Inheriting an undeveloped program, Kelly Carroll began coaching softball at Fort Bend Christian Academy in 2006. Within a short time span, she turned around the program, making it one of the strongest in the state. Over the past 11 years, the team has earned seven state championships. Carroll's work ethic and love of just being at the field paved the way to her coaching success. In high school, she won several awards and All-District Honors, and while playing for Texas A&M, she was named to the All Big XII team in 2002 and earned Team MVP in 2001. Now, multiple FBCA graduates have played college ball, and they have Coach Kelly to thank.
Q: What inspired your love of the game?
I have memories of always being at a ball park. My parents were on the league board where I played, so we were at the fields most nights. When I first started, I played t-ball with the boys. I was a super competitive kid and loved playing against and beating the boys. My love for the game came from my parents. It was what our family did. Dad coached and Mom was the team mom. My poor sister got drug all over the country, but we were together. We won a lot of games, and we got to see the United States. They were great times!
Q: What were the initial challenges in building a winning softball program at FBCA? How did you overcome them?
When I was first hired, I went to see the team play in a fall league game. It was pretty scary. The girls didn't have strong fundamentals or much knowledge of the game, but we had a great pitcher. The key was to get those kids to buy in and believe that they can really win big games.
Q: What sets the FBCA softball program apart from other programs?
I really believe we have a culture and tradition built here that draws kids in. Expectations are already set, and we hold each player accountable for their role on the team. Each team wants to be as successful as the team before them. Coach Jacoby and I stress team chemistry and relationships with the girls. No matter how talented you are, you still must play together. We also continuously incorporate life lessons. Whether you have a player that will go and play in college, or the girl that just wants to be part of a team, you can learn and take those lessons on with you in life. That is what is wonderful about team sports. Plus, our girls are very competitive, and want to be the best program at the school.
Q: How do you address drama/conflict between players?
We make the girls address each other directly. We usually don't have too much drama. We tell the girls that you don't have to be best friends to be best teammates. We use the life lesson that you may not always like your coworkers when you have a job, however you have to be able to work together.
Q: How do you encourage sportsman-like conduct? What expectations do you have for your girls on and off the field? How do you enforce these standards?
We want to girls to have a mentality that they will not allow another team to beat them. They have to have the mental toughness. As for sportsmanship, we are very clear that you will not say or do anything inappropriate. We tell the girls to control the controllables, and the other team and umpires are out of their control, so control yourself.
Q: How has playing softball helped your girls build self-esteem and succeed in college and beyond?
Our softball girls fight stereotypes everyday by playing softball. As coaches, we feel it is our job to make these girls so strong mentally that words will be just words. Go out and work harder than the person next to you and you will be fine. Don't wait for anyone to just hand you something. And once you have truly earned something, it is that much sweeter.