Two seniors lead softball team with a new culture

Team looks to make playoffs


Atmika Iyer/Talon

Varsity softball team practices during fifth period. The team is getting ready for their game against Carpinteria.

Before every game, the softball team meets at the on-deck circle, a circle where the batters stand when they’re next to bat, to write their initials and numbers in the dirt. Then, they step into the middle of the circle to pray to the softball gods and chant the Eagles’ cheer. Their goal: to get to the CIF playoffs.

The team left off with an overall score of 7-4, however, the remaining season is uncertain with school closures.

After a mid-season resignation of the varsity head coach in 2019, the OPHS softball team experienced a shift in staff. Junior varsity Coach Harold Hale became the varsity head coach, and social sciences teacher and former Oak Park softball Coach Rob Hall returned to the program as the assistant varsity coach.

In 2020, Hale, Hall, pitching coach Kelsey Jenson and social sciences teacher and assistant coach Eric Pryor are working with the softball team for a full season. This current season is the first time the varsity softball team has had a fifth period class dedicated to practicing.

“With the [resignation] of the Head Varsity Softball Coach during the middle of last season, it made for a lot of frustration and inconsistent play last season,” Pryor said. “With a familiar coaching staff in place and another season of experience, the culture is more positive and more structured, which hopefully leads to a successful season.”

There are only two seniors currently in the softball program: Aubrey Billig and Havi Rubenfeld. The two, four-year varsity players are co-captains for the 2020 season and were hoping to help get the team to playoffs.

According to Hall, team captains Billig and Rubenfeld are in charge of the group culture — encompassing things that happen both in and out of practice.

“The better your captains are at building a culture, the better the team does, regardless of talent. Team culture matters and captains are in charge of it,” Hall said. “[The team] seem[s] to get along very well, they have a lot of camaraderie. I often refer to them as a sorority. If they are a sisterhood, then we are winning — regardless of what the scoreboard says.”

The OPHS softball team has not qualified for playoffs since 2014. For many, the goal is to get back there. Billig wants to lead by example, regarding how to create a positive team dynamic and productive atmosphere.

“As four-year varsity players and it being our second year as varsity captains together, Havi and I are tired of just going through the motions of losing every game and just accepting that,” Billig said. “This year Havi and I decided that we were changing that by being the role models of commitment and hard work, [and incorporating] more team bonding, better communication and being a family.”

Sophomore and varsity player Delaney Pryor believes that the team captains have been successful in this endeavor, acknowledging a more united and bonded team from the previous year.

“Havi and Aubrey are both so amazing. They always pump us up, keep us energized and positive. They are role models for us on and off the field,” Pryor said.