Written for NM State Media Relations by Brian Cordova
LAS CRUCES, N.M.— Being the coach of any sports team is hard work. It takes someone with tough skin and a compassionate attitude to be a successful. Living proof is New Mexico State softball head coach Kathy Rodolph. A lifetime of sacrifices and dedication is necessary for the formula to be one of the best.
In the midst of her 11th season at the helm of the NM State softball program, Rodolph has shown that devotion to the game and a great work ethic plays off as she eclipsed 300 wins as head coach for the Aggies. Rodolph not only passed the 300-win mark as the leader of the Aggies, but also has exceeded the 500-career wins as a collegiate head coach.
“I knew very early on,” Rodolph said of her passion for coaching. “I was in composite science on my way to medical school. I took a sharp left turn into teaching and coaching and I believe it has absolutely been my calling and it is what I was supposed to do.”
Rodolph entered the 2014 season with a record of 291-281 all-time at NM State and tallied 487-373 all-time as a collegiate coach. She clinched her 300th win as NM State head coach in an 11-2 victory over Incarnate Word on Saturday, Feb. 22. Rodolph was then able to seal her 500th career victory as a collegiate head coach with a win over UNLV on Saturday, March 1. She is now the third winningest coach in all of NM State history.
Prior to joining the Aggies, Rodolph was head coach for Angelo State, a Division II school in San Angelo, Texas, and she also coached El Paso Community College from 1999-2001.
Rodolph took over at NM State in 2004 as the Aggies went 14-49, in what most would consider a disappointing season. Of the 49 losses NM State had that season, 26 were of three runs or less, while eight games were taken to extra innings.
“It’s almost like going to the dentist and getting a root canal without any Novocain,” said Rodolph.
In that first year as head coach, Rodolph realized she had a team that had improved as the season went on, but was just missing that offensive spark she wanted. Her first instinct was to recruit some power behind the bats.
“We hit the road and recruited an offense. Pretty much when you look an NM State softball now, we are known throughout the entire country for our hitting,” said Rodolph.
Rodolph’s coaching tactics earned her a string of seven seasons with 30-plus victories as Aggie coach. Her best season at the helm of Aggie softball came in 2011 as NM State racked up 44 total wins, its first ever NCAA tournament appearance, and Rodolph was named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
The power behind the bats really made an impression in 2011 as Hoku Nohara received the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-American second team honors. Nohara smashed 24 homeruns, which led the nation and set the NM State single season record.
During the 2013 season centerfielder Staci Rodriguez showed off her power with 63 RBI, while smashing 20 homeruns. Rodriguez’s total homeruns and RBI led the conference. In Rodolph’s tenure, the Aggies have improved from hitting .207 as a team in 2004 to currently hitting .312 in the midst of the 2014 season.
“We have always believed that it was possible to win the regular season WAC Championship, to win the conference tournament, and make the postseason. Maybe because historically the program was not strong, it was hard to change the mind set of others to believe what really is possible,” said Rodolph.
Although winning is everything to some people, it is not the top priority in Rodolph’s philosophies. In her eyes, winning is just a byproduct of what you do in life. Rather than focusing everything on the game, and winning the game, Rodolph teachers her players the tools to be a better person off of the diamond. Rodolph’s techniques and philosophies carry directly to the classroom with her players.
“Winning is a byproduct of life. It’s getting to know that instructor, it’s getting to know your community, it’s about being a good teammate, and it’s about getting your degree. When you put all of the things together that I ask our kids to do, winning is a byproduct. They are going to win. Winning will be the easiest thing that we do. It’s all of the little things that go into developing them as individuals. I think that’s the bigger picture,” Rodolph said.
When they aren’t getting hits on the field, Rodolphs players have proven to work just as hard in the classroom. Seven players from the 2013 season were named NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) All-America Scholar Athletes. In 2013, senior Amber Olive found herself on the CoSIDA Academic All-America and All-District teams and became the second Aggie softball player to be honored with the Stan Bates Award, which is given to the WAC’s top female scholar-athlete.
“Work ethic is what I would use to describe coach. She has always told us even in the classroom work ethic matters. She even encourages us to sit in the front row of class,” said junior infielder Kelsey Dodd.
Dodd has played three seasons for the Aggies and believes Rodolph is always positive. “She always wants the best for us. She will always push us to our limits, as she knows we can keep pushing through anything,” said Dodd.
With conference play in full swing Rodolph’s batters are strong as ever. The preseason favorite Aggies are atop the WAC with a .371 batting average. NM State has three players in the top five for individual batting in the conference. Sophomore catcher Tatum Reedy is currently second in the WAC with a .667 batting average, not far behind is sophomore Fiana Finau with an average of .579 in league play. The Aggies also have two players that are atop the WAC in homeruns this season. Rodriguez and Finau are tied for the lead with 12 homeruns so far.
The Aggies conclude the home portion of the schedule against Bakersfield beginning on Friday, April 11. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at the NM State Softball Complex.