WEST POINT — When Lewis Earnest’s phone rang, he was not seeking out another job. He had been retired for about a year from Hamilton High School, where he’d taught and coached for 26 years. Soon enough, he became Oak Hill Academy’s newest softball coach.
“I enjoyed my year of retirement, so I really wasn’t looking,” Earnest said. “Phil Ferguson the principal here (at Oak Hill) called me and asked me to think about it.”
Ferguson, who also serves as the Raiders’ athletic director, called Earnest back to bring the news that baseball and softball had just opened up. Earnest wanted the job to be on a part-time basis because he had spent many years teaching and coaching at Hamilton, so he wanted to avoid the long days in the classroom and just be a coach instead.
While Earnest was primarily a baseball coach for much of his career, girls’ softball is not something that is unfamiliar to him. He coached softball at Hamilton for about 12 years from 2000-2013. With a bevy of knowledge and a new opportunity, Earnest decided to give coaching another shot.
“I enjoyed coaching girls, you know, girls work hard, and if you get them to believe in themselves, to believe in you and what you’re doing, they’ll run through a wall for you,” Earnest said.
Earnest’s coaching career began in 1991 at Delta State, where he served as Bill Marchant’s pitching coach. The next year, Earnest returned to his Alma Mater Aberdeen to fill an assistant role for two years. After that, the head coach position was offered to him at both Aberdeen and Hamilton. Because he was uncertain about how the administration would shake up at Aberdeen, he took the Hamilton job, which he held for quite a while.
Earnest was excited to get to campus at Oak Hill and get to know his new squad. He noted that getting all the girls to practice has been one of the tougher parts of the job so far. Some girls have had prior commitments, whether it be jobs, camps, or other sports that have kept them from being able to practice over the summer. Just recently, Earnest has gotten enough girls there to finally hold intersquad games. From there, he’s beginning to put together his goals for the team.
“The main thing is that I’m trying to get them fundamentally sound. We’ve worked a lot on fundamentals and playing the right way,” Earnest said. “Being able to throw, catch, move our feet and put the ball in play. Once we work on the fundamentals of the game, then the rest of it is gonna come easier.”
Off the field, Earnest is focused on instilling accountability based on respect and pride.
“If they have pride in the program and pride in themselves, they’re going to carry themselves the right way, and they’re going to represent their school and their community the way they should,” he said.
One of the things that Earnest has noticed over his short time with Oak Hill, is how many athletes he has on his team. He said that much of his team plays another sport besides softball, whether that be basketball, tennis, golf, or cheerleading.
“I came from a small school and we also had to share athletes, but actually, it’s better for them,” Earnest said. “It’s better for them to play multiple sports and to be a better, well rounded athlete. I can pretty much tell which of these girls, without asking, play basketball, because I can see it in their footwork.”