New Sevier County softball coach Ashley Miller making an impact
Before Emily Lavoie got to know her new softball coach, she Googled her.
It didn’t take long to figure out Ashley (Fertic) Miller was pretty good.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, she’s a lot better than I thought,’ ” Lavoie said. “I’m blessed to have her coach here. She’s been amazing.”
Miller finished her college career in Kentucky in the school’s top 10 in home runs, triples, RBI and doubles. She learned the road map to building a strong program by serving two years as an assistant under Wildcat coach Rachel Lawson. Now, she’s trying to bring stability to a Bearette program that has struggled to find it.
“You have to start first with teamwork, attitude and all that,” Miller said. “Taking care of everything in the classroom and build. Once we have players committed and who want to be out here, we get them working hard. It’s just like, some of them don’t know how hard they can actually work. It sounds funny. They haven’t dived for a ball. I’m getting them out there doing that. It’s a fear for some of them.”
Reaching those limits has been tough for the Bearettes in recent years. Senior Laura Ratledge said Miller is the latest in a slew of coaches during her career and she still gets a little nervous at the plate. Lavoie agreed that nerves were the issue late last week in a scrimmage with Gatlinburg-Pittman.
But Miller has brought optimism to the dugout. Lavoie said the new coach is always there with positive encouragement and takes an interest in her players’ future.
“She’s the kind of person that wants to help me find college coaches,” Lavoie, an All-District player a year ago, said. “She wants to go. … She wants to help. It’s tremendous.”
Brooke Whaley and Ratledge said it’s evident Miller knows what she’s doing.
“It’s awesome,” Ratledge said. “I like her a lot. She’s a great coach. … She’s made me a better player all around.”
Miller isn’t a stranger to what her players have been through without a stable coach at the helm. She said she went through different assistant coaches in college, making it tough to know what to expect year after year. She said an established coach can not only help a team grow on the field but gain community support by committing to the program.
The Bearettes could tell their new leader meant business just by a glance at her credentials. Lavoie and her teammates let Miller know they’d looked her up. Now, they hope she sticks around and grows with this team.
“They came to practice and they said, ‘We know everything about you now,’ ” Miller said. “They Googled me and said, ‘You actually were good!’