Amy Kvilhaug's Transformative Year Away From Softball
Upon announcing her retirement from college softball coaching last year, Amy Kvilhaug was absolutely spent. The grueling hours, hamster-wheel lifestyle, lack of balance and neglect of personal needs that often come with college coaching had all taken a serious toll on her—both physically and mentally.
Kvilhaug, who is now 44, spent 22 years as a college softball coach after a storied collegiate career as a pitcher at Providence College. Most recently, she was the head coach at St. John's University, where she spent 12 seasons at the helm of an up-and-coming Red Storm program that captured the 2017 Big East championship. To onlookers, Kvilhaug was seemingly at the height of her coaching career.
So why, then, did her retirement announcement come following the end of the 2018 college season? Many in the softball community wondered that thought exactly.
For Kvilhaug, the decision came after feelings of extreme burnout began to negatively impact both her physical and mental health.
"Everything I do is with reckless abandon and with my entire heart, and I was really just starting to burn out," Kvilhaug told Softball America in a phone interview. "The accumulation of so many things was going on. I was tired of all the travel. I really wanted to pursue other things. I felt like something was missing in my life."
After a couple years spent contemplating a change, Kvilhaug finally listened to what her body and mind were trying to tell her. She needed a break.
"We were on a flight back from Denver with the team and I got so sick on the plane," added Kvilhaug, who has also been a competitive runner with the Central Park Track Club in New York City since her late thirties. "I was just like, 'What am I doing with myself?' I was battling some depression issues and my body was telling me, 'enough,' and I listened. I needed to be away from (college coaching)."
Kvilhaug's decision-making process did not come without a fair share of worry and fear that she was perhaps making the wrong move. But ultimately, the courage she had to do what was best for her won out.
"When you take (a break), it’s so liberating," Kvilhaug said. "This past year of my life has been one of the most influential years I've had in quite some time."
During her year away from college coaching, Kvilhaug started to appreciate the things she used to take for granted as a softball coach. In that time, she reconnected with her loved ones and attended family functions like never before, thanks to the freedom she was afforded without the ever-present demands of college coaching. Kvilhaug also started her own business as a life and performance coach, and had eight steady clients just a couple months after its inception. To boot, she took her competitive running to the next level, as she improved upon both her national and world rankings.
Essentially, she was able to hit the reset button on her life.
"I had a year of self-reflection and I learned how to not let myself go down the path of burnout again," Kvilhaug stated. "I've worked on my mindset and I've become so much more positive in my life. It's so easy to get negative and complain. The more you start to be positive and surround yourself with positive people, it catches fire in you."
Catching fire in Kvilhaug was also the feeling of softball competition she was able to once again experience when she attended senior day at St. John's this past spring. After nearly a year away from college coaching, watching her old team play and compete planted a seed in her.
"I sat down with my boyfriend then and we went through a year in the life of coaching softball again," said Kvilhaug, who was inducted into the Providence College Athletics Hall of Fame in February. "As I was saying it, I knew I wanted to do it again. I knew I was ready to return to coaching."
Kvilhaug took some time at the end of the 2019 college softball season to look at the NCAA coaching jobs that had become available. The Massachusetts native knew that this time around, however, she wanted to be closer in proximity to her family in New England. So when the head coaching job at Boston College opened up, Kvilhaug believed wholeheartedly that it could be the right fit for her.
"The opportunity at Boston College just made sense," said Kvilhaug, who was announced as Boston College's head softball coach on July 2. "It all just felt right."
For a Boston College team that went 18–35 in 2019, which included a 4–20 mark in the ACC, Kvilhaug's message this coming season will be focused on both the process of improvement and the overall mindset of her players.
"The more people feel better and confident, the better they will do," Kvilhaug stated. "Confidence is everything. If you have the self-confidence that you can do something, no matter what, you are going to perform well. Having that kind of mentality helps to create a positive environment."
While she is excited to get back to coaching the game she loves, Kvilhaug is even more invigorated by the opportunity she now has to impact her new players off the field, especially in the wake of the life-altering experiences she had during her year away from softball.
"I'm so grateful that I took this past year for myself. I've learned so much," she said. "Softball is my avenue to be able to coach people to reach their full potential in life. It is a channel I can use to help others. At the end of the day, we're all just trying to do the best we can."