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FGCU softball clinic draws big crowd in Brighton

The Florida Gulf Coast University softball clinic draws a big crowd of softball-lovers to the Brighton Reservation’s Ollie Jones Memorial Park on Dec. 3. (Kevin Johnson photo)
The Florida Gulf Coast University softball clinic draws a big crowd of softball-lovers to the Brighton Reservation’s Ollie Jones Memorial Park on Dec. 3. (Kevin Johnson photo)

BRIGHTON — Saturday morning sports clinics are hit or miss when it comes to participation, but one guarantee on the Brighton Reservation is that softball – whether it’s a clinic or a game or a tournament – will draw plenty of interest.  So it was no surprise that when Florida Gulf Coast University’s softball team pulled into Ollie Jones Memorial Park on Dec. 3 in their colorful van, eager eyes and gloves were waiting. About 60 girls from age 5 to high schoolers took part in the free clinic.

“I knew the numbers could come out. You always plan for it and hope for it, and I’m glad for the success today,” said Brighton Recreation site manager Dallas Nunez.

Longtime FGCU coach Dave Deiros brought a couple assistant coaches and seven current players for an intense four hours of fielding, hitting and pitching instruction. Deiros emphasized positive messages to the kids.

“More than anything else, the two things we try to emphasize in our speech and in our work today is make sure you love the sport and show that you love the sport in everything you do. Even if you make a mistake, or strike out, make sure you have joy every single time you hit the field, and the game will always pay you back,” he said. “Always try your best at whatever you’re doing. Try your best at your practice, your games, but also with your relationships with your friends, your family, with your schoolwork. If you try your best, you’re going to get paid back because life is always going to reward those who give to others.”

Basketball, volleyball and golf teams from FGCU have held clinics on Seminole reservations in the past couple years, but this was the softball team’s first clinic on a reservation. New and additional lights have recently been added to the fields at Ollie Jones Memorial Park, which means kids will be able to play and practice for longer periods. Travel club teams from Brighton and the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School field strong teams year after year, and serve as a feeder for Okeechobee, Moore Haven and other area high school teams.

“It’s great to see a grassroots effort like the Seminoles and what they’re doing with a sport that you really have to organize and put a lot of infrastructure, a lot of money into it,” Deiros said.

The clinic drew players from beyond the reservation, including Okeechobee, Moore Haven, LaBelle, Immokalee and Hollywood.

Armando Nunez, a coach with the Southwest Florida Phoenix club team based in Immokalee, brought 14 players with him. He having Division I college coaches and players on the reservation was a thrill for his players. He’s taken some of his players to clinics at FGCU run by Deiros.

“He’s been there for a while. He’s got a good thing going on there,” Nunez said.

For LaBelle High School player Amber Barnett, the clinic paid immediate dividends.

“I liked the drills we did and how [Deiros] explained to do everything the right way, step-by-step,” Barnett said. “I’m not very good at hitting an inside pitch, so he taught me a quick way to hit it.”

Barnett and the rest of the girls were split into three groups of about 20 players each and spread across the park’s three fields. In smaller groups, the youngsters had opportunities to show their skills as they received instruction from Deiros and his assistants Erika Bennett and Lindsey Ubrun along with players Taylor Wade, Riley Randolph, Caley Chappel, Clarissa LiCata, Erica Ward and Brittany McGuire.

“I know they’re not out here trying to recruit, but talent will standout and they’ll remember that,” Dallas Nunez said.

Florida Gulf Coast University softball coach Dave Deiros provides instruction to youngsters during the team’s clinic at Ollie Jones Memorial Park on Dec. 3 in Brighton. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Florida Gulf Coast University softball coach Dave Deiros provides instruction to youngsters during the team’s clinic at Ollie Jones Memorial Park on Dec. 3 in Brighton. (Kevin Johnson photo)
FGCU pitching coach Erika Bennet gives pitching advice to youngsters during a drill at the clinic. (Kevin Johnson photo)
FGCU pitching coach Erika Bennet gives pitching advice to youngsters during a drill at the clinic. (Kevin Johnson photo)
FGCU's Carissa LiCata, of Okeechobee, provides outfield instruction during a clinic on the Brighton Reservation. (Kevin Johnson)
FGCU’s Carissa LiCata, of Okeechobee, provides outfield instruction during a clinic on the Brighton Reservation. (Kevin Johnson)
Truly Osceola takes a big cut during hitting instruction with FGCU players and coaches in Brighton. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Truly Osceola takes a big cut during hitting instruction with FGCU players and coaches in Brighton. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Florida Gulf Coast University softball coach Dave Deiros meets with attendees of a clinic at the Brighton Reservation. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Florida Gulf Coast University softball coach Dave Deiros meets with attendees of a clinic at the Brighton Reservation. (Kevin Johnson photo)

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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