The Lady Greyhounds had all the makings of competing again for a spot in Columbus in 2012, but that outlook didn’t manifest itself after they got off to a 6-4 start and a 2-2 mark in Region 7AAAAA.
But things change, and they changed in a hurry for Pope.
After their 6-4 start, the Lady Greyhounds lost only one game leading to their state championship matchup against Union Grove. Pope went 22-1 during that span and captured its first region title before concluding the season with a 28-7 mark and a trophy as the Class AAAAA runner-up.
For guiding Pope to a historic season, Chris Turco is the 2012 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Softball Coach of the Year.
“I feel blessed and lucky,” said Turco, who just completed his sixth season as Pope’s coach. “I know how good and accomplished the coaches in the county are, and I feel like it’s a huge honor to be named coach of the year. So, I appreciate it and absolutely feel totally blessed.”
Turco credited a strong system of support that led to the team’s success this year.
“I think the biggest thing is the culture in our program has turned to the parents, who have absolutely embraced what we do,” he said. “I know, when the girls leave the field and go home, the parents enforce what we ask of the girls. It’s turned into a total, positive thing. And the support that I get as the coach, and the belief that the girls have in the system and what we’re trying to do here is probably the biggest thing I can say. They come out and they’re awesome athletes. It’s a happy environment, and everything takes care of itself.”
Turco also acknowledged that he has a team of outstanding players.
“We have great players,” he said. “I like to think that our pitching staff is pretty strong, and hitting-wise, we had our second-best hitting season ever at around .325.
“But our biggest strength, honestly, and the girls made this one of their goals this year, was to respect one another on and off the field. They thought about trying to be more of a sisterhood, and they actually did. We made it a point to try and go out to eat a couple of times a week and bond off the field.
“They made that an emphasis, and I think it actually showed. They picked each other up and were totally positive and supportive with one another. I think that was probably a huge difference-maker between this year and last year.”
Turco described his coaching style as one that remains positive at all times and allows the players to grow with effort and encouragement.
“We always tell the girls that you can’t be afraid to make a mistake,” he said. “We try to hold true to that. We never get on the girls for making mistakes as long as they’re trying as hard as they can.
“We say you can control two things, and that’s your attitude and your effort. As long as you’re giving us 100-percent effort, and you’re staying in a positive mind frame, that’s all we can ask you. The results should take care of themselves.”
Turco said it’s a style he learned playing for Pope baseball coach Jeff Rowland.
“I try to coach the players the way I would have always wanted to be coached,” said Turco, who now works as an assistant for Rowland during baseball season. “I’ve had some great coaches in the past and coach Rowland was one of my coaches in high school.
“He was one of the most caring coaches I’ve ever met. I always said I really want to try to mold myself after that and be a coach that really cares about the players on and off the field. My biggest thing is care about the players as a person, and they’ll reciprocate for you. I feel like the players know that we care and love them and they come out and respond for us on the field as well.”