Kelly Ford, the new head coach of the women’s softball team, returned to Cal State Fullerton last week after working for more than a decade at Mount San Antonio College as head softball coach.
To say Ford’s time at Mt. SAC was successful is a severe understatement.
Coming into the position at Mt. SAC, the team was 17-34 the year before Ford joined the staff, and in her first season, Ford turned it around to 34-17.
In her second season, Ford won the state championship for Mt. SAC and continued through a seven-year run of playing in the championship game every year.
Mt. SAC won the state championships in the odd years: ‘03, ‘05, ‘07 and ’09. The team came in second place the other years.
Ford was awarded the South Coast Conference Coach of the Year five times and the All Sports Conference Coach of the Year twice.
Nine years prior to taking the head coach position at Mt. SAC, Ford was an assistant coach at CSUF for two seasons, working under Judi Garman and Michelle Gromacki.
“This was kind of a coming home,” said Ford. “I’ve always felt like part of the Cal State Fullerton softball family and when this position became open again, it was something I just knew in my heart was the right time.”
Hard work, inspiration and determination are a few things she brings with her from Mt. SAC and she plans to use those ethics to inspire CSUF.
As far as coaching on the field and tactics, there’s not a lot in the game Ford plans on changing.
“There’s a lot of different rules that I have to abide by, which will change a little bit of what we do on the field,” Ford said. “But as far as the nuts and bolts—I’m bringing the hard work ‘let’s go now’ attitude to Cal State Fullerton softball.”
Ford began her first week at CSUF with individual practices and evaluations with the softball team, and gave them a taste of her coaching style.
“I’m very vocal, I like to get out there and get right in the mix with the girls,” Ford said.
There are many new facets that she is experiencing in her new position as head coach and Ford loves it.
“It’s been hectic, but in a great way,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
In her first week, Ford was able to get one-on-one time with the players and get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses for the upcoming season.
“My main focus right now is just assessing where we’re at so I can be a better coach,” said Ford. “I want to see where this group is exactly and then plan the practice accordingly.”
The first official team practice began Monday.
“It’s gonna be pretty awesome just being thrown into the fire,” said Ford. “I’ll be honest, I kind of like it that way.”
There is no better way to see what the athletes are made of than to see them put into a scrimmage situation, according to Ford.
Ford is excited there is more all-around support for student athletes at CSUF.
“All eyes on campus want Cal State Fullerton softball to be back in the top ten,” Ford said. “Every choice I make is going to set us up for that direction.”
Whether or not these choices will see immediate results is yet to be determined, but Ford said it will be all part of her plan.
“I’m going to walk out onto the field like we’re shooting for a national championship,” Ford said. “Why would I shoot for anything less?”
“It’s an exciting time for Cal State Fullerton softball,” she added.
Ariel Tsuchiyama, a junior catcher, is a returning member of the softball team.
Practice has been going productively, said Tsuchiyama, who worked one-on-one with Ford last week.
“She’s really hands on, which everybody likes,” Tsuchiyama said. “She brings a lot of energy to the field.”
Ford relates to the team and is trying to get a feel for them as a whole and how they are going to work together, Tsuchiyama said.
Tsuchiyama is excited to see where Ford will take the team with her passion and energy.
Assistant head softball coach Deanna Kingsbury described her first week working with Ford as amazing.
Since Ford began her position as head coach on staff, she and Kingsbury are focusing on getting the team ready for practice, prepping for the upcoming fall games and working on individuals for the team and recruiting as well.
“It’s like breathing life into the program and for me and my day-to-day work,” said Kingsbury. “It’s inspirational.”
The two coaches brainstorm on how to build a better season.
“She’s got great ideas, she’s passionate about what she’s doing,” Kingsbury said. “There’s a lot of really good change that’s going on with the program and I feel like she’s a professional.”
Ford has brought in professionals to work with the softball team, with both players and coaches expecting excellence from the upcoming season.
Kingsbury hopes to get back to winning a Big West championship and bring the team to postseason with Ford. She looks to honor the tradition of the program by creating a championship mentality for the players.
“She’s a very motivated type of person,” said Julie Bowse, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator, which is a position designed to make sure that a woman is a part of senior management of team athletics. “She’s very well-respected in the softball community.”
Bowse is looking forward to the softball program under Ford’s leadership, winning the Big West Conference on a regular basis and going to the championship tournament on a regular basis.
“She’s a delight to be around, she’s very excited about the opportunity to be the head coach at Cal State Fullerton,” Bowse said. “The student athletes are so excited that she is here.”
Stephan Walk, Ph.D., interim athletics director, was part of the search committee that hired Ford.
“Coach Ford is an outstanding coach,” said Walk. “She understands exactly the situation that she’s come into.”
Before his position as interim athletics director at CSUF, Walk was a kinesiology professor since 1994 and knew Ford briefly when she worked as an assistant coach on staff.
“She’s already got a great relationship with her student athletes,” Walk said. “In some cases it’s difficult for a new coach to come in and coach athletes that you haven’t recruited, but I don’t think that’s going to be a huge problem for Coach Ford.”
Walk is optimistic about the upcoming season and confident Ford will yield positive results.
“Obviously based on her record at Mt. SAC, she knows how to win and she knows how to have students be successful in the classroom and that’s why we hired her,” Walk said.
“We expect great things,” he added.