New Dothan athletics director Stan Eldridge didn’t have to go far to find a high-quality softball coach for the school’s new softball team.
In fact, he found two in the Circle City.
Veterans Jessica Noble and Patricia Ball, respective coaches of Northview and Dothan High, were hired as co-head coaches of the new Dothan Wolves Monday night by the Dothan City School Board.
The two have 40 years of head coaching experience – 15 for Noble at Northview and 25 for Ball, the last 23 at Dothan plus two previous years at Abbeville Christian. Both have taken multiple teams to the state tournament.
Longtime Northview assistant coach Donny Bright will also be a part of the first coaching staff of the Wolves, a new program formed by the recent consolidation of Northview and Dothan.
The board also hired several other new head coaches for the new Dothan High during its meeting Monday night, including Brianne Kent as volleyball coach and Haley Todd as cross country coach.
“It is a very exciting opportunity to start a new program – the Dothan Wolves – and to be a part of it,” Noble said of being named co-head coach in softball. “I look forward to working alongside coach Ball and continuing to work with coach Bright.”
Ball said having the two as co-head coaches was something both wanted.
“I am appreciative of our school board for backing us on this,” Ball said. “It is what we wanted to happen. I have great respect for her and the program she has built over there. It is the best for our kids and our athletes for our coaching staff to merge.
“We wanted to keep Donny involved. He is as important as we are in my opinion. He does a great job.”
Now as co-head coaches, Noble said the two are already pulling together in building a new team.
“We have talked about the direction of the program, but as far as coaching duties and job expectations, we haven’t. We will sit down at some point later and work out the coaching stuff.”
The task of the new coaches is taking members of two strong programs and building it into one.
“It starts with the coaching staff – two coaches who have each built programs on one side of town,” Ball said. “For us to come together hopefully sets an example for our team to come together.”
The two both said the focus is strictly on the future, specifically this upcoming year.
“We will start off as Dothan and leave the Cougars and Tigers behind as soon as possible,” Noble said.
Ball added, “We have quit looking at it as Northview and Dothan. We just view it as one team. We are moving forward.”
The coaches were already in high gear, holding two tryouts this week, one on Monday and one on Thursday. Special outside evaluators would help with varsity tryouts, which has drawn 20 players. Tryouts for the junior varsity and younger teams will be in the fall.
The most immediate goal, according to the two coaches, is to create a cohesive unit
“The main thing right now is building team chemistry,” Noble said. “That is the most important thing to us. We have lined up to participate in the (University of) Alabama team camp. We will also do a lot of team building and bonding stuff over the summer.”
Both coaches are confident the players will mesh together well. Most of the players for the new team played travel and rec ball together in the past and already know each other well.
“After it was announced, I asked my girls about playing with them and they said they had already texted coach Ball’s softball players, telling them they were excited about it,” Noble said. “I think all the softball kids were excited.”
This past season, Northview, behind a junior-oriented team, finished 45-12, while a young Dothan team finished 15-24. Combined the two teams had only one senior on roster, making the first edition of the Wolves a very experienced one.
“Now, we will have some depth,” Noble said. “Every player will know they will have someone behind to push them.”
The program, like all Dothan sports, will compete in Class 6A next year before likely moving up to Class 7A, the highest classification in the state, during the next reclassification, which starts in the 2020-21 academic year.
“We want to be competitive day in and day out,” Noble said. “We want to do that this year in Class 6A then prepare for moving up to the 7A level. We are looking forward to competing in 7A, something neither of us as coaches have had an opportunity to do before.”
When it joins 7A, the Wolves softball team will likely join an area with Central of Phenix City, Smiths Station and Enterprise, teams both Northview and Dothan have faced in recent years.
For now, Noble and Ball are just taking the opening steps as the new Wolves coaches and building a program for next season.
“It will be a challenge, but we are looking forward to it,” Noble said. “It will be a great opportunity and both of us are excited about it.”