Congratulations to Steve Cooper
by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
"While we usually focus on senior issues in our blog, within our midst here at our offices, we have a retired gentleman who not only does a stellar job of overseeing our facilities maintenance but also contributes to the youth of our community through his coaching skills. His name is Steve Cooper, and he is the head coach of the Shea/Tolman High School Girls softball team, and together they won the state scholastic girls' Softball title here in Rhode Island," said certified elder law attorney RJ Connelly III.
"Steve, like many who have retired, still has a whole lot to give to our youth, who are growing up in a very troubled and confusing time," stated Attorney Connelly. "Whether it's coaching or mentoring our youth, older adults have so much to offer. Those like Steve guarantee young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of growing up and shows them through caring that they do indeed matter. Such leadership guides a young person to personal growth and development and ultimately to learning appropriate social skills leading to economic opportunities. Unfortunately, one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset which is sorely needed in our environment today."
Steve, who has been the girls' softballgirl's coach for some time, retired from the Pawtucket School Department a few years ago but remained as the head coach of the team. "When I left working at the high school, the thing I missed most was my daily interaction with the kids, watching them grow and succeed, some facing incredible odds yet finding ways through perseverance and dedication to become successful adults. So, when I was given the opportunity to remain as head coach of the girls' team, I jumped at the chance."
Steve has had many wonderful times as the head coach of the team, but without a doubt, this year remains one of his standout seasons. "This game was really a rematch of last year's championship game, which we lost to Providence's Central High by a score of 11-7," said Steve. "When we started the season this year, it was easy to tell the ladies were focused on returning to the championship round again this year and felt they had something to prove. All year long they played with determination and never gave up in any game. I could not have been prouder of these young women."
If the story ended here, it would be a tale of great achievement, but as the great radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, "here's the rest of the story." And we begin it by letting Steve recap the game for us.
"The ladies came ready to play and knew we were up against a tough team with a knowledgeable and talented coaching staff," said Steve. "After a scoreless top of the first inning, our ladies put two runs on the board thanks to hits by Cheyenne Cooper and Janayah Gordon. Central went scoreless again in the second inning with some great pitching by Janayah. Our team added a run in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-0 lead going into the third inning. In the top of the third, Central put a run on the board to make it 3-1. After two scoreless innings, we produced four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to give us some breathing room, but with a team as talented as Central, we knew we had to stay focused."
"The scoring in that inning started with a big hit by Cheyenne who had been playing with an extreme amount of emotion due to a family issue that occurred just prior to the beginning of the playoffs," continued Steve. That family issue was that her father, who is her biggest fan, suffered a heart attack just prior to the beginning of the playoffs and needed surgery.
"When Cheyenne was on deck in that inning, her brother approached her and pulled out his cell phone, where her father was on a video call from the hospital telling her to 'hit a bomb,'" Steve stated with a big smile. And she certainly produced. "She hit the ball and it bounced to the fence. As she rounded the bases, the emotion finally hit her, and as she stopped at third base, the tears began to flow."
Central would go on to score two more runs in the top of the sixth inning, but after the initial barrage, Janayah shut them down and Shea/Tolman went on to become State Champions. The top hitters were Cheyenne Cooper who went two for four with two RBI, Madison Gibbons who went three for four with 1 RBI, and Anita Rua who was two for three with one RBI.
"This was a team with each lady having their own story and as a team, multiple reasons to win," said Steve. "Besides Cheyenne's own personal motivation to win for her father, there were other ladies on the team with their own motivations. We had a handful of seniors who had missed an entire season because of the pandemic, and then because the number of ladies coming out to play was so low, we had to combine both programs from Shea and Tolman. This led to a whole rebuilding of the team and a focus on being successful as a newly constructed team."
In an interview with the Valley Breeze newspaper after the game, senior third baseman Gina Carpenter remarked on how special this win was for her and the team. “It’s good to come back here and get that win over [Central] that we couldn’t get last year. We lost to them four times in , but this is so sweet. I’m not shocked because I knew this team could do it, but I have no words to describe how I feel. I’m so proud of my team and I’m so excited.”
"The big story was that we won the state title," said Steve. "But there were so many individual stories about our team that it just added up to the fact that we had an incredibly exceptional group of athletes that I had the honor to coach and reach the pinnacle of success. And, by the way, for those who are wondering, Cheyenne's dad is doing well after surgery and is looking forward to going home soon."
"We at Connelly Law are extremely proud to have Steve as part of our team here and of the young ladies who brought the State Title here to Pawtucket," said Attorney Connelly. "The role of a coach in the lives of young people should never be underestimated. I say this as I think back to my days in school and playing sports. The best coaches always had effective, personal relationships with their athletes and modeled positive moral and ethical behaviors for them. As a person, Steve personifies all those wonderful attributes here at the office. We're lucky to have him."