The word “lifer” is a term used in sports to describe someone who has given themselves completely to the sport they love; someone who will spend their life in a sport.
Head coach of the softball team, Ricci Woodard, is the definition of a lifer. Coach Woodard is in her 18th year as the head coach of the Bobcats and has found success at every level of the sport. Woodard’s love of softball began early and there was no doubt the sport would be her life.
“I remember knowing that’s what I wanted to do every day, I wanted to go to practice, I wanted to go to ball games,” Woodard said. “At six or seven years old, I was already in love with the sport.”
Woodard has won championships as a player and coach. She successfully started a softball program at Brazosport High School.
The lifer has produced multiple elite-level athletes and has won 600 games as the head coach for the Bobcats.
Woodard credits her success and the person she has become to the unique journey she took on her way to Texas State.
“I coached high school ball, I played junior college ball, I’ve been an assistant at a Power Five conference,” Woodard said. “I’ve been here for a long time. I got to learn something at every different level that I played at and I coached, that experience has helped me become who I am.”
Woodard was named head coach for Texas State in 2001. Woodard and the Bobcats found immediate success; the team finished with a 54-12 record, the best in program history.
Woodard has kept the softball program consistently performing at a high level during her 18 years at the helm. Woodard’s program has produced several elite players over the years, most recently Randi Rupp, senior pitcher, and Ariel Ortiz, senior infielder.
For Ortiz, Woodard’s impact goes beyond making her a better softball player. Ortiz credits the head coach with helping her find a focus and perspective on life.
“As a player, she has obviously taught me how to be the best I can be,” Ortiz said. “But for me as a person, she put life into perspective. Coach Woodard really emphasized keeping a positive mindset when things (are not) going our way. It really helped me keep a level head over the ups and downs of my career.”
Ortiz believes Woodard helped prepare student-athletes for the real world when the sport is over.
“She has taught me life lessons that will stay with me throughout my life,” Ortiz said. “I can handle adversity, I have a great work ethic and teamwork skills that will help me in any job after college.”
Woodard, in exchange for her wealth of knowledge on life and softball, gets the satisfaction of watching Rupp and Ortiz mature and grow develop their elite-level talent.
“It’s been fun to watch them not only mature as ball players but to change as people,” Woodard said. “(Their) overall maturity over the past four years has been amazing to watch, to watch them transform into the players and the people they have.”
Woodard’s resume when it comes to producing top level softball players speaks for itself. She has produced three former players in the National Pro Fastpitch league: Nicole Neuerburg, Kristen Zaleski and Alex Newton.
While it may appear to outsiders that she simply has a magic touch, Woodard chalks up the success players find under her tutelage to a willingness to buy into Texas State softball. The head coach links that willingness to the future success of the program, and she looks at Rupp and Ortiz as prime examples of the success that comes with buying in.
“Those players bought into Texas State softball from day one, they came here to win championships and win ball games,” Woodard said. “If we can find some younger people to buy in and do what Randi Rupp and Ariel Ortiz are doing, then the program is going to stay successful.”
Woodard is comfortable with her position and does not plan on moving on any time soon at this point in her career.
“I like my quality of life at Texas State, I like raising my family here and I like going to work every day,” Woodard said. “I have no reason to leave.”