BRADEN RIVER — Erin Spivey isn’t one to sit back and wait for others to take the reins.
The East County resident is willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen.
So, with her players warming up in the infield, Spivey hops atop a tractor and proceeds to drag the infield — driving around in circles until the freshly pressed red dirt lies perfectly still in the glistening sun.
Is it perfect?
Spivey couldn’t tell you — it’s not her forte.
But, if there’s one thing Spivey specializes in, it’s winning.
Spivey helped lead Palmetto High to one of its best seasons in school history in 2001 when the Lady Tigers reached the regional finals and won a pair of conference titles at Manatee Community College.
Now, Spivey is bringing some of that championship mentality to Braden River as its new head coach. Spivey took over the position after former coach Doug Powell resigned following the Lady Pirates 23-5 season.
“As a coach, I couldn’t ask for a better (situation),” says Spivey, who has nine players returning this season. “We have enough talent to do great things. We have so many girls who are talented, so I can actually coach on the level that I want to coach on.”
With a loaded roster that includes six seniors who were freshmen during Spivey’s final season as an assistant coach in 2010, at Braden River, Spivey believes the Lady Pirates are capable of big things this season, including another state title run.
“They mean a lot to me,” Spivey says. “I just want them to have a positive state of mind. They are good. I want them to realize they are as good as people think they are.
“I know they deserve the best and can be the best, but it’s up to them to do that,” Spivey says. “They can have an amazing season. They are really good kids who are great at playing softball.”
Spivey realized early on she had the talent to play at a high level — that same talent she sees in a lot of her players — and the drive to match it.
Spivey began playing T-ball with her twin brother, Jared Sutton, before switching to Miss Manatee Softball. She played at Miss Manatee until the fifth grade before turning her attention to travel ball.
“I’m competitive by nature,” Spivey says. “My favorite part of the game is running and being one step ahead of everyone else.”
Spivey played second and third base for Palmetto, but with primary positions already filled at MCC, Spivey initially wasn’t sure how she would fit in to the Lancers’ lineup.
“The coach said, ‘I’ll find you a spot,’” Spivey says. “I showed up and they moved me to shortstop.”
Spivey played shortstop at MCC before spending her final two years as a standout shortstop at Barry University.
“It’s so much more exciting,” Spivey says of the position. “You have the opportunity to touch the ball and have something to do with the game. And it’s in the dirt. I love being in the dirt. I’d rather be in the action.”
After earning her degree in physical education, Spivey spent three years as an assistant coach at MCC, where she met former Lakewood Ranch High standout pitcher Melissa Dowling, whom she named her pitching coach prior to the start of the season, before moving over to Braden River.
Spivey spent two years as an assistant at Braden River before stepping away from the game to have her second child. Spivey always knew she would return to coaching. It was simply a matter of timing.
“It’s another aspect of the game,” Spivey says of coaching. “You think you know everything as a player, but once you cross that line (there’s) a whole other side.
“I love the sport, and in the end I knew I was going to stay involved,” Spivey says. “I’m used to a schedule. It’s hard to be away from it.”
The Lady Pirates are 2-1 this season with 19 regular season games remaining on the schedule. Although, for a former player who is used to a strict schedule, Spivey would like nothing more than to extend her softball schedule five games past the district tournament.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.