Q&A WITH 20TH-YEAR SOFTBALL HEAD COACH KATHY STRAHAN
As the Sacramento State softball program gets set for its season opener this Friday at the Fresno State Kickoff, the media relations office had a chance to catch up with head coach Kathy Strahan. The longest tenured softball coach in school history, Strahan begins her 20th season in the Green and Gold. A 28-year veteran head coach of collegiate softball, including stops at San Jose State (1986-92) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (1984-85), Strahan has compiled a 774-739-3 (.512) career record. Her 774 victories are good for 20th on the NCAA’s list of active head coaches. In 19 years with the Hornets, Strahan has tallied a 527-494-2 record. Below are some of the excerpts from the interview with Strahan.
Q: You enter your 20th season at Sacramento State. What attracted you to the school, and what are some of the reasons you’ve decided to coach here as long as you have?
STRAHAN: “The first thing that attracted me to Sacramento State was the area. I left a coaching position in Southern California for the Bay Area, and loved Northern California so much that I knew I would remain in the area. The Hornet program was in its infancy at the Div I level, and, after starting the softball program at San Jose State in 1986, it just seemed like the right fit.”
Q: Why did you decide to get into coaching?
STRAHAN: “I had been an athlete all my life, focused on basketball and softball in college. I was clearly a better softball player and I loved the game. When I graduated from Michigan State in 1979, coaching opportunities for women were springing up everywhere as a result of Title IX. So it was an easy choice to stay in the sport and continue to do what I loved and what had been very good to me.”
Q: Your coaching career began as an assistant at Michigan State in 1980, and you’ve been a head coach since 1984. How much has the game of softball evolved during your time as a coach?
STRAHAN: “The game itself hasn’t changed that much. The running slap is the most notable change in how the game is played. I would have to say the bats and balls used now make the game much faster. The evolution of the equipment, which was intended to put more offense into the game and make it more exciting to watch, is a bit overboard in my opinion. If you watched the College World Series the past couple of years, an astounding number of home runs were hit, and what used to be routine fly balls, were flying out of the park. The NCAA Division I softball committee is now tweaking outfield fence heights and distances to try and reduce the number of balls hit out of the park.”
Q: So far, what has been the most rewarding aspect of coaching collegiate softball?
STRAHAN: “Working with student-athletes as they develop into young women, and watching them go out into the world to be successful professionals in their chosen fields.”
Q: You won a national championship as a player at Michigan State, you are a member of two Hall of Fames (Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame, and Michigan Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame), and you’ve registered nearly 800 career victories as a coach. Is there a similar sense of gratification that comes from success as a player and coach?
STRAHAN: “Absolutely! As a coach, because I get to share these milestones with terrific young people wearing the Green and Gold, the euphoric feeling of a great victory or conference championship never goes away.”
Q: You earned your 700th win and won the 2008 Pacific Coast Softball Conference (PCSC) championship in the same weekend. How special of a weekend was that for you?
STRAHAN: “That was a great moment I will never forget. I have so many student-athletes to thank for that moment in time. After celebrating the conference championship in the outfield, the team assembled to take a group photo. There were so many fans that had moved onto the field to capture the moment by taking pictures. And, at one point, I remember the cameras clicking, taking the team photo, and I envisioned the photo of us in black and white, just after it had been taken...like how you see it in the movies when there was a great sporting moment captured in color that fades to black and white. It felt historic.”
Q: During your coaching tenure at Sacramento State, is there one game that really stands out in your mind?
STRAHAN: “That 2008 PCSC championship-clinching win over San Diego.”
Q: Bottom of the seventh inning, bases loaded and two outs of a tie game....if you could pick one current or former Hornet to step into the batters box, who would it be?
STRAHAN: “Lindy Winkler.” **Winkler (2003-06) was a second team All-American, first team all-region and the PCSC Player of the Year in 2006 after setting four single-season school records, including a .434 batting average. She is the school’s all-time leader in at-bats, runs, hits and triples.
Q: A must-win game with playoffs on the line....if you could pick one current or former Hornet to step into the pitchers circle in that situation, who would it be?
STRAHAN: “Susie Bugliarello.” **Bugliarello (1994-97) was a three-time All-American during her four-year career and had her No. 17 jersey retired by Sacramento State. She competed for Italy in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
Q: What is the mindset of this year’s team as you prepare to head into the season?
STRAHAN: “Win the PCSC Championship, especially since this is our last year as a member of the conference.” ** The softball team will begin play as a member of the Big Sky Conference in 2013.
Q: You return basically your entire starting lineup from last season. How important is that to the success of this year’s squad?
STRAHAN: “That is a huge part of any team’s success for the most part. You win championships with juniors and seniors, and we had freshmen last year play as starters. They got the playing time equivalent of a junior by comparison, so I am excited about this team.”