For more than 23 years, Jim Allen has dedicated his life to coaching softball, spending most of his free time outside of work on the field.
This season, for the first time, Allen took the reigns of a major public high school softball program at Jay M. Robinson.
After 15 years of coaching his own club, the "Magic," and more than eight seasons of working with private school teams, the 2010 season has been everything he thought it would be. Robinson beat Asheboro 14-0 in the first round of the N.C. 3A playoffs Tuesday and will play North Iredell in the second round.
"When the job came open and I saw all these girls that I have coached on the roster, for the first time it was something I really wanted to do," said Allen, whose Magic team has been a traditional power producing dozens of college softball players.
Most people associated with the Robinson softball program would agree as Allen has transformed a team that went 33-36 the past three seasons, never advancing past the second round of the playoffs, and transformed them into the South Piedmont conference regular season champions who went 18-3 overall and 12-2 in one of the state's top 3A leagues.
"I don't want to sound cocky or arrogant, but I knew these girls would respond and play well for me," said Allen of the turnaround. "I knew they would believe in me and listen to me, because of my past record. I knew that would mean good things for Robinson softball."
Robinson will go into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed from the SPC after beating out perennial powers Mount Pleasant and Central Cabarrus for the league title. "We've got one banner, and now we are looking for more," said Allen.
Allen and his Robinson team start what they hope to be a deep playoff run this week. "We feel like we have as good a chance as anyone to win it all," said Allen. "But it won't easy."
But while Allen will be thinking about his players and team for the most part, he will also be thinking about his daughter, North Meck's top pitcher, Sara Allen.
Allen has coached his daughter's softball teams for her entire life until two years ago.
Sara, who has committed to play for Winthrop next season, will be competing for the Vikings as one of the contenders in the 3A playoffs.
"I'll definitely be 100 percent focused on what we are doing," Allen said. "But, Sara is always on my mind. It's hard not be able to see every game she plays in. But hopefully, we will both get a chance to win it."