'I wouldn't trade coaching for anything'
By By Matthew Nascone
The reason for coaching softball are simple for Dennis Jarrell, to him it is all about making sure the girls are having fun.
"It is rewarding to see the girls have a good time, smiling and carrying on," Jarrell, the manager of the Atmore Babe Ruth Fast Pitch Softball 13-16 year olds division City of Atmore Utilities Flames, said. "I wouldn't trade coaching for anything."
Jarrell holds down a day job working construction for Site Development here in Atmore, but that is not what he has always done for work.
"I have worked on oil field construction offshore before," he said. "But it is dangerous work and my wife likes how I work on land now. I loved it, but she didn't."
The softball field is no strange place to Jarrell, as he grew up playing on church leagues, and he said when his daughter started playing it was a great experience for him.
"I coach for the love of the game," he said. "And my daughter played for many years and she graduated this year, but I didn't want to give up coaching. My team is like a small family because we stick together. And they have probably taught me more than I have taught them."
Jarrell coached his daughter, 18-year-old Nikki, for a long time and he has a wife of 20 years, Janet, and a 13-year-old son named Tyler.
While softball is in his blood, football and baseball were the sports Jarrell excelled at in high school. He was born and raised in Atmore, but he graduated from Straughn High School in Andalusia in 1985. After graduation he came home to Atmore and this is where he said he will be until God takes him.
A desire to influence others is what Jarrell said drew him to coach.
"I got started on a volunteer basis when my daughter got into the league five years ago and I haven't stopped since," he said.
Now as far as a strategy goes, Jarrell is more of a look and learn type of coach.
"I just do a lot of looking and listening," he said. "I approach each girl individually and I find that magic spot that I can help her with. I have learned you have to be a friend out there and they will teach you as you teach them. And I don't sit there and holler at them because I believe you can get more out of them if you listen. I always keep stressing for them to never give up on themselves as well."
Jarrell said this group of girls he has had for the past couple years is a special group and that is why he is still coaching even though his daughter is not playing.
"They are almost like my own daughters because we have been together for so long," he said. "I even know a lot of the girls on the other teams and after games I will go up to them and tell them what I saw with how they played. And they all listen because we grew close when they were on my team."
The way Jarrell helps girls that are not even on his team is a true tribute to why he does what he does.
"It is all for the girls and everyone needs to realize this," Jarrell said. "This is for them to have fun and nothing else. When it gets to the point of not being fun then I don't want to be in it any longer."
He said he is committed for at least another two years because of the girls he coached for the first time this past year. And he said he would stay on as long as he is wanted.
"This whole team is special to me and we are not losing that many girls for next year," Jarrell said. "As long as they will put up with me, I will be coaching for them."
The close bond between Jarrell and his players can be seen in their on-field interaction and in the way they address their skipper.
"Their favorite thing to do is to call me Mr. Bob or Bob the Builder," he said. "They have been calling me that for years and I always tell them they watch too many cartoons."
And the true evidence of why Jarrell treats the girls the way he does is found in his upbringing.
"I was taught a long time ago, it all comes back to family and my dad always told me, never look down on anybody unless you are willing to help them up," Jarrell said. "And that kind of sticks with you."