TN Mojo 2024 Hughes has featured a core group of players since they were in 10U, and Coach Michele Hughes believes that this talented core staying together has been key for the team’s success.
“Because the core group of these girls has been together for so long, they know each other really well, and they really play as one cohesive unit,” she said.
TN Mojo Hughes boasted a 45-11 record last year, including a third-place finish at Triple Crown Southwest Nationals and a top 20 finish at the Colorado Sparklers Power Pool. The team hopes to build on their success this year. As the players have gotten older, Hughes has been encouraged by how they’ve matured and taken responsibility.
The Ohio Lasers have been developing top-notch softball players for nearly 30 years, with the organization beginning in 1993. During that time, the organization has generally had about eight teams at any given time, ranging from 10U to 18U. In recent years, founder Jeff Cavanaugh said they’ve sometimes had two teams in an age group instead of one, but he doesn’t want the organization to grow too large. From day one, he’s wanted the Laser’s focus to be on the players.
“I don’t make any money from this,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve looked at it as helping people instead of a business. It’s about kids, and that’s why we don’t charge much. I’m trying not to make the players pay extra.”
The USSSA New York Pride is a collegiate prep organization that prides itself on helping players prepare for the next level – both in college athletics and in life skills. Founded in 2014 by Scott Zak, the USSSA New York Pride represents athletes from western New York, Canada, and Pennsylvania with fourteen teams ranging from the 8U to 18U age groups.
“We have a good history of placing all of our athletes in colleges that fit their athletic ability and educational interests,” states Zak. Athletes are expected to work hard on the field and in the classroom and must be willing to put in the time that is necessary to achieve next level performance in both the athletic and academic arena. “We value preparing our players for life,” states Zak.
I-5 Softball is a young organization, but it has quickly grown in size and competitiveness. I-5 will have its first set of alumni soon, with several players already committed to colleges. Coach Jared Snyder believes the organization’s commitment to the players is one reason they’ve had success.
“We don’t rush out to find the next best player. We develop the players we have to make them as great as we can make them,” Coach Snyder said. “We’re very loyal to the families and the girls that commit to us.”
The high school class of 2024 is on the clock. Sept. 1 is only a few months, the day that upcoming juniors will be able to first hear from NCAA college coaches.
The Hotshots Esparza 16u team has several players likely to be hearing from colleges, having established itself as one of the top teams in its age bracket and willing to compete against the best of the best near and far.
Part of the reason head coach Charlie Esparza takes his team all over the country is because of the recruiting rules. He will take his team to the likes of California, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas, outside of his team’s home in Texas.
The Williamsburg Starz Gold officially launched as an organization in 2012, by Tom Bunn, who has been coaching at the 18U level since 2007. Bunn built the organization on a budget with a focus on regional development within Virginia and the Carolinas, and strong growth over the recent years has propelled the organization into a nationally competitive team.
Committed to college recruiting, Bunn’s main goal is to help every student-athlete reach her potential at the next level. He prioritizes college recruiting over wins and losses, helping athletes realize that a lot more than softball enters the decision regarding which college or university might best suit them. “Over the years we have built our reputation and our relationships with college coaches providing our athletes with many opportunities at the college level,” states Bunn.
The NC Challengers strive toward many goals as an organization—develop players on and off the field, win softball games, send alumni on to the college level. Central to all of this is consistency. First and foremost, Coach Adam Renzi believes players can be most successful when they start with the organization’s 10U or 12U teams and stick with the Challengers as they get older.
“Keeping players in our program where they have a consistent training regimen and pushing them to the right tournaments leads to better-developed players,” Renzi said.
Part of this consistency is retaining players so the same girls are playing together, but another part is the relationships players develop with coaches. The Challengers try to hire non-parent coaches, which often results in coaches staying with the organization longer than the four to five years parents often stay when they’re coaching their daughters’ teams.
The Arizona Hotshots began in the mid-’90s, and since that time the organization has delivered on its goals to play high-level softball and develop players on and off the field. Currently, the Hotshots feature 13 teams ranging from 10U to 18U. Arizona Hotshots president Brad Downes says a strength of the organization is the dedication of its coaches.
“Being volunteer-driven has been a strength of the organization for many years. We have folks that are really dedicated to promoting student-athletes who want to play beyond high school,” he says. “The folks that want to be part of the organization feel they can help young female athletes reach their academic, athletic and life goals through this sport.”
Teams across the country are familiar with the chaos and exhaustion that comes from traveling during the summer, playing in tournaments from coast to coast. However, this past season Hotshots Esparza took the grind to the next level.
“This past summer, I kind of put them through a gauntlet,” Coach Charlie Esparza says. “We set out a dramatic summer schedule that took the parents and players on the road for a 43-day tour all over the country.”
Login or Subscribe to Continue
Fastpitch Network Followed the Hotshots from AZ to Birmingham. We watched them match up against teams like the VA unity Johnson, CA Firecrackers Vines, Corona Angels, AZ hotshots Erickson, and it was difficult to find a game they did not outright win. No losses. This is a very powerful team and they should produce a lot of exciting softball next season.