0

Getting to Know ... Jennifer Edwards

Staff Photo: John Bohn Jennifer Edwards, softball coach at Grayson.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Jennifer Edwards, softball coach at Grayson.

Jennifer Edwards, 31, is the head fastpitch softball coach at Grayson. A 1999 graduate of Brookwood, she played college softball at West Georgia and coached at Villa Rica before coming back to Grayson. She is in her fourth year at Grayson, where she teaches 10th-grade world history, and her third as head softball coach.

In this installment of "Getting to Know ", Edwards talks with sports editor Will Hammock about the best Gwinnett players she's faced, her path to education and coaching with her brother.

WH: Growing up in this area and playing for Brookwood, was it fun to get back in this area as a coach?

JE: Definitely. It's a great opportunity to move back to Gwinnett and coach where you played, to coach against the school you played for. And the talent alone in this area is excellent. It's fun to coach around that kind of talent and Grayson is a top-notch program. I'm happy to be here.

WH: How much is softball different now than back when you were playing at Brookwood? Is the talent or are the teams any different?

JE: Gwinnett County's always competitive in softball and competitive in the regions. The schools have remained strong, the Brookwoods, the Parkviews and everything are still good. But the county has progressed and gotten better. You see more girls playing more competitive travel ball than in the past.

WH: If you were in your prime now, could you hang with these girls?

JE: I definitely think so. It's a different game back when I played. I was a pitcher and we were at 40 feet (from the batter), so it was more of a pitcher dominated game. But now hitters are catching up and you have to rely more on your defense. I would be competitive now but I'd have to work really hard.

WH: Who were the top players you faced back when you were playing for Brookwood?

JE: Wow, it's been awhile. I remember teams more than names. One of the neat ones is one of the Parkview players we played against, Janna Maughon, she's also my assistant now at Grayson. When she was at Parkview, we always used to play each other and now we work together. So it's great. Marci Mitchell at Shiloh, Krissy Bamford at South Gwinnett who played at Kennesaw State, they were good players, too.

WH: What was Janna like as a high school player?

JE: I just remember she was a very good player and athlete, really scrappy. She was a fighter. She'd do everything she could to hit the ball. She was a great hitter, an overall excellent athlete. It's kind of cool we started our first year of fastpitch on a travel team together coached by her parents and her brother. And her brother's helping her on our JV team now. It's like a family here at Grayson.

WH: Who got the better of the Brookwood-Parkview matchups between you and her back in the day?

JE: I think it was always a split. A couple of years they would beat us, then we would beat them. It was never one team dominating the other. Shiloh was really strong then as well.

WH: How did (Duluth's) Michelle Green stack up? Was she one of the better players you've seen?

JE: She was a really good pitcher. She was a little bit younger than us. She came in strong, threw well. I was excited to play her and then to see her go to Georgia and do well.

WH: Did you always know you wanted to get into education?

JE: I originally thought I'd do something in sports psychology and after the first one or two years of college, I knew education is what I really enjoyed doing and what I wanted to do. So I went into teaching. I started off at an elementary school and transferred to a high school.

WH: What do you like the most about being a teacher and coach?

JE: I really enjoy working with the kids. It's a great opportunity to mold their lives and their future, to give them a great role model and a great support system. You get to work with kids on a daily basis, to help them become better people.

WH: With your dad being a longtime high school baseball coach and your mom (a special education teacher and principal) being in education too, did that influence you wanting to be a teacher?

JE: It did. At first, I wasn't sure but after seeing the hours they spent working with kids, having summers off and how much they enjoyed their jobs, it made it something I really wanted to do. It made it an easier choice for me.

WH: Is your coaching style anything similar to your dad Ronnie (whose coaching career included stops at Winder-Barrow, Buford and Norcross)?

JE: I would say so. He was a very hands-on coach. He believed in getting on the field and showing them everything he was teaching. Not just that you should do it, but how you should do it. I feel like I gained a lot from him. You can't just tell people, you have to show them and make sure they know why they're doing it. A big lesson he taught was regardless of the outcome, if you can learn from your mistakes, you'll be better for it.

WH: Do you like coaching with your older brother Clint (a world history teacher at South Gwinnett, but a Grayson coach)?JE: It's awesome. I absolutely love it. I know 100 percent out there we're both on the same wavelength. We talk a lot. He's really my best friend and to get to spend two or three hours a day with him is awesome. We have the same ideas and grew up with same work ethic. We complement each other really well. We have the same belief system, do the same things, have the same goals. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

WH: What do you do for fun outside of softball?

JE: Softball's really year round for us, but I do enjoy sporting events, like going up to Georgia games. I'm a big Georgia fan. I enjoy hanging out with family and friends. I'm finishing up my master's degree so I haven't had too much free time lately.

WH: What did you think of UGA's loss to Boise?

JE: That was a tough game. I'm just hoping they still can change things up and have a better season.

WH: What kind of music do you listen to?

JE: A little bit of everything. I don't really have a favorite. I don't listen to one thing over the rest.

WH: Do you go to many concerts?

JE: I go to some. The last one was Rascal Flatts.

WH: Do you listen to the same music your players do?

JE: It's usually totally different. I listen to the country stuff they listen to. But I don't really pay too much attention to a lot of the new people or lyrics.

WH: How long do you see yourself working in education? Is this your life-long career?

JE: I hope so. I really enjoy it. I hope to continue and retire from this career. I love education and I love to coach. I'll coach as long as I can. It allows me to be part of the game even though I can't play anymore.