Hart named new JMA softball coach

Apr. 17—John Milledge Academy's new head softball coach won't need a tour of the campus or the team facilities.

The school on Monday announced that Class of 2007 alumna and three-time state champion Hollie Hart, last name Veal in her playing days, is taking over the softball program.

Hart has been a teacher at John Milledge the last 11 years. There's been a fair amount of turnover at head softball coach in that timeframe, so this wasn't the first time she had been approached about the job. Hart's 8-year-old daughter Sadie helped convince her mother that now was the right time to say yes.

"With Sadie getting into softball and seeing the love she has for the game, it brought that passion back for me," Hart said in a phone interview Tuesday. "This felt like the right time to do it. I'm looking forward to being a huge advocate for the girls, someone they can come to and trust. I want to build the program, continue investing in them, and let them know I'm here to stay because this is where I see my child growing up too. I want to make it a place where people want to come and play."

While in high school, the new Trojan leader was part of state title-winning teams her freshman, sophomore and junior years from 2003-05 when the program was battling against George Walton Academy for GISA Class AAA supremacy. Hart was an All-State/All-Region catcher on that '05 championship team and repeated those individual accolades the following year along with an All-Star nod. Her talent afforded her the opportunity to play collegiately at both Darton College and GMC.

"Coach Hart has a very strong softball pedigree," JMA athletic director JT Wall said. "She was a tremendous player both at the high school and collegiate levels. She's had a great working relationship with our students the past 11 years and we know that she will continue to do great things in the future."

That pedigree Wall mentioned includes Hart's father, Gordon Veal, who has either helped out with or head coached JMA softball many times over the years, most recently in 2017. He also led the program to its last state championship win over FPD in 2008.

"I've got some catching up to do," Hart said with a laugh.

Wes Land had been the Trojans' head coach the last three seasons. He stepped down following the most recent campaign to coincide with the end of his daughter Ana's high school playing career.

Hart inherits a program that has finished no worse than fourth in its league the last nine seasons with some state runner-up finishes sprinkled in. With her personal state championship experience, the new head coach takes over as someone who knows what's necessary to reach the mountaintop.

"It takes dedication, passion and love," she said. "You have to be self-disciplined and willing to work together as a team and family."

The Trojans are graduating a very strong core that has contributed significantly to the team's string of GIAA Final Four finishes and back-to-back region championships, so Hart is looking for some new faces to step up in what will be her first season this fall.

"I'm excited to see what the future holds for the program," she said.