The Travelodge Aussie Spirit’s Olympic campaign will be in the hands of Hall of Fame member Laing Harrow after he agreed to a new contract with Softball Australia.
Harrow’s official position under the new contract is High Performance Pathway and Head Coach of the Travelodge Aussie Spirit in a multi-year deal which extends beyond the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Since his original appointment as Head Coach in 2018, Harrow steered the Australian women’s team to fourth place in the Japan Cup, a semi-final appearance in the Asia Pacific Cup and also held the top-job in the United States, coaching the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota in the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch season.
Harrow’s best achievement to date with the team undoubtedly came at the WBSC Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier, where Australia went undefeated in five games, scoring 37 runs and allowing just four against with no errors recorded in the field.
The dominant performance locked up the final spot available at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“To qualify back into the Olympics is a great achievement, but I go back the other way and seeing where we’ve come from as a team has been just as impressive,” said Harrow.
“To look at the improvements the girls have made individually and as a team in a year is very pleasing and they’re enjoying being around each other and enjoying just playing softball.
“And from that we’re playing at a really high level.”
Throughout his tenure so far with the women’s team, Harrow has been encouraging an open and honest environment, something he says is paying dividends.
“I think what’s important is, it’s alright for them to speak up and have conversations and I really encourage that, to talk about whatever we’re trying to implement.
“They’ve got ideas too, so it is a two-way street, and I believe if they’re comfortable and happy in that environment we’re going to get the best out of them, that’s what we’re after.
“There’s been a big shift in that area I think and we’re seeing the benefits of it.”
One of the first tasks for Harrow’s Olympic preparations will begin at the Women’s National Championship where he will check out Australia’s best softballers at Mirrabooka Stadium in Perth from 4 -10 January, 2020 competing for the Gilley’s Shield and Australian selection.
He says selection is wide open for those who missed out on the final team of 15 who qualified for the Olympics in September.
“It’ll come back to Gilley’s again, it’s important for the girls we took over (to the qualifier) to rest up but then get back into their state programs and prepare for Gilley’s while still knowing what’s at stake,” added Harrow.
“Following Gilley’s there’s another chance for players to put their hands up in the Asia Pacific Cup and Summer Slam tournaments.
“The girls that missed out on the qualifiers, they understand it’s open doors again and they’ll be doing everything they can to put their hand up to be involved in the final 15 we take to Tokyo.”
The Summer of Softball begins early this year with the U18 Men’s National Championship played at Blacktown International Sportspark from 8 – 14 December 2019, followed by the Open Women’s National Championship and U14 Girl’s Regional Championship from 4-10 January.
Over in the east the U16 Boy’s and Girl’s National Championships takes place at Waverly, Victoria from 4-10 January, the Open Men’s National Championship and U14 Boy’s Regional Championship are held in the nation’s capital at Hawker from 12 – 18 January before the U18 Women’s National Championship wraps up Australian titles back at Blacktown International Sportspark from 19 – 25 January.
International softball then takes centre stage at Blacktown with the Asia Pacific Cup from 30 January – 2 February, ahead of the exciting Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball from 3 – 5 February.
To purchase tickets for the Asia Pacific Cup, click here.
To purchase tickets for the Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball, click here.