Fall coaches get ready for middle school sports

MARYSVILLE While summer fastpitch leagues are winding down for most girls, several area players have used the opportunity as a warm up for the fastpitch season which takes place in the fall at the middle school level.
Among them are Monica Clow and Jessica Christensen, two Snohomish County Express veterans who coach Craig Hereth expects will make a contribution on his eighth grade fastpitch team.
But for Hereth, coaching softball at the middle school level is a balancing act. While many girls are familiar with the sport from either Little League or select teams like the Express, he said he tries to avoid watching their summer league play.
I kind of make a point, because theres lots of games going on, to not watch so I can see them play with fresh eyes and give everyone an equal opportunity, Hereth said.
Hereth and Mike VanDaveer, the football coach at Cedarcrest Middle School, both said they make a point of trying to make their sports accessible the widest breadth of players possible.
For Hereth, whose fastpitch teams are a cut sport, that means trying to keep an open mind about players abilities at tryouts. For VanDaveer, whose football team is a no-cut group, its about trying to fit a second game in during the week to allow more players meaningful game time.
We hope, our goal, is to get as many kids at our age group to participate. Its pretty hard to step in as a ninth-grader and play when there are kids two years ahead of you, VanDaveer said.
And to that end, VanDaveer said he tries to plan his playbook as much as possible on the high school playbook. Which means this year his seventh- and eighth-grade teams will be working hard to adapt to the new game plan under first-year M-P coach Brandon Carson.
At the seventh-grade level its pretty fundamental football. At the eighth-grade level we try to follow as closely as we can to the high school program because they need to learn that one to keep up, VanDaveer said.
And with the realignment of Marysvilles junior high and two middle schools, more kids will get the opportunity to play.
Last year, Marysville had seventh- grade athletic programs at Marysville and Cedarcrest middle schools and eighth-grade programs at Cedarcrest and Marysville Junior High. Now that Marysville Middle School has added an eighth-grade class and the junior high has become the new sixth- to eighth-grade Totem Middle School, the school district gains two more teams for 12- to 14-year-olds.
Hereth said hes excited about the opportunity the new middle school presents athletes.
That will give at least another 24 girls an opportunity to play that didnt have that opportunity before, he said.

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