By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
LEEDS – There has been a change at the helm of the Leeds High School softball team for the upcoming season. On May 9th, Leeds selected Jesse Turner as the replacement for Erin Wright. The Green Wave just completed a 4-18 season.
Jesse Turner, a multi-sport athlete at Leeds High School, graduating in 2011, has been at the school as a teacher and coach since he graduated from the University of Alabama, even volunteering some during his time in college, helping out the football team. When Turner graduated in 2015 from Alabama, Leeds had an 8th grade English position open and he has been there ever since. Turner coached on the softball team for 6 years before taking a year off after becoming a father for the first time. He still coached track for the Green Wave, believing that track would afford him more family time. But, when the opportunity to take over the softball team presented itself, Jesse had to at least consider it. He also coaches receivers on the Leeds football team under Head Coach Jerry Hood.
“I coached softball for 6 years without any previous experience,” said Turner. “I loved it. I got to work with Brian Gulock and Erin Wright and learned a lot from them. I told the girls that some will say that I just missed softball. It was never softball that I missed necessarily. It was the team. I’ve always just wanted to be on the team. It’s the kids. That’s what brought me back. The foundation I already had with the team and wanting that back and knowing them and what kind of folks they are and players they are. I am excited about trying to build the team. My passion is building the puzzle. That’s my favorite part.”
After just one year away from the softball diamond, the Turner family was faced with a tough, but exciting decision. “Jordyn (Coach Turner’s wife) is really supportive. When this came up, Jordyn and I had a date night. The baby (James) was at his grandparents’ house and we went out and we talked it over Saturday night and all day Sunday. We bounced it back and forth and Jordyn, who is an amazing wife, mentioned that we had not talked about what I wanted to do. She then asked me what I wanted to do and I just grinned. She said, ‘then, let’s do it and I am with you.’ She’s a great and supportive wife, she really is. I couldn’t do any of this without her.”
As is the case with any new (though Turner is not really that new), Coach Turner has specific goals for this team, and they may not be what you would think. “Number one is to develop good people and good softball players,” said Turner. “If we develop the best players we can and give them opportunities to play and work, the wins will come. We have to just believe in our work and what we do. We want to develop people, not just in softball but in life. Next is to be a good ambassador for Leeds. I love this place and have chosen to work here, live here, raise a family here. I love this place. I told the girls that this is you playing for a place that you love. So, being good ambassadors and representing Leeds positively is important. Third, it’s weird, but to love each other and build a team. At the end of the day, only seven teams win a state championship. I was able to be a part of 4 state championships total. 2 as a player and 2 more as a coach, but I am not blind to the fact that you have to be very fortunate to be on those teams. Building a team and a love for each other is very important. I’ve seen it in football and in softball. I want to challenge them because there’s going to become a day when you’re a husband or wife and the bills are due or the baby is sick and momma is tired. How are you going to respond? I believe sports prepare you for life and I believe I am a better husband because I was an athlete and I hope the girls who come through this softball program are better wives, mothers, daughters, and people because of it. I believe, if you focus on those things and have a good time and bring a great energy, you will look up and have won some games.”