Softball coach Kerri Blaylock understands that a young pitcher has a better chance of reaching her potential if she hones her skills at an early age.
“We have everyone here, from seven year-olds that have never done this before to 16 year-olds that are playing competitively,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock and her staff held a camp at the Recreation Center Tuesday and Thursday for girls aged seven to 16 to improve their pitching abilities. Forty young athletes participated in the two-day camp, which was offered to girls in second grade through high school. The camp gave participants help with mechanics and accuracy of pitches.
“We’re trying to provide a service to each of the individual age groups,” Blaylock said.
She said with the help of assistant coaches Jen Sewell and Erin Glasco each age group can be covered.
Blaylock said one of the most important features of the camp was the ratio of campers to coaches. The Saluki coaches were aided by area high school coaches, as well as a few current SIU players including Allie Vadeboncour and Morgan Barchan. With 40 campers spread amongst 10 coaches, there was an emphasis on individual assistance for the young pitchers.
“I think it’s extremely key to give the girls the individual attention,” said Marty Wettig, whose daughter Megan participated in the camp. “It teaches them the right way. The coaches aren’t just pushing them through drills, but help them fix the things that aren’t quite right with their pitching motion.”
Wettig said while his 9 year-old daughter has played softball for approximately five years, the Saluki camp is the only one he sent her to because of its quality instruction.
Blaylock was a hall of fame pitcher at the University of Evansville with 77 wins and a 1.54 ERA, both of which were school records. But Blaylock, who enters her 14th year at the helm for the Salukis, said she wishes she had the opportunity to attend similar camps as a young athlete. Blaylock said her first chance to attend a softball camp didn’t come until she was a sophomore at Herrin High School in 1982.
Athletic Director Mario Moccia said he sees nothing but positives in the various camps Saluki coaches hold each year.
“Camps give kids in the southern Illinois region a cheap way to keep active,” he said. “It’s also a revenue source for coaches to pay their assistants and it keeps money coming into the southern Illinois area. Most importantly, it gives kids and their parents a peek at what SIU has to offer.”
Blaylock said she started the softball camps as soon as she got to SIU and has had several of her campers come to play for her at the college level, including current Salukis Taylor Orsburn and Kelsey Ashton. Blaylock joked that it’s never too early to scout potential recruits.
“Some of these girls are pretty good,” she said. “You may see an 8-or-9 year-old out here that’s got some skills, although I might be retired by the time they are old enough to play (at SIU).”