By Capt. Rebecca Walsh, Operations Group Public Affairs, National Training CenterMay 16, 2011
FORT IRWIN, CALIF, - The beeping of heart-rate monitors measuring the physical exertion of athletes on the High Desert Storm 14u softball team echoed throughout the Ft. Irwin softball complex, May 11, as members of the team conducted speed and agility training.
The training, which consisted of isometric speed training using resistance bands to build explosive speed, was nothing unusual for Cierra Barkis, Cassidy Barkis, Kayla Reeves and Destiny Lackey, who are also students at Fort Irwin Middle School.
For the Barkis sisters, Reeves and Lackey, along with Goldstone's Marissa Cortinas, Fort Irwin presents a unique opportunity to participate on an elite competitive softball team with athletes from cities throughout the high desert region.
According to coach Sgt. 1st Class Brian Lackey, at the beginning of the season the entire team came to Fort Irwin for a weekend of training and bonding to prepare for the season.
"Between practices the girls would go swimming or go to the movies," he said, explaining the importance of creating unity for a team comprised of athletes from military families and civilian families.
For Lackey, who is also a Combat Trainer on the National Training Center's Operations Group Tarantula Team, the season objectives for the team are to focus on softball skill improvement, academic excellence and building players character and self-confidence.
He does this by ensuring that coaches prepare written counseling statements and spend time with each athlete every month discussing goals, strengths and ways to improve.
"We're a very competitive team, and the work ethic of these athletes off the field translates to their work ethic as a team," said parent and volunteer coach Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Barkis, noting the high grade point averages of players on the team.
For some athletes it's homework in the backseat of the family car as they commute between Victorville, Barstow and Fort Irwin for practice and spend their weekends traveling throughout the region for tournaments.
Cierra Barkis, team catcher, takes a balanced approach to juggling the demands of school work and softball.
"I just try to get my homework done in class," she said.
In addition to softball, the team also volunteers coaching a t-ball team in Barstow and participates in fundraisers on a regular basis to pay for uniforms, travel, tournaments and field time.
Like coaches Lackey and Barkis, assistant coach Kayla Awbrey is focused creating a learning environment and preparing athletes for the future possibility of playing softball at the collegiate level.
After playing softball for North Georgia State College, Awbrey married Pfc. Jacob Manus, an infantryman assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and moved to Fort Irwin last year. As an Army spouse and experienced ball player she is excited to have found a volunteer coaching opportunity with the team.
According to Kayla Reeves & Destiny Lackey, Awbrey is responsible for the most memorial event of the season thus far. During a tournament at the end of March the team lost all of their games on Saturday but came back to win all of their games the next day, after a pep talk from Awbrey.
For Awbrey, coaching is not just about teaching athletes about physical strength but also mental strength.
"We need to overcome mental obstacles," Awbrey said, "when we start winning we need to hold the lead and keep it throughout the game."
While the team is focused on qualifying for the Triple Crown World Series which will be held in Park City, Utah later this summer, athletes like Cassidy Barkus take it one step further, "we want to take World Series," she said with a confident smile on her face.