Coach Keith Hall and his 14 and under girls Richmond Hill-based travel softball team, Xtreme Heat, have just completed their second season since forming two years ago. Prior to the formation of this team, Richmond Hill did not have a local travel team.
The team has been successful thus far in regard to their win-loss record, but Hall said the biggest success story for the Heat is yet to come. He believes the training and practice his girls are receiving will equal a stronger roster for the RHMS and RHHS Lady Wildcats in the years to come which is the real payoff for the Xtreme Heat program.
"The Xtreme Heat program is absolutely an attribute to the Lady Wildcats," said RHHS head softball coach Jodi Regan. "Any coach will tell you that, in order to be a top caliber player, you need to play year-round. One key to a good team is keeping the same girls playing together which Xtreme Heat is greatly helping to do. Before they came about, Richmond Hill players were spread out all over the place in different travel teams."
Prior to forming the travel team, Hall coached the 12 and under All-Star team for the Richmond Hill rec department. He became frustrated with the fact that, after the All-Star season ended, the Richmond Hill players had to go elsewhere if they wanted to play travel ball. He also knew that travel ball was being utilized by neighboring areas and was a strong component in training for the upcoming school seasons.
"There’s a lot of work that goes into starting a travel team," said Hall. "Me and my wife Cindy prayed about it and decided to go for it. We eventually got to the step of gaining sponsors and having tryouts.
"We’ve been going strong for two years now and show no signs of slowing down," Hall continued. "My daughter’s (Xtreme Heat player Anna Hall) ambition is to play college ball. I knew others (in 12U All-Star team) had that same goal. We felt that we could not only offer a better chance to get there, but we also thought we could offer a higher caliber of ball."
The team has seen much success this past season including the first place prize for the May Madness tournament in Savannah and a third placing in March for the Irish Jig tournament in Statesboro.
"The kids have got to have fun out there," said Hall. "It’s a key to their dedication. One of the biggest compliments the team has gotten is when some of the girls have been approached by opposing travel teams for recruiting. The girls shot them down every time by telling them ‘I play with Xtreme Heat.’"
Hall said the team has a religious base to it as well. "We pray before every game and practice. We try to apply Christian traits to every facet of our playing. Winning is great, but sportsmanship and your attitude toward the game come first. In doing that, I try to show them things that will not only help them in softball, but also in life."
Hall bragged about the talent level of the Xtreme Heat roster. "There’s not a team that could beat these girls when they’re focused and playing at 100 percent. I constantly get compliments from other coaches about the talent and heart of these girls."
He credited the success of the team to the support team of his wife, his assistant coaches and the players’ parents.
Hall said the 14 and under program will continue next year even with him and his current crop of players advancing to the 16 and under level. A new coach will step in and the two age brackets will run simultaneously.