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Iles coming back to take over softball program

Mar. 1—Julie Iles had no intention of coaching this season. She had planned to get away for a while, refresh her mind and body, and maybe, possibly, get back in the dugout the following season.

However, Iles heard the head softball coaching position at Cumberland County High School was open and she was being encouraged to take the position.

The decision was difficult, but after a lot of soul searching and praying, Iles told school officials earlier this week she would take the job.

"This is a role that I wasn't really planning to take this year," said Iles, who served as an assistant last year for coach Maddie Bernabei. "It just kind of happened. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason and I think this is the path God led me to at this particular time.

"These girls have had a different coach just about every season for the last six or seven years. They called me and wanted me to come back and. I decided to come back because I love the sport, but also because these seniors have been through so much, and so many coaches. I believe they deserve somebody to be there for them, show up for them."

Iles was born and raised in Cumberland County. She graduated from CCHS in 2018 and went to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. She now teaches first grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary School.

She said taking the position was difficult for her because of her close relationship with Bernabei. However, she said she learned a lot from working with Bernabei last season and that has made her a better coach.

"I was nervous when I took the job," Iles said. "I wasn't nervous about taking the position, but rather I was nervous about how many girls I would have for the team, who is coming back? However, when I had my first interest meeting with the kids and their families, I had over 30 people.

Cumberland County has not had a lot of success in its softball program for some time. However, Iles said that she is going to try and correct that. She said besides wins and losses, she is also going to work on her team becoming contributing members of the community.

"In the preseason, we've focused on trust for one another. We've also worked to become a very disciplined team," Iles said. "All of our seniors have become very good leaders for us. A couple of new players have come in and they haven't really played a lot, but our veteran players have stepped up to help them."

Iles said besides defense, she is also seeing vast improvement in pitching. She said Cumberland County will have multiple options on the pitching roster, a stark contrast to the pitching situation in past years.

Right now, the Lady Jets have no less than five players vying for a starting role.

"I think girls coming out for the team should know I will expect them to give 110 percent every time they come out and step one foot onto the field," Iles said. "If you don't give 110 percent, you don't play. We believe every moment on the field is a learning moment."

Iles said preseason workouts have been going really well, giving her the impression the Lady Jets have the potential to make a statement in 2024.

"A lot of the issues the team has had over the years has come from poor communication

and team bonding. So those two things have been some of the things we've been working on," Iles said.

"You have to be there for your teammate, on and off the field. So, that is something we have talked a lot about. We're a family, and you need to have respect for your family."