Head Softball Coach
University of Arizona
Favorite movie: Caddyshack.
Favorite food: Italian.
Childhood idol: Mickey Mantle.
Favorite non-sports hobby: Gardening.
8 National Titles, Olympic Gold and Silver Medals. What has been the key to maintaining such a high level of success throughout the years?
I believe everything you do well begins with passion. For me it was a passion for the sport of baseball that turned into a passion for the sport of softball. I’m also passionate about working with young people, watching them grow and being a part of their life. I like to teach, I’m very process-oriented and meticulous to details. The game and the its preparation fits my personality quite well.
How has social media’s influence affected the way you reach/teach today’s athlete?
Softball is the same game that it has been for 100 years. The fundamentals are the same, but how we teach and how kids learn today are completely different. Kids today tend to enjoy expressing themselves and their feelings through social media. A great way for me as a coach to reach them, is to use social media to motivate them. I learn a great deal about the athletes through how they use social media.
The athletes of this generation are very visual learners. If you can see it and feel it, you can do it. Social media has become an important part of their life, that I didn’t have. When I was growing up, we would go outside and interact with our friends by playing pickle, whiffle ball and other sports. Today they interact through their smartphones and social media.
How do you prepare your players for life after softball?
There aren’t many days that go by that I don’t bring up an aspect of life that parallels the game. The game prepares you commit to a process, and hopefully that process results in success. In life we all have to make choices that ultimately determine if we will be successful or not. The game provides distractions and choices that you have to deal with. It teaches you how to be a good teammate and to be selfless; principles that apply to any type of relationship. That’s why I’ve always loved the game. You’re going to go through ups and downs in life, just like you will during a season. To be successful in life and in softball, emotional stability is very important; never getting too high or too low. Every choice has a consequence. The great athletes have emotional stability and they make good choices, which usually leads good consequences.
Be Where You Are
Every day in life has different situations and parameters, and I think the game is like that too. Every year is different. If you were successful in 2007, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to continue to learn and get better, because 2016 is a whole different set of parameters. You can’t live in the past. You can’t worry about tomorrow. All you have to worry about is today. We tell our athletes to be where their feet are, be in the present moment. That’s a big part of life. When I’m out to dinner with my wife, I need to be fully there and not mentally somewhere else. That’s been a lesson that’s tough to learn as I coach, but fortunately as I’ve gotten older and gained a little maturity I’ve realized how important balance is in my life.
That’s the other thing this game teaches. You’ve got to be balanced. You can’t be all softball, or all academics. You have to be a little bit of everything. For me, my family is the center of everything I do. We try to coach our teams to become a family. It’s very similar. It’s important to find something that you have a passion for. Hopefully everyone can find a profession that they love. I tell people I’ve never worked a day in my life, because I’m doing what I love to do. The third element of my balance is my faith, which I think is important. It’s a big reason why I’ve been able to handle the ups and downs that I’ve gone through in life.
What does it mean to you to have softball back in the Olympics?
It’s the right thing. The process that went on to make that decision was a fight, and I’m glad it happened because I think softball deserves to be on the Olympic program. Having softball in the Olympics makes a huge difference because being an Olympian is a dream for so many young players. Now that dream is possible again. That really ignites our sport and helps it grow from the grassroots up. It means so much to me to have it back in the Olympic Games. Putting on the United States uniform and representing our country as an Olympian is a highlight of anyone’s life.
Being a part of the Olympics was a tremendous experience for me. It was very humbling and quite an honor to be able to wear the USA on my chest. To be on foreign soil and watch the American flag being raised higher than any other country was special. A lot of pride and a lot of hard work that went into that. I don’t think people realize that the Olympics games are so different because you spend almost four years to prepare for one moment in time. For softball, it was a week and a half of competition, but we actually spent four years training for that moment.