Onekama Softball Coach Talks Upper Classes, Youth and Leadership


ONEKAMA – The 2022 spring sports season is officially here, and with it comes a litany of new storylines.

The Onekama softball team returns a plethora of talent despite the exit of four seniors from last year’s team.

Portagers head coach Rob Johnson believes his veterans, along with a few new players, will be enough to propel the program forward.

AVOCADO NEWS: Breaking down your list, I want to start with the pitching staff. Let’s start with Sophie Wisniski, who has committed to Ferris State University to continue playing softball next year. How important is he to the team?

ROB JOHNSON: Well, obviously, by her very nature, she will be our primary leader. The underclasses and upperclasses have all admired him for a long time. She’ll rally them and keep their head in the game. She’ll definitely work hard in the circle – we’ll never doubt her work ethic there. I always told her that we had to lead by example, and she does a good job.

deputy : Let’s talk about your other three seniors, including Kaylin Sam, Ellie McIsaac and Ashley McGrady. Where do you see them contributing this season?

JOHNSON: I have always relied on my senior staff to be leaders…this core group that we have understands its responsibilities. They are very quick to help, make adjustments and do whatever they can for the younger ones. These four have a knack for softball, and for them being able to filter that down to our underclasses could be the deciding factor for this season when it comes to our success.

deputy : Let’s discuss a few other comebacks, with Carly Bennett, Karmen Warden, Julia Lapp and Abby Pruyne – among others. What are your expectations for them this spring?

JOHNSON: Between these players there is the next core. So throughout the season we have to build that mindset to prepare them for next season. So, as coaches, you start preparing for your next season during your current season. If you don’t, you’ll be behind the eight ball faster than you think…if we can do the things we need to do, you’ll see an increase in maturity every game.

The things that we might miss at the start, we won’t miss in the middle or at the end of the season. But, ultimately, this junior and sophomore class is primed to be your future leaders.

deputy : I understand that you have younger players joining the program. What have you seen of them so far?

JOHNSON: We have Jayla Howerton in ninth grade and Heather Zielinski – also in ninth grade. We also have Hailey Hart, who is in eighth grade. Hart is just a pleasure to watch working in the field. She has so much natural instinct that you like to see as a coach. Zielinski is going to give us a whole new perspective on basic path speed.

She has to learn a little softball because she was away from it for a few years. But she is an extremely intelligent young woman and she understands very quickly. Howerton is a young freshman who has many opportunities to become a very good softball player for us – given the time and work ethic she needs to reach those levels. But they are all ready to take up this challenge.


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