Flowery Branch’s Jimmy Lawler has had one simple philosophy since he began coaching 17 years ago: be able to adjust.
If the talent on his baseball team lends itself to small ball, play small ball. If the talent on a team lends itself to power hitting and pitching, make sure the lineup is such that it reflects those strengths.
This year, Lawler’s philosophy played out in preparation.
Having lost 10 players off a 2008 team that went 27-5 and won the Region 7-AAA title, he knew that offseason workouts mixed in with a good amount of playing time in summer ball were a must.
“(At the end of the 2008 season) my initial thought was, ‘what are we going to do.’” Lawler said.
“How were we going to fill the shoes of those that left? How were we going to adjust to this?”
So Lawler and his staff went to work, drilling junior varsity players along with those left on the varsity in the hopes of finding a competitive group that could in some capacity fill the void left by the likes of Patrick Henry, Cody Ackerman and Danny Price.
And it worked, as the Falcons went 20-7 on the season, finishing second in Region 7-AAA.
For his efforts, Lawler is The Times 2009 Baseball Coach of the Year.
“(The coaching staff) sat down after the first game of the season (a 12-0 win against Buford) and said that this might not be a rebuilding year,” Lawler said. “Our junior varsity guys put in a lot of work in the offseason. They wanted to play and as a result put up good numbers, had good seasons and helped us win 20 games.”
Lawler is hoping this year’s results carry over, not just to hopeful success next year, but for years to come.
“The kids on junior varsity will see what happened this year and hopefully think, ‘This is what I have to do to play varsity,’” Lawler said.
“We’re really hoping that what happened this year, and more importantly why it happened, trickles down.”
Lawler admitted that he had reservations about playing inexperienced players, but that the sports culture at Flowery Branch shown through in the way they responded.
“Flowery Branch High School is a great place to work,” Lawler said. “The administration allows us to coach and supports us. The booster club is supportive and, more than anything, we’ve got good kids.
“Because of the successes of our other programs, our kids expect to win and prepare for it,” Lawler said. “Seven years ago when Flowery Branch opened that was what we wanted — a tradition of winning.
“And I think we’ve done that.”