By Kristin Finney
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Telling someone that they “throw like a girl” used to be an insult, but that shouldn’t be the case anymore. Taryn Copeland is proud to “throw like a girl,” and it is those throwing skills that landed her a spot as a pitcher on the softball team at St. John’s River State College.
Copeland is a 2011 honor graduate of Aucilla Christian Academy. While at ACA, she played on the softball and basketball teams every year. She was also on the cheerleading squad each year. She was a member of the Beta Club for four years, and was their secretary during her senior year. She ran cross-country her senior year and was dual enrolled at North Florida Community College each semester starting her 10th grade summer.
Playing softball in college wasn’t part of Copeland’s plans until she was in 11th grade. “Since recruiting starts so young now and I was pretty late in my decision, I figured if I wanted to play at the next level, I better get serious. The summer before my 11th grade year is when I got into travel ball, started going to more pitching lessons, and conditioning and keeping in shape in the off-season. I got into a recruiting website and started getting emails from coaches. The emails I was getting were from colleges in states like Michigan, Virginia Tennessee and Washington, but I definitely didn’t want to leave Florida. One day I got an email from the recruiting/pitching coach here at SJRSC. I had never heard of the school before but I called him back and he asked me to come work out with the team. My mom drove me over to Palatka in the fall of my junior year. I threw for the coach and he offered me a full-scholarship that day. I met the team and toured the school and I knew I wanted to go there. The coach took me and showed me some apartments right on the St. Johns River and that is what sold my dad and me. I verbally committed right then. The two coaches I committed under left and we got a new coach, Katie Brosky. She’s a great coach and pitched at UNF so that definitely benefits us pitchers. We have three assistant coaches who do a great job with the program as well.”
When asked to describe her family, Copeland said, “My family is definitely my biggest support group, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m where I am today all because of them. I have a pretty normal family: Mom, Debbie Copeland, Dad, Scott Copeland, sister, Casey (28), brother, Tres (16), and sister, Taylor (13). I also have such supportive grandparents who I love so much and would do anything for me. My mom is a huge inspiration to me, she has always helped me through every problem I’ve had and she has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and not let anything else get in the way. My dad is a huge part of my success in softball, ever since I was 8 years old, me and my dad would be in the yard playing ball non-stop. He has always supported me and wanted me to do what made me happy. My parents never pushed me into softball, which is why I love it so much. We were never really a big softball family. We didn’t travel to different states playing ball every single weekend and I am very grateful for that because the decision to start playing travel ball, which led into me playing college ball, was my decision, not a decision I was forced into. I couldn’t have asked for a better brother and sister, they are everything to me and they are a great support group as well. I know for a fact that both my brother and sister will follow my path into college athletics and will be very successful.”
When it comes to college softball, there is no off-season. The girls condition and workout five days a week during the summer. They do get to go home during the summer, but they each get sheets that they must log their workouts in every day. When they get back to school in the fall, they start major conditioning. Copeland describing major conditioning as, “This is where the coaches tell who has and hasn’t worked out in the summer. During fall conditioning we usually condition five days a week for about an hour and a half. Fall practice starts about three weeks after school starts. We practice 5-6 days a week for around three hours and condition after practice.” Then fall games begin. The team plays an average of 25 games in the fall. After fall games are over the girls condition hard until Christmas break. They then get three weeks off for the holidays. “During both fall and spring we have to workout an hour a day in the weight room around our class schedule, we get max out sheets and have to get stronger and be able to lift more weight every month,” said Copeland.
The workouts and conditioning that the girls must do is not simply running or lifting weights. There are few people who could handle the intense workouts that the girls must do. “We do a lot of running and weight training for conditioning, but mostly running. Our coach mixes it up from day to day but it is always really tough and she pushes us very hard. An example of a normal day of conditioning would be: a timed campus run (two miles), sprints on the tennis courts, suicides, fitness stations (agilities and core work), and just different workouts every day. We have about 30 different things we can do for conditioning and it’s different every day so you never know what to expect. As a pitcher, we have to be in the best shape because were constantly doing something, so Amanda Smith (sophomore Pitcher) and I, run a campus run on our own everyday at practice. I also do a lot of conditioning on my own; I run in the mornings or after practice and sometimes do extra workouts with some of my teammates after practice.”
The SJRSC softball season starts January 28 with the JUCO kickoff classic tournament in Clearwater. The team will play up to 65 games until the beginning of May. When asked what she was most looking forward to, Copeland said, “There are a lot of things I look forward to this season: traveling around the state, hanging out with my friends on the team, working hard, playing hard, beating a lot of teams, and hopefully winning a state championship!”
According to Copeland, the most difficult aspect of playing college softball is time management. “As a student athlete I am on campus from 8 in the morning to about 6-8 at night. Between morning workouts, classes, study hall, physical therapy, homework and of course practice, I have absolutely no free time, but I love it! I’m always busy and I always have something to do. It gets stressful at times, but I know it will all be worth it one day, and I wont regret playing softball in college,” she said.
When asked what one of the biggest challenges of playing college softball, Copeland said, “College is a whole different world than high school, in classes/homework and softball. I’m used to college classes and homework, and they really aren’t an issue for me because of dual enrolling, but it does get tough sometimes taking 15 or 16 hours and playing softball. In high school our practices were a whole different atmosphere. I loved my high school team and coach, and I still wish I could go back and play my senior year all over again. College practices are twice as long, we run 20 times as much and we are expected to practice with 10 times the intensity as we practiced in high school, but it has made me want to work harder and become a better pitcher. In college ball, everyone was the MVP of their high school team, so it takes a little while to get used to people being better than you, but in the end it makes you better as an athlete.”
Copeland’s academic plan is to complete her Associate in Arts at St. Johns. She will have her AA plus some of her prerequisites completed after this semester. Next year she will just be focusing on her prerequisite classes. After next year’s season she hopes to transfer to Florida State University, University of Florida or University of South Florida to finish up my prerequisites, and then apply to either Medical school or Pharmacy school.