In this feature titled “Coaches Corner”, I will be interviewing a different coach every week and asking them questions about their personal life and about coaching. Hopefully their answers will not only shed some light on how they coach their respective teams, but also allow readers to get to know the men behind the fields/courts.
This week features head softball coach Bill Simms of the West Greene Pioneers. Coach Simms finished his 12th year with WG, and has helped turn the program into a perennial playoff contender. In 2016, he led his team to 4 straight blowout wins, earning them the Pioneers first ever WPIAL softball title. Coach Simms is also the Athletic Director, as well as a teacher at West Greene. Let’s take a look inside Coach Simms’s corner:
1. What are some of your pet peeves?
My biggest pet peeve is returning a text to someone, and after I answer them, they reply back with “Thx” or “Ty” or “K” or something. Another would be being late to something. It’s just as easy to be a few minutes early as a few minutes late.
2. What was your favorite TV show growing up?
MASH. I still love watching re-runs. My uncle was in the Korean conflict, and I have always attached that to him.
3. Who do you look up to the most?
Definitely my dad. Everyone should answer “their dad” to that question. He is a source of honesty and morality like no other. He worked 31 years at a natural gas plant and NEVER took a sick day. That’s a work ethic that is unrivaled.
4. Who is your favorite sports player and why?
I have a ton of sports icons I look up to, but my #1 would probably be Mario Lemieux. He was arguably the best ever, with size, speed and scoring touch. I look at what he did for the city/team as a player, AND THEN kept his dedication here and became committed to keeping the Pens here. Far too many athletes “bob around” in every sport in free agency, and it means a lot to see someone like him stay with 1 team his entire career and beyond.
5. What is your favorite quote?
“Show me a guy who doesn’t mind losing, and I’ll show you a loser.”
6. Describe your dream vacation.
Has changed over the years, but NOW would be: taking wife and 2 daughters to Brooks Falls, Alaska (in the Katmai National Park) to watch the brown bears in the stream during the salmon run. We would get there by taking an Alaskan cruise through Glacier Bay, doing some whale watching and such.
7. What is the most important thing you try to preach to your players every year?
We have a MOTTO that we print on everything and recite before each game: “Be aggressive, Play Hard, Have fun. If you do enough of the first 3, the 4th will take care of itself……. Win Games.” I try and have them buy into that whole-heartedly, and if they do, we will be fine.
8. You have only missed the playoffs twice in your tenure at West Greene. How do you consistently produce good teams?
I don’t look at it like “me” producing good teams. I like to view it as we have had a good crop of players come through, and working together with a good staff, we have been able to maximize their potential in certain areas for TEAM success. We have a ton of great parents, and competent guys in the Little League supplying with girls who are prepared.
9. What is your proudest moment as a high school softball coach?
Winning the Section and WPIAL last year I guess should have been my proudest moment. However, it probably was at the state finals in 2 areas. First was when we came on to the field out of the indoor hitting area. The THRONG of fans that WG brought to State College was simply unbelievable. The entire 3rd base line was a sea of gold, standing room only, and the opening roar we received will be a feeling I will never forget, it was very special. Secondly would be how our girls reacted in defeat. To lose a walk-off heart breaker, and show the sportsmanship we did in receiving medals and clapping for Williams Valley while they got theirs made me very proud.
10. Is it difficult to balance being the head coach at WG, as well as the Athletic Director and a teacher?
It is extremely time-consuming, which in return equates to difficult I guess. Juggling teaching Social Studies, making sure the basketball team has what they need, and organizing softball practice takes its toll. I get a lot of support from Stacy Berdine, who is our athletic clerical aide. She is the best. I would be hard-pressed to do what we do at WG without her. The administration is also helpful in making sure I have time to do what we need to get done. It is just very difficult as the job grows to still have a split title at a small school, but that’s what we deal with daily.
11. What was your most embarrassing moment as a high school softball coach?
Without question, we were at a game at Hundred, WV. While warming up, the girls had a few balls get away from them, and they rolled into this small creek. I had been getting the book ready, and my asst. told me not to “get mad,” bit showed me how many balls were out there floating. I took a “Simms fit,” and just went wading out into the creek to get them. It appeared to only be a couple inches deep, but on about my third step, it turned into a waist deep hole that I didn’t have depth perception for. Needless to say, I got quite the “eye” at home plate during the pre-game from both the opposing team and the umpiring crew. By the way, that picture made the yearbook without me knowing.
12. 2016 was a spectacular year for you and your team. You won the first 3 postseason games by a combined score of 33-2, and then claimed West Greene’s first ever WPIAL softball title by defeating Chartiers-Houston 12-3. What changed that year?
The thing that changed over the course of the year was the “belief factor.” After beating C-H twice in the regular season, and some key non-section wins, I think the girls truly knew they were the team to beat. Playing with confidence, WITHOUT being arrogant is something we look for and strive to instill in our players. Like any great team you can look at, they have a “swagger” about them that makes them who they are. We found that, and turned it into a very positive force for our very youthful line up. We had several freshmen starting, but they were not your “typical” freshman. These girls had played all over, against great competition, and knew if we fielded well, pitched well, and hit anywhere near what we could, we would be tough to beat.
13. How did you decide you wanted to coach softball?
I was coaching baseball, and one of my better friends asked me to consider switching over to the softball ranks. His daughter was coming through, and they had a great group of talent for us. I had played men’s fast pitch softball for 20+ years in ASA and ISC competition, and having daughters, thought it might be a good fit. I was apprehensive coaching girls at first, but they took me under their wing and accepted me, and it has been good ever since.
14. In 2016, you also made a run through the PIAA state playoffs, eventually losing in the championship 3-2 to Williams Valley. How tough was it to come so close after such an amazing year?
Ranks up there as one of the toughest losses I’ve ever had in any sport at any point in my playing and/or coaching career. Don’t know if it would have “felt better” getting beat by 10 or not, but it has been a soul-searching year for me to think about it. All 3 runs we gave up came with 2 outs and nobody on. I guess it hurts more due to the weight of the letdown it had for our school and community. THEY would never admit it, and have done nothing but honor and honor and honor the girls for their accomplishment, but I just felt like “we needed that.” Small schools like WG only get so many opportunities as compare to Aliquippa and North Allegheny who are “there every year.” It has been very difficult, but we are going to give it another run and see how it pans out.
15. How important has your family been throughout your coaching career?
My wife was not an athlete, so some of the feelings (high and low) she sees us go through don’t truly register. My girls are ultra-competitive and it is great to see them want to compete at a high level. Going back to my dad though, there is just that ultimate quest to make sure you are trying to meet his standards. I would have loved for him to see us hoist that state champion trophy, but only the future awaits that.