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Softball Sports

How Drake softball’s new head coach is reshaping the program

As the softball season wraps up, Lindsay Diehl reflects on her first season as Drake University’s head softball coach. Diehl said that she has followed Drake softball for the past 20 years and has always respected the program, so when she got the job as head coach, “it seemed like the perfect storm.” 

During her transition into the position, Diehl felt very welcomed by Drake, its coaches, the Athletic Department and the fans. Families and friends of softball players traveled with the team all season, which, according to Diehl, made it fun to go on the road for games.

I don’t feel like I’m in my first year,” Diehl said. “Everybody has been so welcoming and inviting. Feeling that support in all different areas has been fantastic.” 

Diehl is using this job as an opportunity to take both herself and the program to the next level. Diehl said she feels proud of what the program could be. Her goals for the program include a high graduation rate and growing together as a team. Diehl said that she is interested in having her athletes be well-rounded and of high character. To reach these goals, she is focusing on the mental game and strengthening the team’s bond. 

What I’ve learned from my first year is that those are obtainable goals for us,” Diehl said  “If we show up, compete and play the way that we’re capable of, we can win in the Missouri Valley [Conference], and we look forward to what the rest of the season brings but also continuing for the years to come.”

Diehl is helping players create a balance between academics and athletics. According to Diehl, Drake softball schedules practice times around athletes’ class times, group projects that they need to do, internships, etc. Diehl finds it important to help athletes continue their education. 

“We have a whole different kind of athlete that we are recruiting. They want to be pharmacists, lawyers, doctors and teachers,” Diehl said. “It’s fun to let softball be a part of that process, because as much as we love to continue to play the game, eventually, their time comes to an end to be a player. They are going to go out into the world and be effective adults that are going to contribute to society.” 

Diehl also wants to continue to grow relationships between players and to formulate good relationships between players and coaches. She said that whether it’s through a simple text of recognition for a player’s hard work or a longer conversation, it is important to get to know those players because everybody has to be coached differently.  

“You gotta know who it is that you can push a little bit harder than others, and that only comes through relationships,” Diehl said. “They know that it comes from a place of, ‘I truly care about you and I see potential in you,’ and they don’t feel attacked. Sometimes, if you don’t have a relationship behind it, stuff can feel that way.”

Carey Koenig, a junior infielder on the Drake softball team, said that the team has taken a “step in the right direction” this year, creating “a positive and energetic environment with coach Diehl.” Koenig said Diehl’s philosophy is centered around energy and celebrating others’ success.

“People no longer are caught up in their own successes but rather play for the team,” Koenig said. “We have also learned to trust each other and ourselves. Every time we step on the field, we are working as one rather than as nine [separate individuals].” 

For next season, Diehl wants to focus on consistency, saying that this year has been a  “roller coaster.” According to Diehl, the team has had some great moments and then they would “take a couple of steps backward,” which is all part of switching to a new coach and setting new standards. 

One way Diehl hopes to gain the stability she strives for is through the mental game. Diehl said that her team often listens to various inspirational audios and takes notes and that they now use a variety of different phrases. The most popular among players is “So what, next pitch?” She also encourages players to “flush” their mistakes throughout the game. 

“At this level, everybody that you face is talented, so the determining factor is what’s between your ears: how you mentally approach the game, how you deal with failure and adversity,” Diehl said. 

Koenig said that Diehl’s focus on the mental game has been huge for the program, allowing the team to become more gritty, confident and disciplined. Koenig said that she always has the support of her teammates and coaches. 

She added that Diehl has always been a good role model, helping her and the rest of the players improve both on the field, such as by helping Drake evolve as an offensive team, as well as in their personal lives. Regardless of the outcome, Diehl’s positive talks before, between and after her at-bat have helped Koenig’s performance.  

“She is a coach who does not care about the outcome, but rather looks at the process,” Koenig said. “As a player, having her as a coach has taken so much pressure off my shoulders, and she has helped me to restore my confidence.” 

Thus far this season, the team has a 21-23 overall record. With four games remaining prior to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, the team has an opportunity to finish above .500 on the season. The first of their four remaining games will occur on May 1 at 6 p.m. against the Iowa State Cyclones. 

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