Sports

Strand takes over Auburn Riverside fastpitch program

Auburn Riverside fastpitch coach Bryce Strand instructs a Raven player during a break at Game Farm Park. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Auburn Riverside fastpitch coach Bryce Strand instructs a Raven player during a break at Game Farm Park.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Bryce Strand had no intention of coaching girls fastpitch.

For the past 10 years the Auburn High School graduate and Auburn Riverside Spanish and social studies teacher helped the Raven baseball program as a head coach for the junior varsity squad. He figured coaching baseball would be his future.

Until news of longtime Auburn Riverside fastpitch coach Chris Levernz’s retirement broke.

“Initially I heard about the (fastpitch) opening at the end of the baseball season (last year),” Strand said. “We knew Chris was going to step down after the season, so I started thinking about it. “

Now, eight games into the season, Strand couldn’t be happier, despite a 1-7 record.

“I’m really glad I did this,” he said. “There was a great group of seniors in baseball this year and I miss those kids, but I really love the group I have. I’m glad I’m coaching fastpitch. The girls are very resilent and they’re very coachable. I’m not saying the boys aren’t, but I really love the girls’ resilency. ”

Initially Strand said he had a bit of trepidation about switching from coaching boys to coaching girls. A little advice, however, from another South Puget Sound League North 4A coach helped ease the transition.

“It’s kind of funny because going into it I was a little concerned because my personality is very sarcastic,” he said. “But at one of the preseason coaches’ meetings one of the coaches from Tahoma told me to just be myself. He told me that if you’re just yourself, the kids see who you are, and as long as you’re a good guy they’ll see you for who you are, as long as you’re genuine.”

For some coaches the prospect of taking over an established program could be an intimidating proposition. Especially when the former coach, Leverenz – who lead the Raven program for 16 years – is still in the building.

For Strand, it’s an opportunity to start anew.

“It’s been a pretty brand-new start,” Strand said. “(Chris) stays out of the way, at her choosing, not my request. But I lean on her a lot for advice.”

Although Strand has had to make the transition to coaching girls instead of boys this year, he said the emphasis remains the same — focusing on what the team does and getting better every day.

“It’s a fundamental game about catching and hitting. A ground ball against Kent-Meridian is the same thing as a groundball against Tahoma, or a C team or a Division I team,” he said. “We just need to worry about us.”

 

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