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Fastpitch Coach: Q&A
Mona Stevens, University of Utah.
Number of years in this position: My Fourth.
Overall won-lost record at present position: 108-66.
Previous Softball Head or assistant softball coaching positions: Associate Head Coach University of Massachusetts; Assistant Coach, University of Utah
Other accomplishments: Utah Softball Hall of Fame, National Team Coach,Head Coach Gold Medal Pan Am qualifying tournament in Colombia, South America 1997, USOC National Coach of the Year in 1997, Head Coach of Silver Medal Junior World Team in Taipei 1999.
Undergraduate Alma Mater: B.S. at University of Utah (1980).
Postgraduate degrees held; Alma Mater and year completed work on each
Softball playing career highlights: Played 17 years of Women's Major division, highlights are the people I've met!
Q: When did you know you wanted to coach fastpitch softball and how did you get started?
MS: Right out of college. I started the next year as an assistant to Norma Carr at Utah.
Q: Who are some of the coaches and non-coaches you learned the most from and what did you learn?
MS: Fern Gardner, my basketball coach at Utah, was a tremendous influence in how to coach with a positive atmosphere. She believed in us and because of that we would play hard for her. Norma Carr taught me how to organize and plan practices. Elaine Sortino at UMass taught me to keep things in perspective and how to handle the toughest issues. She is a pro at the most difficult coaching issues. My parents taught me the power of unconditional love. Cindy Bristow and Bobby Simpson improved my ability to break down skills and teach. My junior high school students taught me to be patient and how to teach sequentially.
Q: What do you think you do best as a coach?
MS: Stay positive and break down the technical aspects of a skill and instruct.
Q: What would you change, if anything, about the recruiting process?
MS: Make the tournaments more manageable. It isn't unlikely for us to watch a complete game and not see a player do what they are capable of. NFCA recruiting tournaments!!!
Q: If there is one rule or procedure change you would like to see your national governing body adopt, what would it be?
MS: Assistants could give private lessons.
Q: When recruiting, what's the first thing you look for in a player?
MS: An athlete who treats her parents, coaches and teammates well.
Q: What makes for a successful season?
MS: A successful season is one in which a team reaches its potential and makes lasting friendships along the way.
Q: What do you think was the best coaching job you ever did?
MS: My year with Danielle Henderson at UMass, the WAC tournament last year after a year of tough issues and injuries and the National team in Colombia after we lost to Canada in Pool Play.
Q: What was your greatest moment as a coach?
MS: A relationship with one of my athletes that started rocky and has developed into a trusting, caring, and respectful relationship after some work on both of our parts.
Q: What was your worst moment as a coach?
MS: Having an injured athlete that I can't fix!
Q: What is funniest/strangest/most memorable experience you and your team have had on the road?
MS: I coach a crazy, funny, witty team. Their antics are so numerous that I can't mention them all, but one in particular. At the WAC tournament last year I had to go to the field early. While waiting for my team to show up, I saw them drive in front of the Fresno Stadium, horns honking, windshield wipers going, lights flashing, and all of them stuck in one van. The other 2 vans were driving behind them with only the drivers in them. The sliding door was open with half of them hanging out. When the police pulled them over in the parking lot, I saw them point into the stands (at me, I found out). For some unknown reason, he let them go. But as I sat in the stands watching it all, I was with the WAC officials. They watched the whole scene and asked which team that was. I very meekly said "mine." They looked at me like I had a crazy team and I just looked back and said "They were just released a few days ago and this new freedom thing is a little out of control."
Q: How has the game changed since you first became involved?
MS: The athletes are more varied. The larger population of players now cares more about their physical fitness for the sport. Hitting has improved at 43 feet.
Q: What's your take on the bat and ball issue? Are the balls or bats at fault, or both, or neither? Is there a problem? If so, what would you like to see done?
MS: There are so many variables. Which will be the most effective in dealing with the problem of the integrity of the game, I'm not sure. But I do know that different bats perform differently with the same ball, and this ball we use is hot and often dangerous. The scientist in me says we should pick one variable at a time and see the result. Start with compression, then core of the ball. I believe we should all have a set standard on the bats. This game could be skewed by two teams in competition without the same potential in the equipment they use.
Q: What do you love most about coaching?
MS: I love my players. I love watching them grow and deal with their struggles. Nothing is better than watching them struggle and then achieve a goal that has been difficult to get to.
Q: What do you love least about coaching?
MS: The recruit calls to players I don't know well. I really dislike the contact with recruits at the end of their tournaments. It reminds me of a meat market.
Q: Please complete this sentence: My coaching career has been successful if the majority of my players_____________.
MS: Graduate, and say they had the best experience of their lives.
Q: Who was the best player you've ever coached against?
MS: Lisa Fernandez during the Festival.
Q: Which is the best team you’ve ever coached against?
MS: Washington, 1999. They were relentless. They had power and they had speed. Their complete game was well-disciplined and coached. And, UCLA 1999. They were the most powerful hitting team I've played.
Q: If you could go anywhere in the world for a week, all expenses paid, where would you go?
MS: Somewhere in the South Pacific islands....remote....with some hiking, snorkeling and beautiful scenery.....natives that took you in and taught you their way of life.
Q: What haven't you done yet in your life that you still want to do?
MS: Make a CD
Q: What advice would you give to young people who want to coach softball?
MS: Be willing to work and do all the small stuff well. Put together a notebook of all drills, skills and techniques from all those whom you were coached by coach with.
Q: If you weren't coaching softball, what would you be doing?
MS: I would be singing or doing work in leadership training.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
MS: No favorites, but I like things like Dances with Wolves, The Green Mile, Out of Africa, and the English Patient.
Q: Who is your favorite movie star?
MS: I really like Jodie Foster's recent movies, but Meryl Streep is still my front runner.
Q: What is your favorite television show?
MS: Northern Exposure
Q: What is your favorite song?
MS: That is really hard. I love all kinds except rap, but I have always loved "Question of Balance" by the Moody Blues
Q: What is your favorite food?
MS: Sesame Encrusted Tuna somewhere in Ft. Lauderdale
Q: Your favorite book?
MS: The New Testament, maybe the whole Bible
Q: When "The One Great Scorer comes to write against your name", what would you like to see written there?
MS: That I made life more interesting and better for those I came into contact with. That you could feel a sense of God's love and a love for life when you were with me. That those closest to me knew without a doubt that I loved them.