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What One Coach Has Learned from Moving Up a Level

Portland State University softball coach Meadow McWhorter is getting the chance to live a dream this spring, filling her days with her favorite sport while making the transition from junior college coach to a four-year program with a rich history.

The 14 years McWhorter spent as head coach at Mt. Hood Community College were marked with success — a 468-146 (.762) record and five Northwest Junior College titles. But coaching was almost an extra duty in her time with the Saints. Her full-time job was as an advisor in student life, overseeing on-campus activities for 30 different student groups, while also connecting with student government members. 

“Now softball is my full-time job — going out recruiting, setting up travel, developing practice plans,” McWhorter said. “It's been a dream come true to be able to put 100 percent of my energy into my team.” MeadowMcWhorter.jpg

But as any coach who's moved up a level could attest, it can be a major adjustment. Her first day at the office took her back to fourth grade.

“It felt like the first day of school, all of the anticipation and nerves, not really knowing anyone,” she said. “But I couldn't ask to work with better people. When I was walking away that day, I just felt grateful to be working at PSU.”

While the softball remains largely the same, just at a higher skill level, one of the main differences is McWhorter's ability to have a longer lasting impact in her players’ lives. She prides herself on creating a family atmosphere within her team, but it's a revolving door at the junior college level with players cycling in and out every two years.

“In the past, I'd get players for two years, you build bonds and you have to let them fly,” McWhorter said. “I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a part of these girls lives over four years." 

One of McWhorter's first moves was to reach out to the team's five seniors.

“You never know how players are going to adapt to change, but they have already built a tight chemistry with this team — they've been incredible leaders,” McWhorter said. “They have really set the tone for the future of this program.”

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McWhorter has also brought a comfort level with the coaching staff, which includes former national team pitcher Kellie Wilkerson, who had previously spent time on the Vikings' staff, along with former Mt. Hood CC player Teauna Hughes. The most familiar piece of her staff is a volunteer — her father Ricky, who served the same role at Mt. Hood CC.

“One of my goals right from the start was to have all the coaches on the same page — we all see different components of the game, but we all speak the same language, so nothing gets missed,” McWhorter said.

Portland State played at two preseason tournaments and lost nine straight games before picking up McWhorter's first NCAA Division I win — 4-3 against Rhode Island.

“I never lost more than five in a row at Mt. Hood, and I thought losing would be a lot harder,” McWhorter said. “I'm a competitive person and yes, it stinks to lose, but each game has given us new lessons. It's a process, and we're working to piece it all together.”

A part of that process is learning to celebrate the victories within the game. Knowing that successfully moving a runner over is what leads to wins on the scoreboard.

“I want to see players excited when they run to first base, because they just put a run on the board, and that's a win for all of us,” McWhorter said. “We keep hammering home the message that success for one is success for all.”

From GameChanger and David Ball.

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