Sept. 4, 2008
Indiana head softball coach Michelle Gardner, who is entering her first season at the helm of the Hoosier program, took some time out of a busy start to the year to provide some insight into what she is looking for during her inaugural campaign in Bloomington.
What have been some of your top priorities here since you were hired in June?
"First and foremost was to get out and see the recruited athletes and other kids that are committed to the program. And to try to learn as much as I can about the current players on the roster because I have never seen them play before. That, along with hiring a staff were my top priorities. First, I needed a hitting coach, which is why I hired Amanda Rivera right off the bat. Those were the first types of things that I needed to do to get started."
Coming in as a new coach, having never seen these players play before, what are you going to do to try to get a handle on what they can do?
"I had an opportunity to see all of the incoming freshmen play but one. I had the chance to see Sara Olson play and I spoke with numerous coaches in the Big Ten and other schools that had played Indiana to try to get a feeling for what I have on the team. And that was critical, considering I very little knowledge about the current players in the program."
What has the recruiting been like as the head coach at Indiana?
What is the one thing you are looking forward to the most this fall season?
"I think it is different in that my mindset has to change. I have been a West Coast dominant recruiting person and now I'm in the Midwest and have to broaden my horizons. Although I am from the Midwest, I have not recruited in the Midwest for a very long time. Not that there were not players in the Midwest that I would have loved to have at Nevada, but the players in California were easier to access. So that has been the biggest change for me, getting back here to rekindle some old ties and develop some new ones."
"What I'm looking forward to the most this fall is just getting the team out on the field to see what types of players I have and to put a finger on our capabilities and how I can build around those from the fall season to the spring season."
Have you been able to do some of the same things here as you did at Nevada, from a coaching?
"I think throughout all of my coaching experiences, I have been able to pick up a number of different things. The one thing that I know about myself is that I have to work within the strengths of the student-athletes that I have. And I think that's why this fall is so critical for us. I'm going to determine what kind of game I'm going to play this spring by how we react to different situations this fall."
Have you been able to take advantage of being closer to your family?
"Absolutely. A five-hour drive in a car is completely different than two plane flights from Nevada to Michigan. Realistically, I could get in my car right now and be there in five hours. My sister and niece have both been down here to visit, my aunts have been down and I actually got to spend some time up there before I began working here officially. And the time difference is the biggest factor for me; we are not three hours behind anymore. It used to be that by the time I got home and got the kids settled for the night, it would be midnight or later and you are not calling people that late because the wouldn't get up. And they wouldn't call me in the morning before they go to work because it would be three or four in the morning out there. So the time change is enormous in that regard, with my family and my husband's family being in the Eastern Time Zone."
When you get some free time, what do like to do?
"I don't have too many hobbies. My extra time is spent with my kids. As they are getting a little bit older now, we are getting a little more involved with some other things. But they are little enough right now that this is really quality time, because once we get in season, quality time gets harder and harder to come by. Coaching what I do and it's a passion for me, but my family is also my passion so it is being able to balance that."