Grimmett leading the Dragons softball team

Apr. 18—For Nicole Grimmett, softball has always been her first love.

Grimmett gave birth to her first son, Archer, on April 14. In the near future, she'll be back in the dugout, continuing her first season as the Lakeside head coach.

A 2013 Geneva graduate, and the backstop on the 2013 Eagles Division II district championship team, Grimmett played four years softball at Lake Erie College for four years. She's been an assistant coach for Geneva and Lakeside. Now, Grimmett feels right at home at the Dragons helm.

"I love the game of softball, it's always been part of my life growing up," she said.

Grimmett talks about being a little girl watching her father play slow pitch at Kiwanis Park in Geneva. Her mother, Terrie Dolan, and aunts all played the game as well. Grimmett said the her upcoming generation had some expectations to live up to.

"It seemed like we spent more time at the fields than anywhere else," she said. "Everyone knew the Dolan girls,so my sister and I had some big shoes to fill."

When she got to high school, Grimmett found the love her family had for softball was met just as much by the other players she met.

"The girls on my softball team were some of the most fun and competitive people to be around," she said. "Then college gave me such an enormous support system and some of the best friendships that I still have to this day."

After college, Grimmett said she coached a summer team. She began teaching at Lakeside in 2017 and was an assistant coach at Geneva. The following year, she took the same position at Lakeside.

Now, as the new person in charge, Grimmett said the first thing she has asked her team for is a little patience.

"The transition has been smooth," Grimmett said. "I told the girls from day one that I know I have been a part of this program for some time and tradition is important, but I would be changing things up some as well.

"I might tweak their swings, run them through new drills, or even tell them the way they have been doing things forever isn't the way we're going to do them moving forward. I asked them to trust me and be coachable and they have done just that."

She's also grateful to former Lakeside voach Jodi Candela, who is now serving as her assistant.

"I was fortunate to assist Jodi Candela when she was the varsity coach at Lakeside," Grimmett said. "She's a great friend and mentor to me. She built a strong foundation and culture to the program and we work to uphold those standards and tradition while building back up the program's competitiveness. I'm also lucky to have her as an assistant on my staff this year."

The Dragons team this year has only one senior, but seven juniors.

All of them have been playing varsity since they were freshmen, since they've the numbers haven't been enough for a JV squad. There are also five freshmen playing.

Grimmett said the two things the program needs are depth and pitching.

"We have to build our pitching staff," she said. "Pitching is so important in this game, especially at the high school level.

For the depth part, Grimmett is hoping to generate interest in players well before they reach high school. The coach is looking at connecting with local little league teams, and ilooking at getting a middle school program going.

Grimmett knows getting players out for sports has been an issue, but not one that Lakeside is alone in.

I think there are a lot of factors to this," she said. "Yes we have struggled, but we are not the only ones, the low number of programs that have JV teams in both girls basketball and softball are very discouraging.

"We need more opportunities for these kids at younger ages. We need youth leagues, and coaches willing to teach the fundamentals. We need more supportive parents. We need more officials. It's an issue everywhere but we need to step up as a community to help fix it."

Grimmett knows results will not happen overnight, but for the current players, she's asking them to take the necessary steps to move forward.

"We have to buy into the big picture of being a competitive team and program which takes personal sacrifice," she said. "Showing up to offseason workouts, taking personal lessons, finding teams to play on in the summers, being a selfless teammate, and always working toward precision."