When the announcement for the opening of Cherokee Bluff High was made, Kristi Underwood didn’t waste any time jumping at the opportunity to lead the new softball program.
The chance to build something from the ground up seemed like the challenge she needed.
“The head coaching job was too enticing, especially with the vision that I have been forming now ever since I have been coaching,” Underwood said. “Being able to be involved in a formation of a program was too exciting for me to pass up.”
Underwood, who served as an assistant coach and head coach of the junior varsity program at North Hall, is eager to start her own program as the head coach of the Lady Bears at the new South Hall school set to open this fall.
Her first point of action was choosing her staff, and one of the assistant coaches she brought in was longtime friend Kim Logan. Underwood said their friendship dates back to when Underwood attended North Hall while Logan went to West Hall. Logan and Underwood were almost joined at the hip during their softball careers, playing travel ball together before landing on the team at LaGrange College.
Once Underwood applied for the position, she knew Logan would be her first choice as an assistant coach. Logan expressed her excitement when her close friend offered her the job.
“I look forward to doing this with Kristi and working with this new program (to) get that foundation started at Cherokee Bluff,” Logan said. “I’m very excited. It’s a once in a blue moon where you get to start a new program and start that foundation and get tradition going.”
The feeling is mutual for Underwood.
“I have known Kim for a long time. She was the shortstop at LaGrange while I played third base,” Underwood said. “We have been working side by side with each other for some time. To be able to step on the field with her again, I am beyond exited because she is so passionate about the game and is so knowledgeable. She is going to take our team to the next level.”
Underwood and her coaching staff learned that starting a new program has it challenges.
One of those would be raising funds for a new program — the Lady Bears head coach said the requirements of starting a booster club came as a shock to her.
“That is something you have to set up on your own,” Underwood said.
But she was able to get it done as the softball team’s first fundraiser in May raised $10,000. The team is still putting the pieces together, which was partially done last week at tryouts to see who will be the first to take the field for Cherokee Bluff in the fall.
“We had a good turnout and saw some really good, athletic girls try out for the team,” Underwood said. “We feel like we have all the pieces here to start a successful team.”
Yet many of them are still relative unknowns to the coaching staff that’s working to get up to speed with its entire roster. Underwood said she’s prioritizing communication with her players as a means to quickly familiarize herself with them.
Though the Lady Bears are starting from scratch, Underwood and Logan still are confident their team will be able to compete with some of the best in the state.
“We saw a lot of good talent,” Logan said. “We will be very competitive. I think we will surprise people and be a contender for tournaments later in the year.”
Among all the uncertainty, one thing is clear — Underwood is looking forward to building the foundation of Cherokee Bluff’s program.
“I’m really excited to see things get started with our school and the other sport programs here,” she said. “ ... I am very honored and excited.”