New coach looks for changes
Franklin County Board of Education member Shannon Oliver is the new head baseball coach of the Belgreen Bulldogs this season.
He takes over after the departure of former coach Kenny Lindsey forced the board to find a new person for the job.
Below Oliver tells a little bit about himself and what he hopes to accomplish as the new helm of the program.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m Shannon Oliver. I’m 40 years old. I work down at Gates Corporation in Red Bay.
“I’m a [Franklin County Board of Education] member for District 4 in Belgreen. I’ve been married to my wife Tara for about 18 years.
“I’ve got one girl, Bailey. She’ll be 10 in April. She’s a fourth grader at Belgreen.”
How long have you been in the field of education?
“I’ve been a board member for nearly three years. I wasn’t a teacher before that. I went to Belgreen, graduated out there and went to college at Northwest-Shoals. I’ve been an assistant coach at Belgreen before under Kenny Marsh and Derek Ergle.”
What’s it like to be the head coach of a baseball team for the first time?
“It’s been an experience. There’s a lot more that goes on. When you have to head a program there’s a lot more that goes into it that many don’t understand.”
Taking over a program like Belgreen that struggled last season, what are some of your goals moving forward this year?
“The main goal that we have this year is to improve fundamentally. We’ve got a young team.
“They have to set goals for themselves and set goals as a team. The varsity team consists of about 10 players. We’re moving a ninth grader up.
“They don’t have many wins under their belt. They only got a few last year, so we had to teach the will to win to them.
“With this young bunch we have to work hard every day.”
How do you go from being a school board member to also coaching baseball at Belgreen?
“We only had three men at Belgreen that had coaching experience before, but we couldn’t find anyone in the faculty that would take this job. So I volunteered since I had some experience as an assistant coach.”
What are some of you personal goals for this season?
“My goals are to improve the team fundamentally and try to get them to have good work ethics.
“I could tell by the way some of them go about it that they’re just out there because they like baseball and they want to play.
‘From being a player before in college and assisting like I have we’re trying to motivate them to work harder each day.
“That’s a goal right now. I want each one of these kids to understand that baseball is sort of like a game of life.
“They get out of it what they put into it. If I can get them to go all out this year and put the work in, they’ll see the results.”
You said you had some experience playing before. How long did you play baseball?
“I started for Belgreen as a seventh grader and played all the way through. I played my 11th grade year with Coach Williams and then my senior year with Coach Watkins before going on to Northwest-Shoals.”
With the kind of season the baseball team had last year, how have the players, parents and community members responded to the coaching change?
“They’ve been really supportive. I’ don’t know if you got to see Belgreen’s field last year, but it was in pretty bad shape.
“We’ve been out there, me, some of the assistants that I have and some of the parents, we’ve been out there working.
“We fixed the backstop. We put base paths back down between first and third.
“We went out there the last two Saturdays and fixed some of the problems with the fence.
“We’re already looking at what we need to do over the next couple of years just with the field.
“We’ve worked really hard in our youth league, which we expanded a few years back.
“We’re trying to get our spring sports going. I’m on a committee with five other men, and we work really hard to get our youth basketball going, and we want to get our spring sports going too.
“It’s taken us a few years, but this year Belgreen’s youth leagues will have teams in every age division in both baseball and softball. It’s really started to inspire lids to play at a younger age.
“In fact, some of the seventh and eighth graders on the team now were some of the first kids we worked with a few years ago. Just the other day we had probably 10-15 people out on the field working.
“We worked pretty much all day, so I can see a lot more involvement community-wise and a lot more build up coming for the sport of baseball here in the future at Belgreen.”
What must you do as a coach to get the program turned around and help the team start having winning season’s where they’re in the hunt for the county or area title?
“The first thing I have to do at Belgreen is maintain a certain level of hard work and practice.
“I need to get the mentality of these young men to ‘they can.’ The programs been down for a few years, and one reason probably is because of a lot of coaching changes.
“We haven’t had a youth league program there, so a lot of these kids that don’t go to other systems to get involved in a youth league don’t get any experience until they’re in seventh grade.
“To compete with most of the schools around here you have to get kids involved early. You have to get them to work hard at it and get their minds set on being able to accomplish the goals in front of them so they can win.
“The athletes are at Belgreen, and they’re coming. They haven’t been prepared the right way. For us to compete in any sport we have to get players involved early.
“You’ve got to be able to show them the correct fundamentals, and you have to get them to trust in their ability in order to compete at the highest level and get back to competing for area championships in baseball.”
How difficult is it to get back and forth from work in Red Bay to coaching in Belgreen?
“I have talked with the leaders at the company I work for, and I told my supervisor.
“I’m able to go in early sometimes when I need to. Having all of the practices start at 3:30 p.m. and most of the games starting at 4 or 4:30 p.m., it’s not been really difficult at all. In fact, I haven’t changed my work schedule that much at all.
“Being able to work with the principal and the other coaches in the area has been great.
“I have a lot of respect for them and the way we’re able to maintain our schedules.”
What are your predictions in your first year as a head coach this season?
“My prediction would be that this year is going to be tough because of the inexperience we have.
“I think that our kids are capable of surprising some teams. They do have the talent, and if we work hard and show them they have it and can win we can surprise some people.
“But with the lack of experience we have it’s going to be tough, but it’s not that we can’t do it. We just have to set our goals high and try to maintain them all year.
“If we do we’ll be able to play with some people at the end of the year.”