Veteran coach Pete Melancon has always loved the challenge that comes with building a championship team.
His latest endeavor may be his toughest yet. He’s the man staked with turning the struggling South Lafourche softball team into a Class 4A contender.
Tarpons principal Gaye Cheramie and Athletic Director Brian Callais announced Melancon as the school’s new coach this week. He will replace outgoing coach Brittney Rogers, who led the team last season.
Melancon admits that a lot of work must be done to overhaul a Lady Tarpons’ program that has struggled for the past several decades, and which posted just a four-win season in 2015.
But Melancon said he is excited to get started, touting that he believes the winning mix can be attained through hard work, dedication and a talented roster that features several returning underclassmen.
“This feels good,” Melancon said. “I’ve always enjoyed building world-class high performance teams – both in sports and business. This is another challenge that I look forward to. I think you’ll find that we will bring stability and a solid foundation to SL softball.”
The challenge of turning the Lady Tarpons into a winner will be a steep one. South Lafourche softball hasn’t enjoyed any semblance of on-field success in the past several seasons, routinely finishing in the bottom-half of the standings.
But work has been done in the past several years throughout the South Lafourche community to create a youth program that can better train and foster the area’s local talent.
The South Lafourche area does have top-notch female athletes. One just has to look at the women’s basketball floor to see that. The Lady Tarpons are one of the top teams in Louisiana at that sport. Melancon said to experience the same success in softball is attainable, but it will involve growing the game at the youth level and providing better training – something that has really taken fold locally in years past.
“Use pitching as an example. Our area has always been a little short on quality pitchers,” Melancon said. “It’s not that we haven’t had girls capable of pitching at that level. It was more that we didn’t do a good job of finding them and training them. We’re changing that without youth programs in South Lafourche. We’re training girls in pitching and other positions, and we’re training plenty of them. We’ve got extreme depth coming and developing at all positions, which bodes well for Lady Tarpon softball.”
The fruits of those labors are going to be on display in Melancon’s first year.
The Lady Tarpons have a talented freshman and sophomore group that it will mix with talented returning juniors to create a club that the coach thinks can be competitive in Class 4A, where South Lafourche will compete with South Terrebonne, Vandebilt, Ellender, Morgan City and Assumption.
Melancon said he likes the versatility that the Lady Tarpons will possess. The first-year coach said he will have several players with the ability to play multiple positions on the diamond.
It will be a challenge indeed – Melancon isn’t denying that. But it’s a project and program that the coach believes can be built. It’s one that Melancon said the community will soon look upon with pride.
“We’ve got some very smart and athletic girls in our area – girls with great character and ability matched with a parent set that cares about their daughters, and who want to see them succeed. We need to put that together with a program that is very transparent and defined and is organizationally sound in roles and how we operate.
“Players and parents are all important factors in this formula. … Getting results is always important, but getting results the right way defines who you are.”
TARPON VOLLEYBALL HIRES LERILLE
While Melancon attempts to rebuild South Lafourche softball, it will be Jamie Lerille attempting to do the same in volleyball.
Cheramie announced this week that she’d hired Lerille as the school’s volleyball coach, also replacing Rogers, who coached the team last season. Lerille comes with experience. She was an assistant volleyball coach at the school from 2006-07, but had gotten out of the program to follow her daughter’s athletic career.
More recently, Lerille has served as a women’s basketball coach for the Lady Tarpons. Lerille said she can’t wait to get started.
“I am very excited that I got the job,” Lerille said. “I always wanted to get back into coaching volleyball at South Lafourche as an assistant coach, but when the opportunity to become head coach presented itself, I had to go for it.”
Like Melancon with softball, Lerille said she’s looking toward the youth to help turnaround a team that has never been to the playoffs in school history.
The new South Lafourche coach said she’s been extremely active working with children in recent years, including her role in helping to organize the Tarpon Volleyball Summer League with Shantelle and Benji Toups. Lerille said in the league’s first season, it had 49 girls. Today, in its fourth season, 80 players are in the program.
“I believe that teaching our girls the fundamental skills of volleyball at a younger age is the key to improving our game at the high school level,” Lerille said. “I plan to help the players improve their volleyball skills and build their knowledge of the game.”