Mar. 26—LONDON — When he was hired to lead the North Laurel Lady Jaguars in 2020, Douglas Gregory never got a chance to coach the first game after the season was canceled to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there is more to coaching than just the games.
Gregory has worked tirelessly to navigate the past year. He had to work the logistics of bringing his team in during the summer to get some fieldwork while keeping the players in pods. He had to make sure that while some girls were playing travel ball, the ones who weren't were able to continue working on their skills. He had to maximize his team's limited time last fall so they could work to improve their hitting.
It's been tough.
For Gregory, it's just what his responsibility is as the head coach of the Lady Jaguars.
"We stayed active through the summer. We had an open field when we could. It has been a rough time," said Gregory. "We did the best we could. We focused on conditioning in the beginning. We concentrated on hitting in the fall. I have a group of girls who work hard and who knew another season was coming, and they wanted to be prepared."
Gregory has benefited from having two returning seniors on the team who have been extensions of him when it comes to leading the underclassmen. Maddie Dagley and Kayelle "Rick" Collett will not only play significant roles on the field in 2021, but they will provide much-needed leadership for a team that is quite a young team.
Gregory said that the pair of seniors have already had an impact on the team, before the season has even begun, because of their leadership.
"Maddie and Rick have been very instrumental in their senior leadership this year. They are both impact players for the team, but their leadership has played a big role," said Gregory. "We have several freshmen coming in, and we have a couple of eighth-graders. I asked them to step in and be like two assistant coaches and help teach these young players like they were taught. They've accepted that role and they've been really good at it."
The Lady Jaguars have several players who will contribute to the team this year. Sophomore Bailey Root returns after being an all-region player two years ago as an eighth-grader. Madison Parman, Hallie Proffitt, Braylee Fawbush, Bella Sizemore, Saige McClure, Emily Sizemore, Lyla Durham, and others will play pivotal roles.
Gregory's young team currently has 31 games on their schedule that are filled with some of the best competition around the state. He said he wants to add five more games to the schedule, but it's been difficult to find teams who have availabilities.
Gregory said that constructing a schedule against the top competition is always a goal of North Laurel.
"We have good competition in our region, but we don't just want to play local teams. We try to schedule the hardest schedule that we can because we want to see the best teams. We want to see Ballards, the Ryles, the Simon Kentons," said Gregory. "We play for the last three weeks of the season. We want to see the best teams, the best pitching, the best base running. We want to see it and be ready for it when we reach those last three weeks."