COLUMBIA — If you go out to Rock Bridge High School after a softball practice, you might be surprised by what you find.
In place of a maintenance crew, girls and coaches from the team scatter all over the field to perform different tasks. Some girls scoot across the grass on their knees scooping gravel back onto the path leading from the dugouts to the on-deck circle. Some rake the perimeters of the infield. Some dust off the bases. An assistant coach, either on a small tractor or a lawn mower, smooths out the sand in the main part of the infield. And finally, to finish the job, an assistant coach, holding the head of a hose, starts to water the infield while the whole team carries the slack in the back.
The process takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes and is often accompanied by jokes, laughter and even the occasional water fight.
Twenty-two players contribute to the effort, each position on the team responsible for a different portion of the field. The catcher cleans the mound, outfielders tend to the outfield, and infielders are responsible for the sand in and around the diamond.
It is true demonstration of teamwork that pleases third-year head coach Janel Twehous.
"They take ownership of it, but it's slightly competitive, too," Twehous said. "Everyone wants to finish first."
Twehous got the idea from watching the Rock Bridge baseball team this spring. She arrived at a practice one day to pick up her son Logan, then a freshman, and found the team busy tending to the field. Everyone had their own job.
Since Twehous wanted to emphasize teamwork this season, she adopted the same practice. Now, after every home game and practice, the Bruins will be taking care of their own softball field instead of relegating the task to parents and volunteers.
Junior infielders Shelbie Atwell and Lindsey Grant said the field maintenance is one reason this year's team has no cliques.
"Coach emphasizes that we play for the name on the front of the shirt, not the number on the back," Atwell said.
Twehous believes teamwork is as much about what happens off the softball field as what happens on it, citing the team dinners and frequent trips to Yogoluv as examples.
"The girls are determined to have a common goal, set aside their differences and meet a common goal," she said. "That is going further than before."
No cleanup was required Tuesday night. The Bruins were on the road in Moberly, and they won 16-0 against Moberly High School.
Atwell and Madison Wipfler each had 3-run home runs. Conner Logsdon allowed two hits and struck out eight in four innings; she also went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs.
This victory, along with the Bruins winning a tournament in Joplin early this season, indicates that Twehous' emphasis on teamwork is making a difference.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.