Seath Butts took the helm of the Caldwell County High School softball team on July 31, coming into the job after coaching the middle school team, a position he maintains.

High school softball was canceled last year due to COVID-19 concerns, so Butts has to put together a team virtually from scratch and will rely on his knowledge of the middle schoolers of years past to help with that.

“It was pretty heartbreaking for those kids, the day before the scrimmage to be told that there would be no season,” he said. “I had a seventh-grader on the team, and several of our middle schoolers made the team, and it was hard for them to understand.

“The kids that they thought they were going to play with, the seniors, they weren’t going to get to play with. And the seniors, they worked their tails off — some of them seven years — to have that final season not happen.”

Butts said that disappointment has made the Lady Tigers more driven going into the 2021 season.

“It’s made them a little more particular and immaculate in their training, because they know that any day could be their last day,” he said. “I think it’s really changed their outlook and made them better people as well as better players.

“… I feel like, as a coach, if you ever try to stop learning, then you should be done coaching.”

Butts said the team started working out in the late winter with voluntary workouts.

“I was really impressed. We had a really good turnout,” he said. “I want to thank everyone who is on the roster now who made every one of the workouts. We went through a lot of training that a lot of them had probably never done.”

Butts said that some of the Lady Tigers’ training comes from coaches at the collegiate level that he stays in touch with.

“We trained at a very high level, using some of the things that (colleges) are using,” he said. “I think these kids in the conditioning period really changed their bodies and changed their abilities. I’ve had a few of them say, ‘Last year, I wouldn’t have caught that ball.’

“I think we’re going to have a very competitive lineup up and down. I’m going to use the flex player a lot to give an opportunity to many more players to step up in certain situations. … I feel like we’re going to be able to handle our bats pretty well. We’ll have some sneaky power, but I also think we’ll be able to play fast and have a speed game.”

Butts said the team has a couple of leaders, but it is also working to lead each other.

“I think that’s what our success is going to be based on,” he said. “In practice, I always say, ‘Have we gotten 1% better today than we were yesterday? Have we asked some questions? Have we done some things that we haven’t done in the past?’

“A lot of them raise their hands to those questions. I tell them at least once a week that we have to start playing more for each other than we do for ourselves. When we start playing for each other, we’ll have a family, and a family can’t lose.”

The District 7 Tournament begins the week of May 31.