Sports Spotlight: Softball Coach Jennifer Walls

     Fillies’ Softball Coach, Jennifer Walls, said that the key to her softball philosophy is to “always be a student of the game; you’re never too old, you’re never too good of a player to stop growing physically and mentally,” even at the instructors’ level.

     Walls said, “the game of softball is always changing, so sometimes the coaching styles always have to adapt to the game.” Change also happens to be a big reason behind her love for coaching.

     “I really like seeing the players develop and it’s crazy to see a group like my sophomores—they’re a completely different set of players than they were a year ago.”

     A native of southern California, Walls started playing ball as a catcher when she was eight years old. At 12, she began pitching and hated it. In her undergrad years, Walls went to Long Beach State in Southern California for two years. “I really played for a coach that made me hate the game… I was miserable,” she recalled.

     She was released after her sophomore year and transferred to Arizona. While there, Walls “got the opportunity to pitch in the College World Series in 2009, of course, Alabama beat us, but it was still a great experience.”

     After college ball, Walls played professional ball in Italy for about 13 months. She said it was a great experience and wishes she could go back. After Italy, Walls looked towards furthering her education and sent out her resume to as many schools as she could. Georgia Southwestern University offered her a grad. assistant position.

     “Basically, I would go there, they’d pay for my master’s degree, pay for where I lived and gain some coaching experience.”

     After three years of school and a degree, Walls moved back to California, but she quickly realized “I missed Georgia.”

     “Coach Donna Campbell—I had become friends with her while I was coaching at Georgia Southwestern—was about to retire,” added Walls.

     Campbell called her and told her to apply for the opening at ABAC. Walls said, “When I applied, I think it was only two or three days before the deadline so I thought ‘there’s no way I’m going to get it,’ and I let Donna know I applied.”

     Athletic Director Alan Kramer contacted her for an interview, in which she flew from California to tour ABAC’s campus.

     “I flew back home and found out I got the job. I told my dad, ‘I guess I’m packing up my stuff again and moving back to Georgia,’ and he was like ‘this is the last time you’re moving.’”

     Jennifer Walls began her new position on Aug. 1, 2015, and the Fillies currently stand at 18-12.


Sports Spotlight: Recreational Sports Director Jason Pace

     Even with life’s ups and downs, Recreational Sports Director, Jason Pace, has found a home within ABAC. Pace said, “I get to be a big kid every day pretty much, I get to set up all these games for students to play.”

     As an actual kid, he relished his life in sports and claims he was never without a ball or bat in his hand. “My parents tell me they had me at two out in the backyard hitting a ball, and while I have no recollection of that,” he chuckled, “I do remember it was always a ball in my hand, soccer ball at my feet playing some type of sport.”

    Pace is from a small town in Virginia and went to Bradford University for his undergraduate, majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in journalism and a minor in sports administration. After his time at Bradford, Pace pursued his education further at Highpoint University, where he received his Master’s in Sports Studies. When he graduated in 2009, the economy was in turmoil and Pace spent the next three years looking for a full-time job.

     Afterward, he became the Assistant Coordinator of Facility Services at Ferrum College for about six months. Then, he looked to his alma mater where he became the Coordinator for Facilities and Operations at Bradford University and spent four years there. On Aug. 1, 2017, Pace started his first day at ABAC.

     When he started his education, Pace didn’t expect it to be the ride it’s been. “In high school, I thought ‘what better thing to do than to go cover games…’ I’d do college game sets for high school games with the group of people I hung out with.”

     In 2007, Pace began to pay attention to the economy. “I don’t want to say journalism became a dying industry, but the jobs out there were not nearly as plentiful as when I started college in 2003.”

     With the goal to still end up doing sports, Pace became extremely involved in his campus intramural teams. It led him to where he is today, and he attributes it to the lifelong connections he found on the field. “A lot of the guys I met in college, we met through intramural, and we’ve all gone to vacations together, been at each other’s weddings. Being able to see people make that connection is an awesome thing as well.”


ABAC becomes first college in Learn-to-Hunt

     ABAC has been hosting “Learn-to-Hunt,” as an interactive and hands-on experience that teaches students the basics of becoming an active hunter. The Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) has chosen ABAC as the pilot institution for the program. If all goes well with this test, the GWF will consider expanding the program to other colleges.

     Parker Gerdes, Campus R3 Coordinator, has been spearheading the movement on the ground: “There haven’t really been any efforts before to try to recruit college-age students into the program, and since there’s been a decline in hunters, they’re trying to get more students interested this way.”

     On Feb. 2, about a dozen participants and mentors met in the YOW front lot before signing a waiver and then carpooling to the land of an ABAC Alumnus. Once there, instructors went through the basics of gun safety and trigger discipline. Following an inspection and dry firing of the pump-action shotgun, the students would be using—Dr. Vanessa Lane and an assistant set up small targets in a patch of woods. Once all students had gotten the opportunity to dry fire, all participants live fired until they hit a target.

Parker Gerdes shows students the basics to a pump-action shotgun. Photo by Ricky Rodriguez.

     ABAC was chosen because “we’re big into the Natural Resource Program and following a pilot study at UGA, we were one of the first colleges that attracted it,” Gerdes continues, “we’re located near the Georgia Wildlife Federation so location-wise, we’re a good place to start.”

     On Feb. 7, Dr. Vanessa Lane led “Squirrel Biology and Hunting Strategy,” a three-hour course in YOW 103 on the two types of squirrels they would be hunting: the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. The class was also used as a refresher on gun safety, as well as a look at the land for their first evening hunt, which took place Feb. 9 at Chickasawhatchee Wildlife Management Area in Calhoun County.

     Gerdes hopes that with a good experience, “they may be able to continue it at ABAC and then reach out to other colleges as well. It’s something to be excited about.”


Future opens up 2019 with ‘The WIZRD’

     Future opened the year with a 20 track album “The WIZRD,” that sticks to the same Atlanta-based vibes his fans have grown to love. With tracks like “Never Stop,” Future gives his textbook lyrics a deep-rooted appreciation with a free-verse style that shies away from the normal hook-verse-hook structure of most rappers.

     With all this breathing room, Future uses “Never Stop” to express the agony the streets brought him in his come-up. This harsh intro (with a tingle of grief) sets polar contrasts between the life he used to know and the fame he has now. The track follows a softer bass set than the typical Future song, but it does so to reflect the drastic life changes he’s had.

     Track 4, “Temptation,” presents the boldness in his contrast. With Producer Tay Keith working the booth, the artists collaborate for a track that gives a familiar smooth bassline. The lyrics tie into Future’s struggle to fight his temptation for drugs and other vices. The instrumental rides lyrics made to diss those who were less than hopeful for him as he rose in relevance. The song fades out with a sample from his 2014 work, “Honest.”

      In track 17, “First Off,” Future’s bombastic attitude is merged with Travis Scott’s signature vocals. The lavish end of Future’s contrast lies faithfully in this track; he and Travis Scott rap about multiple brands of clothes, cars, jewelry and strains of marijuana. A faster paced instrumental with the same restraint on the bassline gives way to a cool melody that comes off as smooth and counters the raspy lyrics that come from the exhausted rappers.

     The closing track, “Tricks on Me,” pays homage to the Geto Boys’ track, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” a song well respected in the hip-hop community for how it speaks about the lingering paranoia that resides in someone who made it off the streets. Future mimics this behavior, as his chorus begins with a sense of reluctance and self-questioning that stains the rest of the track. Nineteen85’s production sticks to the restrained nature the rest of the album has relished in and the higher tones in the instrumental maintain a pleasant key to match Future’s voice.

     With “The WIZRD,” Future has shifted away from the typical rap album simply by laying off on the unnecessariness that rap can sometimes be and hones his focus to present a work that is both enjoyable and has some replay value. Future still sticks to himself with his freestyles and the free verse structures that made him big. Future then tops it off by giving insight on how dynamic his character has been through the years, including the changes that fame and fortune have brought him.


Is a sabbatical worth it?

     A gap year is best described as an academic year in which an individual chooses to take a break from school. Many students take breaks either right after high school or after their four-year degree from college, with plans of higher education.

     The year can be spent traveling or freelancing but should always be looked to as a sabbatical. With this long-term break, a student runs many risks such as loss of motivation or momentum in terms of their education.

     If the gap year is not spent with an active focus in searching (or funding) for the future, those running risks rise in relevance.

     Forbes calls a gap year “a year on” or an “active year away from the traditional high school to college path.” With the goal to return to school in mind, a gap year should be ultimately used by a student for growth, a slight increase in financial stability and a lasting impression of independence or reflection.

     As opposed to the flurry of grinding and time crunching of a traditional college term, this seems like a good payout—as long as you return to school.

     In a survey of 280 people who took a gap year conducted by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson of Advance, N.C., 90 percent of students returned to school within a year. A good recommendation to avoid not returning would be to secure admission to a college first and then ask to defer for the first year.

     With worries of not returning to school settled, a student still has to figure out how to become productive and make sure that the year isn’t wasted away sleeping or wasting (too much) money. A viable option during the year would be to travel, whether domestic or internationally, and gather some more insight from the world.

     In this day and age, however, many college students don’t have the money to make such a commitment. The gap year is sometimes spent doing the exact opposite: working and maintaining a stable income in preparation for the coming years of education.

     Taking a year off from education may seem like a student is placing themselves behind but in reality, the gap year can be extremely advantageous and students who think ahead run a much lower risk of not returning to school. Taking a year off isn’t for everybody but maybe it’s for most.