Frank Arcuri has nearly three decades of experience coaching softball. He was an assistant coach for Eckerd College last year, and spent many years in travel ball, where he won multiple championships. His daughters even played Division I college softball.
So what brings him to Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave., to head their softball program?
It’s the timing. Not for the coach; for the players.
“I feel like my niche is the 14-, 15-, 16-year-old athlete,” Arcuri explained. They’re right where you want them in the development stage, and it’s a real joy to take them to the next level of playing.”
At the college level, coaches are doing more fine-tuning and strategizing with players, he said. But when they’re a few years younger, they can still learn new things to improve their game significantly, yet they’ve already established that they have the talent to compete.
Carrollwood Day School’s softball team has already demonstrated its abilities.
The Patriots have reached the regionals in state playoff competition in each of the past three seasons, including a trip to the state semifinals a couple of seasons ago.
Arcuri wants to build on that success, but there’s a lot of time between now and the start of the season. That’s why he wanted the team to participate in a Hillsborough County fall league, to give the players time to gain extra experience and additional time playing together.
It also enables Arcuri to have a chance to evaluate his team before the season starts, he said. By identifying its areas of strength, and what needs the most work, he can prepare efficiently, and get the most out of his team.
Arcuri believes he can get more out of the team by having the athletes play on other teams. He doesn’t want them to adopt a “softball all year” attitude, which is becoming more prominent in athletics today. Instead, he wants them to focus on school and encourages them to play other sports that might even help them with improved footwork when they return to the softball field.
“Track and basketball are very good. So is soccer,” Arcuri said.
That footwork will be important, because he wants speed to be a character trait of his team. He’s considering bringing a special trainer out to teach them different techniques, and to allow players to use their speed to cause problems for opposing defenses.
Arcuri also will focus on selling the program to the team and building trust, since he views himself as a players’ coach.
With so much experience teaching and coaching at different age levels, he has a good feel for how to handle athletes at different stages of development. And for female athletes in high school, the best method is to instruct without being too critical, he said. It’s better to use positive language to put them at ease, but keep them in a learning mindset.
“It’s pretty good, but let me show you where it might be even better to help you out,” Arcuri suggests as a method of teaching an athlete a new technique. “You have to keep a positive spin on everything.”
As he settles into his new job, Arcuri is already feeling positive about the talent he’s inheriting, the school’s commitment to a successful program, and the opportunity to teach young players and make a good athlete even better.
“There are some good players over there. I was impressed with the talent level at such a small school,” Arcuri said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Published December 30, 2015