With over 20 years of experience in coaching, Tom Zahller steps back into the job he loves, taking the head position for fast pitch softball at New Albany, as announced at the Monday night session of the New Albany School Board.
The former Southeastern Oklahoma State baseball standout boasts experience at all levels in coaching, from USSSA to semi-professional, but said his passion lies in high school softball.
“This is the golden opportunity to mentor these girls at this level and eventually help get them a college education,” he said. “They’re not afraid to be push, and when you challenge them, they will work twice as hard. They are motivated, and that’s what intrigues me, because they’re underestimated and they want to be pushed.”
Zahller worked this past season as an assistant under Athletic Director Shane Sanderson, who coached both slow pitch and fast pitch. While he will continue to head the slow pitch program, the promotion will help Sanderson focus on his administrative duties during the spring, the busiest part of the school year.
“I felt like I was cheating the kids, and Mr. (Lance) Evans and Mr. (John) Ferrell worked that much harder to keep up with the department while I was coaching,” Sanderson said. “When I brought Tom on as my assistant, I felt like I had a man that could lead this program in the right direction while I can go back to my administrative duties. I feel like we made a good move, and this will work best for everyone involved.”
“The New Albany school system has a lot of pride, and the stars aligned for me at the right time,” Zahller added. “Coach Sanderson was a good mentor, getting me up to speed with everything and was very straight forward. We’re heading in a very positive direction, and both Coach Sanderson and I have a similar philosophy and that is that the young ladies are student athletes first. This is a great honor, and I’m very fortunate Dr. (Charles) Garrett and Mr. Evans gave me this opportunity.”
Zahller has already taken over the program, working with the Lady Bulldogs during their June summer league season in Tippah County. Losing three seniors from last year’s squad, going back to basics is now the focus.
“The biggest thing this summer is taking the time to fix the little things,” he said. “Last year, they made mistakes, and it’s hard during the summer because there’s limited time and practices, so we’re concentrating on the basics, playing the Tippah County schools as well as a tournament at Myrtle. We’re looking at what the younger girls can do and working on techniques.”
Zahller also looks to two rising seniors to help lead the junior-laden team and is pleased with the new leadership of the team.
“Jalanna Cameron and Amber Mirfield are our seniors for next year, and the biggest thing that I preach is that leaders aren’t picked, you either are or you aren’t one. It’ll be interesting to see them take over, and they have done a great job so far.”
New Albany finished the 2011 fast pitch season at 9-14 (2-8).