Texas State Softball Head Coach Ricci Woodard knows about tough love. She is a mother, after all.
The woman entering her twelfth season at the helm of the softball program has experienced a lot in her tenure, but nothing has had as big of an impact on her as the adoption of two young boys, Joey and Alex.
“It changed my approach to life,” Woodard said. “It has made this more of a job instead of my life. We’ve won multiple conference championships in a row since I adopted them, so maybe it has helped me learn how to separate my job and my life.”
Since Woodard was named head coach in 2000, the softball team has never placed lower than third place. The Bobcats have appeared in three straight National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and won five Southland Conference regular-season titles.
Assistant Coach Patti Brun has been with the Bobcats for six seasons, and noticed a change in Woodard from the time she started with the program and after the adoption.
“Some former players have said they think she is so much softer now,” Brun said. “But it has changed her perspective. It used to be much tougher in the day-to-day operation. Now, the little things don’t matter as much.”
While the little things may matter less, the big picture is still very much in Woodard’s mind.
“What I look back and see is all the second-place finishes we had that could have been first place finishes,” Woodard said. “And that’s not a knock on the players.The only way the team is not successful is if they don’t push themselves to the next level. This year, this team has the ability to do something special.”
Chandler Hall, senior pitcher and outfielder, is a big reason for the team’s recent successes, and has played for Woodard her entire college career.
“To me the greatest thing about Coach Woodard is how much she actually cares about each player,” Hall said. “She constantly checks on me on and off the field to see how I’m doing, and at the end of the season she tells me how much she appreciates me.”
The Bobcats have big expectations for this year as they look to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament and earn national recognition. Their schedule opened against several national powerhouse programs. Woodard knows that to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“For us to go to the next level, we have to beat (Texas, Baylor, and Texas A&M),” Woodard said. “We break it down. Focus on winning this game, this inning, this pitch.”
Even though her focus remains on the game of softball, Woodard said she likes to keep things in perspective.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the passion of this game, and maybe I was too passionate and forcing things,” Woodard said. “Now that I’m a little more relaxed in my coaching, the players are more relaxed in their play. Maybe I’m not as intimidating anymore. Adding kids to my life changed my life.”