MRU softball team sets ambitious goals following inaugural season
By Xander Holcomb, Contributor
MRU’s newest club played their inaugural season this semester—and nobody knew about it. The new team, a softball club representing MRU, joined the Western Collegiate Softball Association (WCSA), along with schools throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
As a club program, the team is entirely run by its student athletes. Five players make up the executive board, which oversees the program and is responsible for hiring the coaching staff, funding the program and a laundry list of other duties.
Like any first-year program, challenges plagued the Cougars softball team throughout the season. Head coach Jason Poole believes the biggest of all was that the team met for the first time only a week before the season began.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the smoothest ship ever, but I think everyone’s learning,” said Poole.
“15 ball players got to play this year, and we got to compete in the league.”
Although the Cougars finished seventh out of the eight in the league, both the coaching staff and players feel like the team has potential going forward.
“We had a lot of talented girls, a lot of girls who really knew what they were doing, but because it was a first-year college team, there were a lot of cracks that we had to iron out,” said Emma Hache, a member of the team’s executive board.
Hache said that the team is not only skilled, but has a great team mentality and environment.
“We worked well as a group together, it’s probably one of the funnest teams I’ve played on. Everyone got along super well, we all had fun.”
Hache, who hails from Vancouver Island, was originally recruited by the joint MRU and SAIT softball program. But, in January 2022, SAIT informed the MRU student athletes that they were no longer able to play as a joint team. This prompted the executive board and longtime SAIT softball coach George Edwards to create and recruit players for an upstart Cougars team.
Although Edwards is no longer involved with the Cougars, he laid the foundation for Poole to step in.
“I started going around at my own expense to tournaments, teams and associations to let them know that MRU was going to have a team. We had been instructed that we needed a minimum of nine players to solidify the team. I was able to create this fairly quickly,” Edwards said.
Edwards was able to recruit players throughout the summer. One major advantage he had in that department came from The Friends, Alumni, and Supporters of Collegiate Softball Society. It’s a resource for the Cougars to use that assists the program with fundraising and the expenses required to run the team. Each year the society provides about $30,000 to offset the costs of travel, equipment, and other expenses.
These extra funds from the society keep the costs down for players, and have attracted players like Hache to Calgary. According to Poole, players from throughout central Alberta, and parts of British Columbia come to play for the Cougars. Poole’s own daughter attends the University of Victoria, where she plays on their softball team. He says that student-athletes in Victoria pay almost three times that of the MRU athletes. Meaning, the benefits that the society provides the program and its athletes are what keeps the MRU athletes costs down compared to other programs.
Despite having played in their first season already, there’s little information about MRU’s softball team online. To find the team’s page on the MRU Athletics site requires searching through multiple pages, and even there, the page has almost no information about the team. Not even the WCSA site displays a roster, and game results are difficult to come by anywhere online.
The talent that the program already has, along with new recruits, leads Poole to believe that the Cougars can put together a strong showing next year after the team gets an entire year together to train, practice, and gel together. He’s set the goal to finish within the top half of the league in only their second season.
“We have some work to do as coaches to recruit, and obviously develop these players that we already have,” he said. “I think we’ll be more competitive as these girls go through a year of practicing and we get to know them a little bit better.”
The belief in the team going forward is echoed by Hache.
“I am excited for next season, I think it’s going to be great. I think we have a lot of good girls, and I think it’s going to be a success.”