The Oconee County softball team came to the ballpark prepared for a celebration last Thursday.
The Lady Warriors hosted Monroe Area and were determined to pick up their second win of the year. They did just that, toppling the Lady Hurricanes 17-4, but they also helped their coach mark an important achievement.
Oconee head coach Zack Graham earned his 200th career victory with that win. Afterward, his players presented him with a banner that included a team photo and a note about the 200th victory. They also gave Graham a commemorative T-shirt, which featured a green ribbon to honor his mother who died of liver cancer in 2017.
“It's a milestone that you don't get to reach without a lot of people's support and a lot of people's backing and a lot of people trusting you with their kids,” Graham said about reaching 200 wins.
In the moments following the game, Graham said he had several thoughts racing through his mind.
He first thought about his family.
“I thought of the sacrifices that my wife and my kids have made so I can do what I love,” Graham said. “That's a big deal, and they've been there every step of the way. We made a move for our kids but it was also a professional move for my wife and I, and a lot of it had to do with the game of softball.”
Graham gave credit to the coaches and players he’s been with throughout his career, which began with a nine-year run at Alexander High School in Douglasville.
After taking over the Lady Warriors in 2020, Graham said the positive relationships just kept building.
“It really has nothing to do with me,” he said. “It just means I've been coaching a long time and I've had some really good players along the way. I think about those kids, I think about their families, I think about my family, I think about the administrations' support that I've had over the years and I think about my coaches and the relationships that I built with all these people.”
For Graham, those relationships are the reason he coaches.
Graham said he cares more about making memories and connections than he does wins and losses, even when they add up to such an important benchmark like 200 career victories.
“I don't coach by what those final numbers are on that board,” Graham said. “You're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some. ... But 20 years from now, those girls ain't gonna remember what the score was when we beat Monroe Area. They're gonna remember their teammates, they're gonna remember their coaches, they're gonna remember the relationships they had. That's why I coach.”