The new Slippery Rock University head softball coach has high expectations for the upcoming season.
Stacey Rice was named the team’s new head coach during the summer of last year. Rice was promoted from the assistant coaching position where she spent three years with the Rock. Rice has taken over a team that finished 16-26 last season.
“The expectation for myself is to create a thriving program,” Rice said. “One that definitely wins ball games, but more importantly creates a team who is very successful on the field, in the classroom and off the field.”
Rice said her time as the assistant coach and the fact that a lot of the players already know her has made her transition into the head coaching position fairly effortless.
“There hasn’t been much of a learning curve for the players because they know my expectations,” Rice said. “They already are very aware of what I expect and it was an easy transition. It makes me a better head coach, because I kind of already know how to be in that role.”
Rice believes that coaching and playing softball isn’t always about winning and losing.
“I’m very dynamic; I’m not all about the win or loss column,” Rice said. “I want to make sure my student athletes are just that: student athletes.”
Sophomore catcher McKenzie Popatak has full confidence in Rice, and believes that she will lead SRU in the right direction this season.
“Coach Rice has already exceeded my expectations,” Popatak said. “I feel that I speak for the entire team when I say that we have trust in Coach to get us to where we need to be. She has allowed us to set individual and team goals for ourselves as she takes the time and puts the effort in for us to make sure we reach them.”
As a member of the softball team for four seasons, Rice had numerous accomplishments.
She currently holds the school record in eight statistical categories, including hits (186), runs scored (143) and at-bats (511). Rice said that her time as a Division II athlete has definitely contributed to her success with coaching.
“I can identify as a Division II athlete and I can understand the demands that they have,” Rice said. “As far as the competitiveness, it hasn’t changed. I think I can identify with my players in a way that other coaches can’t, and that brings positivity to the program.”
Popatak said Rice is able to build solid relationships with her players, and that she has earned the respect of the entire team.
“Coach connects very well with our upperclassmen, as well as the incoming freshmen,” Popatak said. “Coach Rice does a fantastic job of connecting with each player in her own way, which is crucial, because every player learns in a different form. Coach understands that, and uses that to thoroughly teach our players how to get better.”
Rice is just the sixth head coach in Rock softball history, and she is honored by that privilege.
“It’s an honor, and I’m actually good friends with a lot of the past coaches,” Rice said. “It’s cool to keep that alive and it’s definitely a Slippery Rock tradition. I want to make them proud.”