Spotlight on: Susie Sellers
Susie Sellers has been a staple at Tharptown for several years now. The elementary school teacher spends much of her time between her teaching duties and being the head coach of the Lady Wildcats softball team.
Sellers is no stranger to the sport, as it has been a part of her life for several years now.
“I started playing softball when I was 10 years old,” she said.
“I played rec league. When I went to Tharptown we didn’t have a softball team then, so I just played park and rec at Russellville.
“Then when I went to high school I played at Russellville. Then I got a scholarship to play at Northwest.”
Sellers knew what she wanted to do outside of softball even before her time at Northwest.
“When I finished Northwest I took child development classes and worked with daycares and Head Start programs,” she said.
“I decided to go back and finish my degree. I knew that I always wanted to do that, it was juts a matter of going back and finishing my degree.
“I started at Tharptown and I’ve been here all along.”
Tharptown has been around for several years, but the school was originally just a junior high. The switch to a full high school was a fairly recent change.
“This was my eighth year coaching,” Sellers said. “The program at Tharptown started maybe 11 years ago.
“Coach Donnie Hastings (now the head baseball coach at Red Bay) coached the first team. He coached it for a couple of years, then Coach Riddle came in and coached it.
“I coached the team for one year as a junior varsity, then the next year Tharptown became a high school.”
Even though Tharptown High School has only been around a short time, the softball program has been solid since its days as a junior varsity program.
“When I first started we were a strong junior high team,” Sellers said.
“We started out doing well, better than I thought we would. When we started playing a high school schedule we were one out away from making the playoffs our first year.
“The next year we made the playoffs. After the next year we have made it to the playoffs every year.
“We started out doing well, and it’s still growing. I see it growing most in the younger girls.
“They want to play, looking for people to play with during the summer, and trying to get better on their own.
“Girls now can’t wait until seventh grade to play and expect to be where these other girls are.”
The Lady Wildcats have had a great deal of success over the past few seasons. The team has won its area four years in a row, and in 2011 Tharptown placed second in the regional tournament at Huntsville. That led to the team’s first-ever trip to a state tournament.
“I can’t even describe it,” Sellers said. “I knew that we could make it, but honestly I didn’t think that we would.
“I knew we had the potential, but we had gone to regionals the two years before and hadn’t won a game.
“Last year I wanted to go down there and win a game and not play two and go home. It’s a great feeling as a coach.”
The team continued its winning ways this season, and for the first time in school history a sports team was ranked in the ASWA top 10 when the Lady Wildcats came in at the No. 10 spot late in the season.
“That was great, too,” Sellers said. “The girls set as a preseason goal that they wanted to be ranked, then they made it happen.
“It’s great for the girls and the community and the people who follow us. Their hard work and everything they do is paying off for them, so I guess it’s kind of a reward for them. It’s great for them to get the recognition they deserve.”
Since the start of the softball program at Tharptown the school has gone from being an unknown to a group to watch out for at the bigger tournaments.
“You go to these tournaments at regionals and other teams know your name and know who your players are even though they haven’t played you,” Sellers said.
“That says a lot about the team. Other teams feel like they have to be prepared for you and they don’t take you for granted anymore. That says a lot about your program.”
Since making the state tournament two years ago and cracking the top 10 in the polls, Sellers and her team have only one unaccomplished goal left; winning a state title.
“We still have to develop,” she said. “We have to get better at base running, getting bunts down when we need to and reading the signs.
“We just have to take our game to the next level. These girls have a competitive spirit, and I know what the girls want is to win a state championship.
“They have to push themselves and hold themselves accountable for what we ask them to do.”