams. He ran the Rockers for 12 years and by the time he was done there were, at one time, 10 teams playing with about 130 total kids playing in the organization. In addition, the program held three of the bigger tournaments in the state every summer. He notes that when the Rockers first started in 1998, fast pitch softball wasn’t even a high school sport. In fact, he noted, that the University of Kentucky didn’t even have fast pitch until 1998. Anderson said that, when he began coaching softball, “…That was the beginning of the sport here for a lot of the population. But, there were two or three areas that had more experienced … kids that could pitch and could really play, and the first teams we (had) really got thumped. We were really out-classed. We didn’t know what we were doing.” That initial start made him and his fellow Woodford County coaches begin to work harder to improve their knowledge of the game so that they could help their players improve and start competing better. “It just kind of became a mission, you know, to get better,” he said. “To be able to compete at a higher level (so) our kids (can) go to these contests and not get embarrassed. Then, of course, you get to where you’re not embarrassed, then you want to win, and then when you want to win, you want to win all the time. “So, that as the root of it all. We got embarrassed and that was the driving force for everybody to work harder.” With hard work, and the guidance of the coaches, the Rockers’ players began to get better and the teams began to win and the program became very successful. “Once you start winning, and once you start being successful, that feeds on itself,” said Anderson. “And so everybody wants to work a little harder, everybody wants to work a little better, everybody wants to start to play a little bit more, and reach out a little bit more to see who else you can compete with.” Thanks to all that, Woodford County is loaded with talent today. “We have a lot of kids in this county that can play,” He said. “Not only (our) seniors, but all the way down to the fifth grade. There’s a lot of kids in this county that can play high quality softball.” Another position Anderson held before joining the high school varsity team was as head coach of the Woodford County Middle School softball team. He held that position for seven years and led the team to the conference tournament or regular season title every year. His teams also won one state title and was runner-up one other year. After leaving the middle school team he sat out one year of coaching to watch his daughters play on the WCHS varsity. Then, the following year, Turansky asked him to join her coaching staff and he accepted and helped the team win two 41st District Championships and reach the 11th Region Championship game twice. Then, following Turansky’s resignation this year, he applied for the head coaching position, was hired and is looking forward to the challenge and working with the players. “My passion is coaching,” said Anderson, who has coached many sports. “It always has been, and this sport especially. … I enjoy softball the most. You know, there’s a certain amount of pride in what we’ve built (here at WCHS), and the accomplishments that this community has had in building a successful program. “And, as the head high school softball coach, you’re able to have a bigger influence on a kid’s day-to-day development because you’ll practice every day (and) you’ll play 40 games in the spring. You have their attention more time than a travel-ball coach does. So, you’re able to really have a larger impact on their development as a player. … “So, that’s really my main interest is to get in and work with the players. It keeps me young, (and) it gives me a sense of purpose, too.” When asked what he considers his strongest asset as a coach, Anderson said, “I’m a good leader. I have excellent leadership skills. … My biggest asset as a leader is that I’m able to empower the people that are working with me, whether it’s at work or on the softball field. And, to help them believe in themselves, believe in the group and relax and reach their full potential. That’s really what I consider my greatest strength as a coach. “And, I know the game very well. So, there’s nothing in the game that I can’t coach. But, knowing how to do something and being relaxed and comfortable and allowing yourself to reach your full potential is actually what holds a lot of kids back. It really is. And, I have developed some ability in helping kids reach their full potential.” Before looking ahead at next season, one other very important thing that is on Anderson’s résumé and needs to be noted is that he, along with a number of other community leaders and softball enthusiasts, stepped up to build the state-of-the-art softball field that the Lady Jackets now play on. In short, thanks to donations by the Farrish family of Lane’s End Farm, who helped support the development of the Woodford Parks Foundation; Joe Barrows, who was a state representative at the time and who was able to get some money from the legislature; and some others, money was raised and out of that came the building of the field. As to next season, Anderson has a team loaded with talent – seasoned upperclassman and young up-and-coming players – that should make Woodford one of the top teams in the district and region once again. To start, the Lady Jackets have five strong senior leaders in Ariel Dailey, Caitlin Karo, Marly Maristany, Kyla Simpson and Bethany Todd. Three of those seniors are verbally committed to Division I colleges – Daily to Louisiana Tech, Karo to the University of Tennessee-Martin, and Todd to the University of Kentucky. In addition, Woodford has a number of outstanding juniors and sophomores who all will be fighting for playing time. However, while he is really looking forward to seeing what his players will accomplish next year, what is even more encouraging to Anderson is the future of softball in Woodford County beyond next season. “The truly exciting thing about this (coaching) position are the number of talented freshman, eighth graders and seventh graders that we have in the system,” said Anderson. “The talent in the eighth grade is the most talent – just raw, athletic talent – that Woodford’s ever had. Eighth grade we have several exceptional players, and in the seventh grade we have the best 12U pitcher in the state (who) is phenomenal. “So, we’re top heavy with a really talented group of seniors, but we have so much really good, young talent coming up that we’re going to be a successful program for a number of years.” Anderson, a professor at the University of Kentucky who teaches adult education classes to farmers across the state, lives in Woodford County with his wife, Cindy.

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