Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Brittany Hile
For many college athletes as their senior season approaches they try to soak in every memory as it is often their last time playing the sport they love at a competitive level. However, former Kansas softball star Brittany Hile’s talent and dedication would allow her to go on and compete at the highest level. Hile, who is now coaching college softball, has built a resume full of accomplishments and accolades in the sport.
The standout catcher made her collegiate debut in 2008 and would continue her success on the diamond and in the classroom throughout the next four years.
By the arrival of her senior campaign, Hile played an integral part in a 26-3 start to the Crimson and Blue’s 2011 season, the program’s best.
Hile spent most of her time behind the plate where her fierce arm allowed very few opponents to steal any bases from the Jayhawks. Her arm was not the only force she brought to the game. Hile also had a swing that often got her on base, cleared the fence or allowed many of her teammates to cross home plate—and many times all three.
While Hile put her stamp on the field, she was also putting hours into the classroom. The student-athlete recognized the importance of her education and made time to be successful in both aspects of her life. Making the most of the little free time she did have is what got Hile acknowledged with Academic All-Big 12 honors throughout her career.
The Kansas native has been part of many different softball programs, from childhood club teams to the pros, but KU has something Hile has not experienced anywhere else—tradition. The University of Kansas is known nationally for its traditions, something that Hile can attest to as it was one of her highlights of playing for KU.
One of Hile’s favorite KU traditions was going to the men’s basketball games. The star athlete herself would get goosebumps every time as she would be standing amidst the sold-out crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, eyes locked on the big screen hanging over center court, watching the intro video highlighting the success of Kansas basketball before the starting lineup would be announced.
As a freshman, Hile got to be a part of history as the men’s basketball team won its fifth National Championship.
“I was in the crowd on Mass Street when everyone rushed down there,” Hile reminisced. “I ran all the way from my dorm—which at the time was Lewis Hall—to be a part of history. The joy, the excitement, and the pure happiness on everyone’s face made it truly one of the best nights of my life!”
Tradition was such a vital part to Hile’s collegiate experience that now, as a coach at Southern Arkansas University, she tries to bring an aspect of tradition and unity to her athletes.
“The tradition that KU has is something that I carry with me everywhere I go,” Hile said. “Wherever I am, I try to create something so that down the road they [her current athletes] can look back and remember that [the traditions].”
Though the traditions continue on, Hile’s time as a Jayhawk student-athlete would come to end. But it was not quite time for her to hang the bat up for good, as Hile was presented with the opportunity to play softball professionally, becoming only the third player in the program’s history to reach the highest level.
The summer after walking through the Campanile and down The Hill, another KU tradition, Hile headed east a few states after being drafted by the Tennessee Diamonds, a National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) team.
“It was an experience where I got to play with the best of the best,” Hile said. “It was fun to be able to continue my career past college; there are only a select few that get to do that. It was remarkable to get to continue to play and enjoy the sport that I love.”
Hile had such a love for the University that after her summer in the pro league she came back to Lawrence and spent the 2011-12 season as a volunteer coach for her alma mater. Everything was coming full circle as she was beginning to experience what it meant to translate her own knowledge of the game into ways to help her former teammates.
“Coaching at Kansas the year after I played there was a real eye-opener into what it took to be a coach versus an athlete,” Hile said.
After a year of being a volunteer coach for the Jayhawks Hile began to realize that her love of playing the sport was beginning to transform into a love of coaching the sport.
Hile is currently in her first year as an assistant coach for the Muleriders at Southern Arkansas University, where she is specializing in teaching the young athletes the art of catching. It has been an adjustment for the coach going from a Division I program to a Division II school where they are still trying to establish a competitive softball program. In addition, they are working to create some of their own traditions that will hopefully shape the athletes’ memories as it did for Hile.
It is Hile’s goal along with her fellow Muleriders’ coaching staff, to build a successful softball program so that in the near future Southern Arkansas University softball will be known and respected as a competitive Division II team.
“We are currently trying to turn around the softball program here,” Hile said. “Create those traditions and create the atmosphere to where people know about Southern Arkansas. Even though the school is a little smaller, the competitiveness and the work ethic is still there—just like at KU.”
Hile has undoubtedly left her signature as one of Kansas softball’s all-time great athletes, and is now focusing her time helping others to run the bases. For Hile, this labor of love continues to bring great joy and purpose to her life.
Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.