Recent history has shown they have what it takes to bring home national championships. That’s because the Vipers have already proven they can.
In 2012, the 14-and-under team coached by Vic Loveless won the Premier Girls’ Fastpitch national tournament, while Todd Jennings’ 16-and-under squad captured its age group’s Amateur Softball Association national championship a year later.
Not to be outdone, Jennings’ championship came one week after Greg Giles’ team took home the ASA 18-and-under Gold national title.
That’s three national championships for the Vipers organization in two years, and with various national fast-pitch tournaments set to take place this month and next, there are more opportunities available for the group to lay claim as the best in the country.
“One thing I’ve noticed about this organization that’s a little different from other travel-ball groups is that it’s run by a board of directors, not just one person,” said Jennings, who is in his third year with the Vipers after three seasons with the East Cobb Bullets. “You get a lot of input from different people, which helps to develop a strategy for the organization to develop players and provide scholarships for them and prepare them to play in college.
“Players want to play for the best teams and win. We have good leadership from the coaches who have been through the system and understand what’s needed to help these players succeed. Former coaches like Greg Giles and Phil Berry set a standard to work with one group of girls and develop the best training possible for the kids.”
The Vipers developed their recent championship success over time. With strong finishes in 10U, 12U and 14U national events, titles started to flow in with the older age groups. The Vipers also recently instituted a “coaches’ breakfast” which brings in college coaches to speak with the organization’s travel-ball coaches and teach them training techniques to help develop players.
“Girls play all the way through as one team,” Jennings said. “We try to get a group of girls that stays together for four to five to six years. Some get added along the way and some leave, but the majority of them stay together. That’s huge. They build chemistry and teamwork and that translate on the field.”
The Vipers organization has also challenged their players. They don’t shy away from good competition, playing teams from across the nation not only in Georgia but in other states.
“The Vipers are committed to playing the best competition they can play in, and they’re committed to putting a program together that showcases our players and their talent,” Giles said. “I think players want to come to that organization for those reasons.”
Another adjustment to the Vipers’ success has come from the increasing talent pool being developed in Georgia. New schools have been opening up around metro Atlanta, giving players more opportunities to play instead of sitting on the bench.
The Vipers’ rosters have included a variety of Cobb County natives, including Abby Evans, Abby Akins, Maddie Garner, Taylor DeCelles, Kathryn Jackson, Carli Kayler, Katey Lynch, Bryanna Vazquez, Sierra Maddox, Bridgette Rainey, Erika Dunbar and Rachel Jarvis among others.
“The Vipers are known all over the country,” said Rainey, a recent Harrison graduate who joined the organization three years ago and was a member of Jennings’ 16U national championship team.
“They play the best of the best, and, when I got the opportunity to join them, I jumped on it. They’re known for great coaching and providing opportunities to play at the next level.”