Q&A With Softball Head Coach Megan Smith

Aug. 7, 2009

Q. How did playing at the college level influence your desire to become a coach?

A. I always enjoyed teaching softball. I taught a lot of lessons when I was in high school and when I got to college I had no intention of being a coach until we did our first clinic. We had to work the clinic and I really enjoyed it. I also had a lot of respect for my college coach and what she did. She was a really good mentor, so watching her and working those clinics gave me the coaching bug.

Q. What will you take from your college (playing and coaching) experiences to use in coaching?

A. Obviously college is really important for making us better players, but my college coach took an invested interest in us as people. Still, to this day, I feel like she is a part of my family. She sends me notes, calls, texts and e-mails wishing me luck and congratulating me on big games. She’s been a big part of my life and she showed me that being a college coach is not just about playing softball. It’s about being a lifetime mentor to those players that want one. On the softball side she was very organized and based her program on fundamentals. We will work on fundamentals quite a bit.

Q. Did any of your teaching experiences influence your decision to become a coach?

A. When I went to graduate school I was a graduate teaching assistant and I really enjoyed that part of it. I also taught some fitness and lecture classes with my first coaching job at a junior college and really enjoyed it. At North Carolina I minored in coaching and taught a class there as well. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I think that’s why I’ve really enjoyed coaching. The teaching aspect on the field is something that I really enjoy.

Q. How will coaching at KU differ from coaching and playing in the other areas of the country you’ve been in?

A. I don’t think it will be much different. I think your principles and philosophies as a coach are constant and shouldn’t change. My junior college coaching philosophies will stay the same here at Kansas. I’ve always had the same principles, guidelines and expectations of players regardless of what level or where I am. I am expecting that I will have to battle the weather here, and that will probably be the only difference. We will have to deal with a lot more indoor practices and cold games. You deal with that everywhere, it just might last a little longer than what I’m used to.

Q. What guidelines and expectations do you have for your players?

A. I am a big believer in hard work and work ethic. We have a blue collar mentality. We work hard every day and our goal is to out-work everybody. We may not have the best talent or the best hitters and pitchers, but we’re going to out-work everybody in our conference and in the country. That’s our goal and if we can do that, and our players buy into it, work hard and come to the field every day ready to do that, then they’re going to play better than they ever have. We’re going to beat some teams that we shouldn’t and we’re going to be more consistent in winning because we’ve put the work in on the front end. That’s a requirement of my team and my players.

Q. What appeal does KU have to incoming recruits?

A. I think Kansas offers the best of both worlds: athletics and academics. The academic portion of the school is really strong. I think athletically there is a strong tradition across the board, and on top of that you add on the community aspect of a college town. This town is all about Kansas and the Jayhawks and I think that is really special. Players come to Lawrence and see that, and see how supportive the town is of the athletics here. That’s a special thing; it doesn’t happen everywhere.

Q. What is your coaching philosophy in beginning a new job?

A. At Kansas it’s all about changing the culture and climate of the softball program. There is some talent and there has been some talent in the past, but there just hasn’t been a lot of consistency and I think these players need a different mindset. The work ethic and demanding excellence every day that they’re out on the field is something that we’re going to really preach to them. We’re going to do a lot of things they’ve never done before and they’re going to work harder than they’ve ever worked in their careers. They’re going to be better because of it and we’re going to be a better program. It truly is about changing the culture and climate and the players’ thoughts. Right now their thoughts are about their losing season last year and we need to change that to where we can come out and shock the conference. We need to change our attitudes and everyone else’s attitude about us. They’re going to have to put in the work every day at practice to achieve that goal.

Q. What are you going to do to change the attitude of the team?

A. We’re going to incorporate a lot of competitive aspects in practices. They’re going to be competing against themselves, we’re going to be doing a lot of quantitative analyses of things and keep up with it throughout the year. They haven’t done a whole lot of that over the years, and some people don’t believe in that, but I do. We’re going to base everything on fundamentals and make sure that it all becomes second nature. They’re just going to work harder. I’m very demanding, so they’re going to work harder than they ever have.

Q. Will this philosophy encourage recruits to come to Kansas?

A. Definitely. When you go to college to play a sport, you want to get better. The goal is not to continue at the same level, but to improve skills. Recruits want to hear that they’re going to be pushed and be held accountable. The parents want to hear that their child is going to come here, get better and get a great education while playing college sports, and that’s definitely what will happen.

Q. What are your big goals for your first year?

A. Right now we’re going to focus on ourselves and the team getting better. We’re going to keep it simple this year. I’m not thinking about other teams. I’m thinking about us, changing everyone’s mindset every day, changing the way we do things and getting better as a team. Everything else will fall into place eventually, but we need to focus on ourselves.