'My personal goal was to be a good mom'
By By Matthew Nascone
Working with children seems to come naturally for Shirley Simpkins. Or at least that is what it looks like to those around her.
Simpkins, the manager of the 6-9 year olds David's Catfish Marlins of the Atmore Babe Ruth Fast Pitch Softball League, said she has always had one major goal in life.
"My personal goal was to be a good mother," she said.
She received an associate's degree in engineering from Faulkner State Community College in 1991 and she did not pursue a bachelor's degree until 1997 at the University of South Alabama. But she said she realized while at South that her calling was elsewhere.
"In traveling around I decided that my focus was at home and I came back to being a mom," she said. "And I have been trying to perfect that ever since."
As the manager of the Marlins Simpkins said she attempts to teach the girls the game of softball while allowing them to have fun. She never played softball in high school or college, but she said she attends coaching clinics to help her hone her coaching skills.
"I got into softball when my boys started playing baseball," Simpkins said. "And I started going to the clinics when I saw my daughter was gaining an interest in the sport. I want to be able to pass my knowledge of the game onto the girls."
Alvin, 18, and 13-year-old Devante are Simpkins' two boys that have played baseball all their lives. Simpkins also has a 9-year-old daughter, Christin, who was a member of the Marlins.
"I started coaching after my daughter wanted to continue playing after T-Ball," Simpkins said. "She is so enthusiastic on the field and she always hustles wherever she goes. She wants to live up to her brothers."
Simpkins said the love of the game must be there for the girls to want to play past the 6-9 year olds age group.
"These girls have to fall in love with softball and from that love they can learn the skills," Simpkins said. "And to help this love along we run all practices with different kinds of games. Hot potato is a favorite among the girls. It teaches them to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible and be accurate with their throws, because no one wants to drop the potato.
In 1996 Simpkins had opened Growing Tots Daycare in Atmore, but tragedy struck in 2005 as Hurricane Dennis hit the Atmore area. Growing Tots was damaged and Simpkins decided to close it down.
Growing Tots is now the GT Center and it is the house to many special occasions Atmore residents hold. Simpkins said she wanted to still help the community, but in a different way. The GT Center hosts banquets, wedding receptions and other special events.
Simpkins said that on the field one of her biggest accomplishments was being a coach for the Atmore Strike Force softball team that placed third in a tournament in 2005.
"That was the most exciting time for us in softball," she said. "Those girls really stepped it up when they had to and that is the best any Atmore team has done in a long time."
From a personal standpoint only one event stands out in Simpkins' mind.
"My son's graduation is my proudest moment so far in my life," she said.
Simpkins graduated from Escambia County High School in 1989 and went on to get an associate's degree at Faulkner in 1991. She received a second degree in the mid 90s in early childhood education.
In 1998 she was one semester away from a bachelor's degree when she was called to full-time motherhood.
She has been married to Roderick Simpkins for six years.
From the ball field to the daycare center and every place in between Shirley Simpkins has always been there for the children in her life.