Jeff Stocks: News-Argus Softball Coach of the Year
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on June 22, 2008 2:03 AM
If coaches are measured by the number of titles they win, Jeff Stocks is quickly rising up the ranks.
Three consecutive N.C. Christian Schools Association Class 2-A state softball championships have helped put Faith Christian and its veteran head coach on the map.
The Conquerors became just the second private-school team in Wayne County history to win three straight state titles in any sport. Wayne Country Day set the standard with a phenomenal run on the girls' tennis scene in the 1990s.
The feat has earned Stocks the 2008 News-Argus All-Area Softball Coach of the Year award.
"This is an honor, but all of the credit has to go my players," said Stocks. "They have been playing together since the seventh grade, and they all have fun with softball and with each other."
During the recently-concluded campaign, Faith Christian racked up 14 wins against only three defeats, and proceeded to dominate in the playoffs. Stocks credits his team's laid back style for the season-long success.
"Our girls play so relaxed," said Stocks. "People often ask me how we keep them from getting nervous or playing tight, and I tell them it's all about having fun.
"These girls love the game and we don't put any pressure on them to win. Either way, you get to go home on Saturday and do something else."
The demeanor of the three-time champions is also seen in the way they approach the offseason.
"The girls aren't playing in any summer leagues or anything like that," said Stocks. "They all decided that they had other things to do over the summer, and that's fine."
Managing a roster full of talented players is difficult enough, but coaching at a school with the limited enrollment numbers like Faith presents a unique set of challenges.
"It's different. We make it work with the players we have," said Stocks. "We don't go out and try to recruit or anything like that, so we have to adjust based on our teams' strengths each year."
Despite the school's small stature, Stocks believes the 2008 edition of the Conquerors could compete with almost anyone on the diamond.
"I am not saying we would win if we played some of the bigger schools, but I am saying that I do think we could play competitive softball," said Stocks.
Never one to bask in the glory of games gone by, or to speculate about future accomplishments, Stocks instead sheds the spotlight in favor of the nine players whom he oversees.
"I always fall back on something I heard Mike Krzyzewski say a few years ago, and that is 'talent wins ballgames.'" said Stocks. "I never threw a pitch, I never got a hit, and I never fielded a ball, so all the credit goes directly to my players."
Returning eight starters certainly makes Faith Christian one of the favorites to make another run at a state title, but the cautiously-optimistic Stocks knows his team will have to play at their best in 2009.
"I only graduate one senior, and I have seven juniors and one 10th-grader from the starting lineup that are all coming back, but I know it isn't going to be easy," said Stocks. "People were saying at the end of the season that we should be the team to beat next year, too, and maybe so, but it definitely won't be easy."
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