Westmoreland County softball players offer knowledge, experience to youths during clinics, lessons

Sunday, July 30, 2023 | 1:16 PM

As Courtney Poulich leans in to give a wide-eyed softball player some hitting advice, she can’t help but get nostalgic.

“Giving lessons teaches us to appreciate the sport even more, and we are constantly mastering our skills by teaching others,” said Poulich, a Mt. Pleasant graduate and a rising junior player at Robert Morris. “It reminds me of my younger self and the little girl who dreamed of playing at the collegiate level.”

Her former high school teammate, Haylie Brunson, gets the same type of feels when she gives back to her favorite game. Showing a tiny tot how to go opposite field or scoop up a grounder comes with a point of pride.

“The best part of this experience is being a mentor to the kids,” said Brunson, who recently transferred from Pitt to Penn State, where she will be a junior. “It warms my heart knowing that I am making a difference in their lives.”

Poulich, Brunson and several other local standouts are teaching young girls how to play the game by giving group lessons and clinics. It’s part of their summer schedules.

Former Belle Vernon and Penn State star Bailey Parshall also provided instruction for up-and-coming pitchers.

A dominating left-hander, Parshall began giving advice and instruction when she was still in high school. It has become a part-time job with, it can seem, full-time hours.

“I’ve grown to really enjoy sharing my experiences and knowledge with others,” Parshall said. “Ultimately, the main reason for holding lessons is to give back and share what I know within my community. I have had a heavy schedule of lessons this summer primarily with girls in my district and neighboring districts.”

Emma Hoffner (Hempfield/Ohio), Lexi Klatt (Southmoreland/Alderson Broaddus) and Meadow Uncapher (Mt. Pleasant/St. Francis (Pa.)/Alderson Broaddus) are other college players who have taught local girls the game.

Hoffner, a standout catcher, picked up lessons organically.

“My dad has been giving lessons for a while, and I saw how much of an impact he had on girls’ careers, including my own, and I wanted to be a part of something like that,” she said. “It’s really cool to give back to the game that has done so much for me and to see it from the coaching standpoint instead of a player. I focus on hitting and catching lessons.”

Hoffner, who was off to do a catching lesson Saturday morning, said the gratitude comes from seeing girls improve.

“The best part of the experience is when they send me a video of them having an amazing hit after struggling for a while,” said Hoffner, whose hourly training fee is $40. “I love the whole process of the battles and then the payoff hit to make it all worth it. I know what that’s like from a player standpoint, so it makes me so happy to see them light up.”

The women say the lessons have no connection to the NCAA’s Name, Image, Likeness rule, which allows athletes to benefit financially from their sport. The lessons are simply a nice side hustle, more fun than work, and they provide an extension of what the standouts learned when they were knee-high and impressionable.

Poulich and Brunson, power hitters who won WPIAL and PIAA titles together with the Vikings, worked hourly sessions together this summer at Mt. Pleasant High School and at a batting cage in Norvelt.

They charged $30 for 30 minutes of fielding lessons, $40 for 45 minutes of hitting instruction, $50 for an hour combining the two areas.

Two girls could sign up together for an hour at $60.

Mt. Pleasant is offering a clinic from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the high school field.

Poulich, Brunson, Katie Hutter (Mt. Pleasant/Bowling Green) and Krista Brunson (Mt. Pleasant/Pitt-Johnstown) are working the event, which costs $60 per player.

Girls can register through a Google form.

“We both really enjoy doing it,” Poulich said. “Haylie and I have been playing this game for a long time now and wanted to share our knowledge and leave an impact on future softball players.”

Brunson started giving lessons while she was a junior at Mt. Pleasant, and the practice has become a common summer staple.

“I didn’t realize how much I’d learn about myself through giving these lessons when I first started,” Brunson said. “There are a good number of local girls giving lessons. I grew up playing with or against most of them. We have always had this love for the game and are passionate about giving back.”

Parshall sometimes travels to do one-on-one training, but she also works with groups.

She charges about $50 per hour.

A current local high school standout is also among the summer teachers.

Franklin Regional rising junior Toryn Fulton, one of the top hitters in the WPIAL and a Division I prospect, saw softball as an obvious avenue to a summer job.

The all-state second baseman charges $25 an hour for hitting and fielding direction at Franklin Regional High School. She fits lessons into her busy travel ball schedule.

“It was an easy way to make money over the summer, and I love seeing their progress,” Fulton said. “I have been working with a few girls. I always feel better about myself after the lesson.”

Parshall’s decorated college career is over, so she had a decision to make about her career at large.

The four-team Women’s Professional Fastpitch league out of Oklahoma City, which launched its first season in June, offered Parshall a spot. But she decided to “retire” and turn her attention to a different professional career.

“I ultimately decided it was best for me to move forward with my career in the healthcare industry,” Parshall said. “Softball has provided me with endless opportunities, and I plan to give back and share what I know as often as possible. I plan to continue to give lessons and help out at Belle Vernon any way I can.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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