BRADENTON -- Meredith Headings' enthusiasm and recruiting style are what makes her a top softball coach.
But her positive attitude is what separates her from most.
And that comes from a collegiate playing career where she holds the career home-run record at State College of Florida, and the single-season mark as well.
Headings played at SCF, then called Manatee Community College in 2000 and 2001.
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She never had a chance to go to the national tournament.
Her Manatees begin play in the Junior College World Series on Thursday against Temple (Texas) College, gaining the automatic berth as the Gulf District Champion. The program did not win the state title, but advances nonetheless.
Headings took over the program after former head coach Jeff Roberts resigned following nine seasons at the helm.
Headings inherited some of Roberts' softball philosophy.
"Definitely aggressive. He always told us to take everything that they gave you," said Headings, whose 23 career home runs are an SCF record. "So if they weren't covering second and you got a base hit,
you were taking second. If the corners are back, we're going to bunt on you. It's just that aggressive, smart softball."
However, Headings has her own coaching style aided by what she saw from coaches during her playing days.
"I felt like players were treated like robots, where they were just told what to do and you were expected to do," Headings said. "Now, we take them into classrooms and tell them what we're doing and why we are doing it. If a starter isn't in the lineup the next day for some reason, I will come to her and let her know why. So I think having them understand the moves we're making allows them to buy into the philosophy."
SCF's softball program, though, was already known throughout the state as the Manatees had qualified for the state tournament 10 consecutive seasons prior to this year. The past four appearances came under Headings' watch.
But this year's squad, built on a strong camaraderie and pitching depth, earned the program its second national tournament appearance, but first since the event was moved from Clermont to St. George, Utah.
Headings' upbeat attitude also gives her an advantage in the recruiting game. It was a reason that sold a few current stars like state tournament co-MVP Ashley Burney, who hails from Palatka.
"She recruited me at a Disney tournament in Orlando," the slugging first baseman said, whose seven home runs are six shy of Headings' single-season program record of 13 set in 2001. "I didn't know where this place was. I had never heard of Bradenton. Never heard of the State College of Florida ... and she was so awesome. She came to four or five of our tournaments ... and we kept in contact all the time."
That tenacious ability coupled with her nurturing demeanor also worked on star catcher Angie Dascoli, who came from Melbourne on the Sunshine State's east coast.
"Just the way she spoke of the program. She spoke very highly of it," the sophomore said. "She just acted like a second mother, like 'We'll welcome you and treat you like my own.' It was just a very homely feeling."