Forsyth Central head softball coach Kelly Gordon is bringing a newfound culture into her second season at the helm of the Bulldogs’ program.
Following in the footsteps of the University of Missouri softball team, Gordon has implemented a “culture pyramid” to help build pride and confidence throughout the locker room. The pyramid is in four tiers, with each tier describing different characteristics that the Central coaching staff wants their team to show. At the end of every practice, the coaches pass out stars that allow players to advance through the pyramid.
To incentivize buying into her program, Gordon went out and loaded the softball team with new and updated gear for her players to wear. The catch is, each girl starts the season with only a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. To earn the rest of the new gear, a player has to advance through the culture pyramid.
“They have to earn all their cool gear, the stuff everybody loves about being an athlete,” Gordon said. “At the end of each day, the coaching staff recognizes something positive from someone. We’re looking for things that we want to be the backbone of our program … characteristics from our girls that is going to make our team as successful as possible.”
Sydney Stevens was the first player to collect four stars, moving onto the second tier of the pyramid and earning a brand-new rain jacket.
Last year, because of COVID-19, Forsyth County teams had their softball tryouts in the middle of July, then started playing games in the first week of August. Gordon said she struggled to implement her footprint on the program but is now ready to change how people around the county view Central softball.
“We didn’t really have time to do those fun things or really improve anything around here, which is important to take pride not only in our team, but our facilities as well,” Gordon said. “As a new coach last year, there’s always a learning curve. Change is difficult, but it’s good at the same time. This year is different. We want to give each other confidence that we are able to compete in this region.”
In 2020, the Bulldogs finished 7-23, winning three region games to finish sixth in the region. The year prior, Central finished second in region play, proving they are not too far away from being competitive in a tough Region 6-7A.
The hardest part of any new coach coming in is actually getting the team to buy in, and Gordon has accomplished that with players such as team captain and shortstop, Taylor Jackson, who said she gives all the credit to Gordon for coming and revitalizing the program.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year is our overall team chemistry,” Jackson said. “We have done more team bonding, and I think that has really helped. Our goal for the season is to make it to the state playoffs and for everyone to enjoy and understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves – a team.”
“They have to earn all their cool gear, the stuff everybody loves about being an athlete,” Gordon said. “At the end of each day, the coaching staff recognizes something positive from someone. We’re looking for things that we want to be the backbone of our program … characteristics from our girls that is going to make our team as successful as possible.”Forsyth Central softball coach Kelly Gordon
Not only is the team buying into one another, but their play on the field is rapidly improving too.
Rising sophomores Caroline Heard, Kylie McTier and Mallory Smith all talked about how hard the team has been working throughout the summer to be ready and prove themselves for the upcoming season.
“We need to prove to the other teams that we’re able to play with them,” Heard said. “I think we are good enough and we’ll be competitive. Those teams last year that think we can’t beat them don’t know how hard we’ve been working to show them we can compete in this region.”
The Bulldogs will get a chance to show off their newfound pride and confidence Aug. 5 when Central opens its season at Johns Creek.