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ABCA Minority Member Spotlight: Jennifer Hammond, Thomas Jefferson High School (VA)

The American Baseball Coaches Association strives to help diversify the baseball community and help bring opportunities in the game to all areas. The ABCA Minority Spotlight series looks to capture the experiences, coaching style, and impact that baseball has had on different ABCA member coaches. A new Minority Spotlight feature is released on the ABCA Podcast on the third Monday of the month and we will transcribe a small portion of the interview, which you can find below.

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The ABCA Podcast releases a new episode weekly featuring coaches from all levels of the sport. Discussions run the gamut of baseball coaching topics, from pitching, to hitting, to the mental game, practice planning, recruiting and more. The podcast is hosted by Ryan Brownlee, longtime coach and current Assistant Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

Jennifer Hammond grew up playing fastpitch softball but has always had a love for baseball. She was planning on playing softball in college but had the opportunity to play baseball after discovering the Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference, an all women’s baseball league. She spent her summers traveling the country playing competitively with her DC Thunder tournament team. She spends her time now as a player and coach. Hammond is an Associate Head Coach at Thomas Jefferson High School (VA) for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, an Associate Head Coach for the Alexandria Aces in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League, and a Head Coach with DC Girls Baseball (DCGB). Hammond works with DCGB to provide a welcoming arena for girls to play baseball and help them develop solid fundamental skill sets and baseball knowledge. They provide competitive opportunities for more advanced players who wish to play at the high school level and beyond. 
Ryan Brownlee: Were there options for you in baseball growing up?

Jennifer Hammond: No, there was occasionally a girl who would play through little league and kind of got pushed towards softball. My dad was always looking out for me and said “Nah, you are going to play softball.” He was protective, I was the only girl with three older brothers, he kind of felt like we are going to do what everyone says we should. 

RB: Is that the gratifying thing being with the DC Girls Baseball Club, trying to help girls fight that?

JH: I love it because it gives so many girls the opportunity to play, because so many of them are the only girls left on their team or some unfortunately do not even have the opportunity anymore. 

RB: What has the Eastern Women's Baseball Conference meant to you? 

JH: It was a home for me. The gals I grew up playing with became a second family to me, much like the way a college team would have. I finally have a place to play baseball, and be able to play competitively with a tournament group. I was 18 or 19 and just desperately wanted to play baseball, it was home. It was a place I finally got to play the game I wanted to, in an environment where everyone was so happy to be playing. 

RB: Is playing what inspired you to get into the coaching side of it?

JH: It was kind of an accidental thing, I was not ready to get into coaching. Then a friend of mine who was the Assistant DSA (Director of Student Activities) of the school said, “The softball coach left, can you cover?” Another friend of mine and I then got into it. From there we would watch baseball games and eventually the coach said, “Hey ladies why don’t we go out for a beer and talk baseball.” 

RB: How are you helping them reframe that failure piece into learning?

JH: Understanding failure is not something to be feared, failure is a friend and probably the best teacher that life has. We talk about the cliché that the best hitters in baseball are failing seven out of 10 times and getting them to understand that is your best teacher. 

RB: Is there a difference between coaching men and coaching women?

JH: There are some, I see it more in the way men handle things and the way women handle things. The biggest difference that I notice when it comes to the girls I coach and the guys I coach is those girls are grateful to be playing. When they come to us in a girls organization and get together in the dugout, the family environment is different. There are no cliques or things like that kind of high school stuff, but I have seen more similarities than differences. There is not as much of a difference as I would have thought. 

RB: For coaches trying to get into it and coaches who maybe don’t look like everybody else, what are some tips?

JH: I think the big thing is don’t be afraid to make yourself seen. Go have conversations and introduce yourself. What I have learned about the coaching community is it’s very much about the people you know. There seems to be a great willingness to pull others along.
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