Softball From the Tewksbury (Mass.) Town Crier: "Delponte catches Coach of the Year honor"
This article is reprinted with permission of the Tewksbury Town Crier. It ran on May 18, 2012. See the original article online by clicking here.
By KAYTI BURT
Nashua, NH - The future looks bright for the Daniel Webster softball program under the apt leadership of Head Coach Danielle Delponte, who was named NECC Coach of the Year last week. The Tewksbury native holds the position at the young age of 25, and has demonstrated in her inaugural season with the team that it doesn't take years of coaching experience to steer a collegiate softball program towards victory.
"It was probably the best decision I have made since I graduated," said Delponte of her decision to apply for the position of Head Softball Coach at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Delponte came to the position with four years of Big East experience as a player for UConn, as well as a year as an assistant coach at Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference and two years as assistant coach at Springfield College. She earned her Master of Education degree in Sport Management and Recreation from the latter.
In her first year with Daniel Webster, Delponte led the girls to their most successful season in program history, particularly impressive given the 16-win increase from last year's season. In 2011, the Eagles finished the season with a 7-18 record. This year, they made it past the .500 mark for a 23-19 record overall. They were also selected to compete in their first ECAC New England Championship tournament.
"When I went in there," said Delponte, "it was a tough situation because there were only seven girls from the previous year." She had her work cut out for her, but she was up to the challenge, recruiting girls on campus and at junior colleges to play for her team. "It was one of the best groups of girls that I had coached," she said of her squad. "They were willing to listen."
In a preseason coaches' poll, the Eagles were picked to place eighth of nine teams in the 2012 season. They ended up finishing 13-5 in conference play, and made it to the final round of the NECC Championship before losing to the undefeated Lesley squad, which would go onto the NCAA tournament. More than the win count improvement, Delponte was glad to see the change it made in the girls.
"It was really rewarding to me as a coach to see how happy they were," she said.
One specific moment that stands out in Delponte's memory that saw her team smiling was the occasion of their come-from-behind victory in the first round of the NECC tournament. The Eagles battled back from a 10-5 deficit, scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh for a dramatic 11-10 victory against Regis.
"It was one of the greatest experiences of my coaching career," said Delponte.
Delponte's coaching philosophy lies not in trying to change her team members into cookie-cutter players with the same mechanics and playing style, but rather in using what they already have to make them the best players they can be.
"I'm not trying to turn the players into robots," said Delponte. "I am not a believer in trying to make them into something that they're not. I take what they have and work with them."
More than anything, Delponte stresses to her girls that it is not about the win count, but in how they play the game.
"It's about the process, how you get to that end result," she said.
Delponte said she was surprised to earn recognition as NECC Coach of the Year, an honor voted on by all of the coaches in the league. She said she voted for and expected Lesley University Coach Jen Benway to receive the honor. Lesley was undefeated in conference play, finishing with a 18-0 record.
"I don't care if you're a teeball, high school, or college coach," said Delponte, "going undefeated is impressive."
But Delponte's fellow coaches were obviously impressed with the way she coached her squad this season, as was Daniel Webster's Athletic Director, Robin Seidman.
"She's certainly a teacher," said Seidman. "I think she really instills a sense of fundamentals with the players."
Seidman said the players look up to Delponte because of the experience she has playing at such a high level. DelPonte was a regular starting catcher in her four years as a Division I Huskie. She finished her career there with a .305 batting average, retiring in the school's all-time top five for career RBI (106) and home runs (20). More than her impressive history as a collegiate player, Delponte relates to the girls on her squad on a personal level, said Seidman.
"They all get along very well," she said, adding that though Delponte is not much older than many of her players, she still often serves as a surrogate parent for many of the girls whom may be away from their families for the first time.
"I think she's filled that role really well," said Seidman.
Delponte impressed everyone involved in the hiring process from the get-go when she first came to campus to meet with the staff and student athletes.
"She really impressed everyone with her knowledge of softball and her passion for coaching," said Seidman, noting that she has more than lived up to the athletic department's expectations. "She's been everything we wanted and more."
Though this year's season has barely finished, Delponte is already looking forward to next year. Six seniors graduated from the Daniel Webster squad, and Delponte is already busy recruiting for next season.
"The team next year is going to be a completely different look," said Delponte, though they will have the same expectations to do their best and take every game one inning at a time.
"This year, our goal was to win an inning at a time," she said, adding that they started the season in Florida being blown out of the water in five-inning games. Next year, Delponte is aiming to win the NECC Championships, a goal they fell just short of this past season, falling in the finals to Lesley.
The girls just had their season exit interviews earlier this week to go over individual goals and performance and most will be playing summer ball. A few are dual-sport athletes, noted Delponte, who have already started training for the fall field hockey season. As for Delponte, she will be out at the games, clipboard in hand, starting this weekend and continuing every weekend throughout the summer. She said she is looking to recruit more girls from the New England area and to expand the team's geographic representation to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Wherever they hail from, they will be in good hands.