Lady 'Clones under new leadership


Kenneth Hardin

By Ivan Sanders
STAR STAFF
isanders@starhq.com
For a program that has been like a toddler taking its first steps from finger to finger, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclone softball program may have finally found a hand with a strong enough grip to take it from one of baby steps to more mature ones.
Kenneth Hardin has assumed the reins of the program from Angie Barker, who stepped down at the end of last season.
"I knew there was an opening and I wanted to get involved more here at the school since I have been working here for four years," said Hardin, who is a sergeant in the Elizabethton Police Department. "I put in for the position and everything just seemed to work itself out."
Hardin isn't a stranger to sports and coaching as he has coached in Little League baseball and slow pitch softball. He has also played some fast pitch softball, following his dad Kenneth Sr. around the circuit with the likes of Jarfly Dugger and Wes Holly.
If there is one thing Hardin is hoping to do more than anything else in taking over the EHS program is to establish Elizabethton with a foundation that can be built upon down the road.
"I am hoping that I can establish some stability by letting this team know I'll be here for them," stated Hardin. "We have a young team that can be built upon and I think we have the opportunity to have some success this year."
A tentative schedule has been made for the 2003-2004 season and Hardin has tried very hard to schedule as many junior varsity games as possible to get the younger players some quality experience. The varsity schedule has also been packed like a can of sardines with nearly 30 games slated for the Lady Cyclones.
"We've got three tournaments scheduled including Gibbs High School Invitational, Eastman Invitational, and the NFS tournament in Erwin," quipped Hardin. "There will be two state champions competing in these tournaments as well as some quality teams from Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia."
The team is already playing in a fall ball season in Johnson City on Sundays with the parents of some of the girls serving as coaches since Hardin cannot official coach until the TSSAA season permits. Also, some of the EHS players have played on the Orange Express, a traveling team comprised mostly of Elizabethton players.
For Hardin the challenge is as plain as a hand in front of his face.
Said Hardin: "The challenge is take this team and make it into a winning program. My plan is to run a disciplined program so that the girls know up front what we expect from them. We only have one senior, so I want to play as many games as possible to get as much experience for them as I can."
Hardin believes that if the girls will come on board with his philosophy, the Lady Cyclones can compete quickly and send a message to all the other teams that have feasted on the Lady 'Clones over the last few seasons.
"I want to see these girls be competitive every game because they can play with anybody," stated Hardin. "I want to help these girls get to a point where they won't be intimidated when they go up against the teams that have experienced a lot of success in the past."
To complement his staff, Hardin has added Amy Richardson as his assistant.
"Amy and I will be working a lot because there will only be two coaches and there is a lot of work to be done," added Hardin when speaking of his assistant. "She will be working a tremendous amount with the junior varsity, but we will be making decisions together on how we will approach each situation and game."
If Hardin can implement his program and bring the Lady Cyclones through the first few stages of growth, the future looks bright for softball at EHS.
The T.A. Dugger Junior High program is producing quality athletes year in and year out, so with all the youth on the present team and the upcoming players, Hardin should be able to shape and mold a solid and reputable team for years to come.
It all depends upon the team's willingness to place a hand of trust into its new leader and mentor.