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With Clearview Coach, Players Count More Than Wins or Losses

May 15, 1986|JAMES L. ADKINS | Times Staff Writer

The Clearview School baseball team doesn't play many games and doesn't win many either.

In the last two seasons, the team's record in the CIF-Southern Section's Westside League is 4-13.

But the team's coach, Brenda Sapp, also the school athletic director, doesn't have to worry about losing her job because some high school booster group is dissatisfied that she is not winning league championships every year.

Clearview is a West Los Angeles private school with an enrollment of about 70 students between the ages of 12 and 20 who have learning, behavioral, motivational or emotional problems.

Although the school is not without some good athletes, only a few of the students are experienced baseball players. So coaching for Sapp, 34, who may be the only woman coach of a boys' prep baseball team in Southern California, is sometimes more difficult than it is for coaches at other schools.

Sapp, who majored in physical education at UC Santa Barbara, has taught and coached at other private schools devoted to special education. Because some of her athletes have behavioral problems, she said, "you have to be on the ball all the time and keep them in control. We are on top of our kids all the time."

She said that her job is sometimes difficult, "not so much because of (players') skill levels. You have to be more direct and sensitive with their behavioral problems."

When she came to Clearview two years ago, being direct meant showing her baseball players that she was the boss.

"In the beginning, I was verbally attacked by a couple of the kids, but I was used to the shop talk and cussing," she said. "I have three brothers. I was able to mingle in with the guys.

"I walked out on the basketball court, and once they saw I could play and shoot hoops, they said, 'Hey, she's all right.' "

Jackie Strumwasser, Clearview director, thought that Sapp was all right when she hired her.

"Initially there was a concern . . . by myself and the faculty on how the kids would react to her," Strumwasser said. "But she's really done a good job as coach and (in) setting up the physical education department. We felt once she got established, it would be less important that she was a woman."

One of Sapp's 13 players on this year's squad said that her being a woman is of little importance to him and his teammates. All they care about is that she is a good coach, and they think she is.

"Sometimes players get out of hand," said the youth, but he added that Sapp doesn't put up with any nonsense. He said that she will tell a player who is causing trouble to take a hike if he doesn't want to be part of the team. "She's pretty straight with you."

Sapp said that if she has difficulties with a "kid who is acting up and disrupting practice, I would tell him to report to the dean. Depending on what the problem is, we would talk about (it) and then find ways to get around it."

Athletes and coaches are out to win, and Clearview and Sapp are no exception. "We emphasize winning, but we also have to emphasize self-esteem and bettering their self images. We all want to win; that's the end result," she said.

Sapp said her chief purpose as Clearview coach is "to really keep the motivation up there, even though the score might be 18-2 (against her team). And I think (the players) are really receptive to that."

Though the Clearview Cobras finished the season with a 2-6 record in the Westside League, which also includes Bel-Air Prep, Newbridge and Yeshiva, foes have felt their sting.

Sapp said her team has "been in contention with every team till maybe the fifth or sixth inning. But because of my kids' lack of experience they make a few fundamental mistakes, and one big inning will turn everything around. And that's what frustrates me.

"Then again I've got some kids who have never played, and they are doing fantastically in terms of their ability."

She said that losing is something she does not take very seriously. "I don't sulk. It's there and gone. I'm no John Madden, where I'll get an ulcer over losing a game.

"I do stress winning as an important factor. That's the purpose of us being out there, but I also stress winning as an individual effort. If they all get out there and put in a good (effort) and try their best, they'll still come out winners inside."

Sapp's coaching is a cooperative effort. She said that she asks for advice from her assistant, Alvin Gilmore, and from her players.

Sometimes players can spot a problem a teammate is having on the field better than Sapp can from the bench, she said.

She said that, though she sometimes asks for help, she has learned "to be more in control of the student, as far as keeping them in the game at all times. I've tried to build up that team spirit that we didn't have last year, (one) of working together and supporting each other. We have a better attitude this year."

Sapp has good support from the only girl on the team, who came out for baseball because there were not enough players at the school this season to form a girls softball team.

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