H.S. SOFTBALL: Coach of the Year: Beth Bryant has Forbes Road headed in right direction
When Beth Bryant took over Forbes Road's softball program in 2012, the Cardinals were on a 74-game losing streak dating back to 2007, the first year of the team's existence.
In her debut season, Bryant led the Cardinals to a 5-13 record, which was the best in school history. The next year, they won six games, and in 2014, they finished 8-12 and made their first District 5 Class A playoff appearance.
"When I took over, my goal was just to bring new life to the program," Bryant said. "In my interview, I may have even said that if I didn't get the head coaching job, I didn't want to be an assistant, because I wanted to change the program."
She has done just that. This season, Bryant guided Forbes Road to its first winning record (10-9) and its second straight bid to the district playoffs. She is the Public Opinion Softball Coach of the Year.
Bryant was a varsity softball player at Southern Huntingdon and went on to play four years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a pitcher and outfielder.
She then returned to Fulton County and played in an adult recreational league, and she started pitching lessons for Forbes Road students. Bryant was also an integral part of starting a summer league team in the area, and when the Cardinals' job opened up, she applied right away.
"Going into it, I really felt like I didn't have anything to lose," Bryant said. "There was no pressure. It's not like I was taking over a state championship team, and I had a lot to live up to. For me, it was kind of just about going out there, having some fun and learning how to play softball."
She said that first year was focused almost solely on fundamentals, and since then, she's helped the Cardinals strengthen those skills.
"Everything has gotten better," Bryant said. "We've become better fielders, better batters, better pitchers. They have a better knowledge of the game. I feel like they have gained confidence in themselves. By that third year, we had the mentality that we can win, and we can play with these teams."
Forbes Road definitely proved that this year. The Cardinals had several signature wins this season, including a sweep of Southern Huntingdon in a doubleheader and wins over Hyndman and Everett.
"Beating Southern Huntingdon twice was awesome," Bryant said. "I know that's bad to say because they're my alma mater, but they're a good team. We also beat Hyndman and Everett, who were both district champions last year; those were the games that stand out in my mind."
Although the Cardinals have reached new heights, Bryant isn't done yet, and she knows it isn't all up to her, either.
"I hope that I brought some leadership and some self-esteem to the girls," she said. "We just took it back to the basics, and the program now has new life. But I just showed; the girls did all the work, and I'm very proud of them."