Braves Softball Coach of the Week: Anthony Whitley, Sandy Plains Softball

‘By far one of the best coaches at Sandy Plains Softball!’

Credit: Anthony Whitley

Credit: Anthony Whitley

Every week, in partnership with the Atlanta Braves, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announces a new winner for the Braves Coach of the Week. Representing the best in local youth baseball and softball community leadership, it’s an award that comes with the honor and respect of metro Atlanta’s many voters. This time around, Sandy Plains Softball Association’s Anthony Whitley has taken home the honor. Walking away with over half the votes for his service coaching the 10u Sonic Booms, Whitley is a coach lauded for his service to the Sandy Plains community.

“I was an assistant coach on coach Whitley’s team this season,” Kyle Zaunbrecher told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was amazing to see how he worked with the 10U girls. His ability to inspire, motivate, and improve their skillset was something I had not seen before. By far one of the best coaches at Sandy Plains Softball!”

While it’s an honor not lost on Whitley, the North Carolina native was never in it for the praise. After falling in love with the sport himself, he decided to pass that passion off to his children.

“I love sports, all sports,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Baseball has always been my number one sport and I thoroughly enjoy the game and the details that come with it. I played on a men’s league when my daughter and son were born and they watched me play baseball, as well as tennis, and fell in love with the sports/team aspect as well. Once they were old enough to join sports teams themselves, I stopped playing sports and focused on helping them be as good as they could be and hopefully enjoy the games as much as I did if they wanted too.”

With over a dozen seasons of coaching to his name across multiple sports, Whitley has put that passion to good use. But, it’s with the Sandy Plains Softball Association that he has made the largest impact.

“I coach softball at the Sandy Plains Softball Association,” he said. “I have been a coach or assistant coach for 9 seasons now, it is a wonderful organization and I thoroughly enjoy the program as well as the coordinators.

“This my daughter’s 3rd season in 10u. Fall 2021 I helped assistant coach the Smashing Pumkin’s along with Scott and Kristy Athey, and this past Spring 2022/Fall 2022 I am the head coach of the Sonic Booms.”

In fall 2021, the Smashing Pumkin’s scored first place in their tournament. This spring, the Sonic Booms earned second place in their outing.

But, winning is not the only thing on Whitley’s mind when it comes to his teams. It’s about building confidence.

“What I am most proud of is how the girls push themselves to be as good as they can be no matter what they face,” he said. “Getting them to believe in themselves and build confidence that they can carry with them, not only on the field, but for a lifetime. I am constantly getting them to accept failure with a smile on their face. One of the questions I always ask is, ‘do you learn more from winning or losing.’ Understanding loss early I feel helps everyone realize that loss doesn’t define you, it builds you. My grandfather used to always tell me when I was troubled that, ‘problems are just obstacles that need a solution to move forward.’

“I am most proud that the girls really tune to that and understand being good at anything starts in the mind and works its way out to your skill set. They become mentally tough. It is hard to beat anyone that is mentally strong. I appreciate watching the girls achieve that throughout each and every season. I also use and see this when I coach my son’s teams as well.”

To any that are considering entering the sport, Whitley said to give it a shot.

“Softball has a lot to offer to new players in the design of the friendships built through sports and the feeling of overcoming and growing from within,” he said. “Even to this day, some of my best friends are the people I played sports with, and that was many years ago. There is a closeness in the softball community that is very different than other sports to me, even baseball... Softball is an amazing sport that offers girls a chance to build friendships and test yourself in all kinds of conditions. As in any sport you have to not only make the commitment, you have to want to make it!”