Missy Rogers probably couldn’t have picked a better spot to jump back into the head coaching business.

Rogers was recently named the new high school softball coach at Latta after Jim Foster surprised LHS officials by announcing his sudden retirement a week or so ago. Foster had been the Lady Panthers’ head man for 17 years.

Rogers has spent the last five years grooming Foster’s high school players as the school’s junior high coach. Little did she know, she was grooming her latest seventh and eighth-grade players for herself.

Rogers is excited about her new role at Latta and has hit the ground running. She said the timing was just right. One of the main reasons she took a break from the grind of head coaching was to free up time to watch recent LHS graduate Kyle Rogers play baseball for the Panthers. Kyle is the brother of Missy’s husband, Chad Rogers, a former Latta standout himself back in the day (1992-95).

“I wanted to see Kyle play and get the chance to travel around and follow him. It was time to put family first for a little while. Now that he’s graduated, I had the opportunity to jump back in and I took it,” Missy said during a break in summer league action at Swanson Field Thursday afternoon.

Missy Rogers was the head coach at Tupelo High School for two years before accepting the junior high position at Latta. Her first head coach job was at Cyril, where she spent four years. Shortly after graduating college, Rogers spent four years as the assistant coach at Dale High School.

“We’re very fortunate. Where we were looking outside for a boys basketball coach, we were able to look inside the family, as she calls it, for our softball coach. She’s a quality person and a great coach,” said Latta Athletic Director Bruce Plunk.

It’s an obvious plus that Rogers has been around the current Latta High School roster for all of their competitive playing days.

“It’s been smooth. As eighth graders, they’re taught to take the seventh graders in and to lead them and to help them. So if you just keep incorporating that up the ladder, when they’re all together they are an amazing group of young ladies,” she said. “I’ve had every one of these young ladies for two years in the junior high program. I know them really well and believe in them.”

Before she was even named Foster’s predecessor, the expectations were high for the 2018 Latta High School fastpitch softball team. Latta’s junior high program has been full of talent for the past several years.

“I feel like it’s time to raise our expectations. I want them to learn to work hard on the field and off the field. I want them to grow together as a family. I expect to get the best out of them every day and hopefully that will give us everything we want in the end,” she said. “They’re competitive. When you get them on the field, all they see is a win.”

Rogers fully expects some of her incoming freshmen to earn playing time this fall.

“If you can step out there and beat someone out for a spot, the spot’s yours. We have some freshman that will compete,” she said.

Rogers’ main focus this summer hasn’t necessarily been wins and losses. She has been pleased with how her young and old players have gelled so far.

“They are having fun together. It’s laid back right now. I just want them to keep growing together as a family and a team,” she said.

Come August, it will be all business. Well, at least mostly business.

“They are so competitive. Every game is a fight for them. They never let up and are never willing to quit. They have a lot of character,” she said. “They’re just a great group of ladies on and off the field and I think that will show when people come to watch them.”

Plunk believes the future is bright for the Lady Panthers.

“We’re excited about the team (assistant coach Carla Harris) and Missy are going to have this year and for several teams to follow,” he said. “We have a good talent base. I think you’re going to see what is already a very successful program is just going to continue to get better.”

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.