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Safe at Home

Feb. 25, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Sharon Perkins is as unselfish a person as they come.

But Georgia Tech’s head softball coach also admits there are times when you just need a space that’s all yours.

That’s part of the reason she’s so proud and relieved that her team has a training facility all its own.

“It’s nice to be able to have a place to put all your equipment and all of our video stuff and not have to cart the DVD player and whatever else, the cameras and everything,” said Perkins, who is in her fifth season as Tech’s head coach. “It’s kind of like everything is housed here now.”

The fact that it’s a state-of-the-art facility located just a Christy Jones slap-hit away from Mewborn Field makes it that much better.

“It’s a place that’s on campus, it’s so close to the field,” said Perkins. “They don’t have to factor in the walking across campus and with the weather, sometimes it’s pouring rain and they don’t have to worry about crossing the field with all their gear. There’s kind of a place for all of their stuff.”

The facility features a conference room with approximately 50 seats, where the team watches video prior to practice and games. Perkins admitted it’s the last place the team is before they take the field.

The facility also includes a training room, an equipment room, coaches’ offices, a players’ locker room and a lounge. In short, it’s everything a player could need or want — that goes for the umpires as well, as the facility even has a changing room for them.

Tech’s players certainly aren’t wanting for anything. This is Shangri La after previous seasons, when they shared facilities at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

“It’s pretty awesome. I’ve never had anything like it before,” said sophomore cornerman Caitlin Jordan. “We have so much space and it’s just so much better than any locker room I’ve ever seen at any colleges I visited. In our old one we were all in the same building with track and a few other sports. Now it’s just our own space.”

“There’s just so much more room,” agreed sophomore outfielder Kelly Delashmit. “We can come in and get away from everything else, and not have to worry about sharing our training room with track or basketball or whoever’s in there at the time. We have our own training room, so we just have a lot more space. So that makes us feel special.”

The facility is another step in the continued commitment by the athletic administration to the program. That’s not lost on the team.

“I think it’s been great, really, since I set foot on campus,” said Perkins. “They’ve been making changes since Day One. Talking about it throughout my interview process. So they’ve shown great support. The administration has been excellent.”

Their commitment has given the team increased pride in itself and incentive to show their gratitude.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s probably the nicest locker room I’ve ever seen,” said Delashmit. “The field is just amazing and it makes you feel like you’re big time and you’re special. It’s been a dream of mine to play softball since I was young. So to have such a nice facility and a nice locker room, it’s a real big deal for me.”

“We want to earn it more now because we have it,” added Jordan. “We want to make sure that we perform to the standards of the facility we have, we want to perform on that level. Make sure we deserve what we have.”

What they have is a home away from home.

There’s a players’ lounge, which is furnished with a set of leather couches, and chairs, a pair of big-screen TVs and an X-Box set-up, as well as an area to settle in to study or do homework. Understandably, the lounge has been a huge hit to the players.

“Our hangout area is really awesome,” said Delashmit. “Just a bunch of sofas for us to hang out and to bond and get to know each other better, relax, do homework if we need to, play X-Box, watch TV. It’s a great way to get rid of all your stress and get ready for practice.”

Perkins feels the players have earned it.

“Student-athletes put in a lot of time,” she said. “Sometimes they have a little bit of downtime, it’s nice for them if they want to kick back and watch a few minutes of TV or play X-Box, or get some homework done because they have an hour, it’s nice for them to be able to use all of their time.”

One item Perkins insisted on is a giant block of cubbies, located along one wall of the hallway leading from the lounge to the locker room. Its purpose is to provide a place for players to put their equipment. It’s a little thing that’s another convenience, especially in its proximity to an exit to the field.

“The thing we’re most excited about is the cubby holes for our bat bags,” said Delashmit. “In the old locker rooms, the thing that made it the messiest was the bat bags were just kind of thrown into a corner. Here they’re all organized and put in specific spots.”

Neatness certainly counts in this brand new building. It was never an issue the coach had to stress to her players, who are extremely proud of the facility.

“We have a big rule, no food, drink, gum; we’ve all been very careful about taking our shoes off and leaving them in the cubbies, where our softball stuff is,” said Delashmit. “We take a lot of pride in our locker room. It’s so beautiful and we’d never want to mess it up. So it’s very important to all of us. We’ve been keeping each other accountable, like, ‘Hey, take off your shoes,’ or ‘No food in here.’ You’ve got to eat over the trash can.’ It’s real important to us to keep it clean and for people in years to come to be able to have such a great locker room like we do.”

The facility and Mewborn Field will be among the first things potential recruits see in a visit to the campus.

“Having [the facility], it’s definitely a help,” said Jordan. “With that and the new field, and it’s right by the new field, I feel like it will help a lot. There will be a lot more of the ‘Wow’ factor.”

Perkins said she already can feel a positive off-the-field vibe from the facility that should translate to on-the-field success.

“I think they go hand-in-hand,” she said. “You have a facility like this and you’re going to get bigger recruits down the line. So I think recruiting-wise it has been a big thing.”

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