Originally the North Callaway softball camps were taking place this Mon.-Thur. from 7:00 a.m.- 10:00 a.m. for the high school athletes and the junior high players were on the diamond from 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

It didn't take long before that schedule needed to be adjusted to account for the heat, though, prompting Ladybird's varsity coach Brandi Thomsen to have these two groups work as one so she could drop the second session all-together.

"The high school players have been helping the younger athletes do what they're supposed to. This allows us to practice before the heat really sets in," said Thomsen. "The younger kids are doing a good job. It's a lot to learn and a lot to take in. The high school athletes have had several years of me telling them to do things a certain way, so they're learning."

One driving force for this event is the second high school dead period is July 24-28. After that some programs will hold their first official practice as early as July 31, leaving little time to fine tune things between then and now.

"The biggest reason we have camp and the reason we schedule it for the end of summer is this gets us ready for that first week of practice," Thomsen said. "We can do a lot of things and work on putting our systems in place. Things we want these girls to know on an overall basis. Things like getting ready and how we want to warm up. We want the kids to know what to do and when. We also want everyone involved with the incoming freshman class so they'll be prepared when real practices begin."

North Callaway has been active this offseason since just after school let out for summer break starting May 31 when it hosted the Little Ladybirds skills clinic. The team also competed in a series of hour-long scrimmages at Centralia on June 13-14, as well as July 11-12.

"We love the Lady Panthers summer league. We go every year," said Thomsen. "It's a great format. (Centralia Coach) Jill Angell does a tremendous job with it. It's a little stressful for her, but it's nice for us to be able to play games. The biggest things for us is so many of our girls play summer ball. We're fortunate for that. That means they're playing on the weekends and we get them when we can. We do a few practices to keep them on their toes and make sure they're accomplishing their goals."

While all of this might make it seem like the Ladybirds have had quite a busy summer, this is basically par for the course for this program. This team actually used to spend even more time together in the offseason and still would if the roster didn't keep ending up so spread out because of other activities.

"Our top pitcher sometimes plays outfield. We have different kids playing different spots. We just want to get them back used to playing the positions they'll play at the high school level," Thomsen said. "So many of these athletes are here and there because of vacations. Some of them are playing in different tournaments. My own daughter went to Colorado and Tennessee, so they travel a lot. That's why we do less now than we have in past years."

Just like most individuals in the same position, one reason Thomsen coaches is to share with her players the same things she learned by playing this game. That means not only does she have to teach things like strategy, technique and philosophy, but she also has to find a way to relay her passion for and love of the game.

"I think just having that passion is the biggest thing because the kids can see that. I try and let them know how much this game has done for me as a person," said Thomsen. "I tell them the game is about the lessons you learn along the way. It's about being a good teammate, being a good person and working hard. Not settling for second best. I think the girls enjoy it. Today we're playing lots of games to try and make it enjoyable, but at the same time always competing."