Polson softball coach Jamie Hanson knows it takes extra effort to capture a state tournament championship.
Hanson has the credentials as a long-standing Mission Valley Mariners head baseball coach and now the replacement to legendary Polson softball coach Larry Smith, a crucial figure in cultivating the Lady Pirates softball program into the powerhouse it is today. Hanson knows you never can turn off the proverbial switch.
Hanson also knows one of the successful formulas to winning is consistency.
“The biggest thing is just making routine plays, expecting someone to come up with phenomenal plays and working out of an inning,” Hanson said. “A championship team does a lot of damage control. You can’t allow a good team to compile runs, and given the opportunity, you can never shut off the switch.”
The switch Hanson references has to be always on and off the field to achieve the coveted first-place trophy in the double-elimination format.
“You can’t have the switch on or off, it just has to be dimmer,” Hanson said. “You then can always turn it back on, but (to be a champion) you have to have it on at all times.”
Hanson, whose 10 to 16, 18-U softball teams will enter the state softball tournament, looking to contend and build on the reputation of Polson softball.
“I honestly think we have a contender in the 16, 18-U (softball) team for sure,” Hanson said. “The 12 and 14-U, they were the second place runners up last year, and they are looking good right now. I think all of my teams are going to do very well.”
Having a short memory is another key to success, according to Hanson.
“It’s great because it’s a good experience, and they are starting to understand each other and play through each other,” Hanson said. “If they make a mistake, it’s just like a quarterback that throws an interception. You blow it off, forget about it, and move on. I think you have to be able to withstand pressure, live past what everyone is doing and just get by with a little mistake. Be quick to forget. You can’t dwell on making a mistake, or else you beat yourself up and just compile more mistakes on more mistakes, and it just doesn’t work.”
No ‘I’ in team
The Polson softball team continues to improve as they’ve gone through the rigors of summer softball that begins in mid-March.
“They’ve played better for each other, and they are a better team,” Hanson said. “The players are starting to understand each other, and knowing each other. That is all you can do is make each other a better team. I’ve seen that with every age group. They are starting to figure out each other, and plays that are needed to help each other out.”
The number of high-quality teams continues to improve with each passing year, especially in Western Montana, but also across the region, and the United States. Hanson knows for his Lady Pirates to hoist a state trophy will take a supreme effort.
“There are several quality teams, and they come in to play softball,” Hanson said. “Being one of the younger teams in the tournament, we know we are going to have to play softball well and put some timely hits together. I like our chances and all, and I like our defense behind our pitching, as well. If we can get back to timely hits and play solid defense behind our pitching, I like our chances (at all levels).”
Hanson expressed a significant level of confidence in all of his team’s moving forward.
All teams have demonstrated a level of competitiveness in the past USA softball sanctioned Montana state tournaments.
“We would love to see a lot of support for the state tournament, and it’s just out by the complex near Fort Missoula,” Hanson said. “I would love to see a lot of support out there. That would be awesome. We support the kids throughout the school year, and we are still supporting the kids throughout the summer.”