For Jessica Allister's Stanford Squad, Best Is Yet To Come
Jessica Allister is familiar with the highs and lows of attempting to get to Oklahoma City. She has successfully led the Stanford Cardinal to 10 postseason appearances in her career as either a player, assistant coach or head coach for the program.
In her fifth year as head coach of the program, Stanford found its way through regionals for the first time since 2011. With a 39-22 record on the year, it was a season that Allister is thankful to have gone through, considering the mark the pandemic left on the softball world.
“If you would have told me last year in the throes of all of it that this is where we would be, I would have believed you, because I believe in us, but there were a lot of things that have to break for it to happen,” Allister said. “It is special and it is not lost on me.”
But after an upsetting sweep against Oregon State in the super regional round, there’s more work to be done for next season, and Allister is ready to take on the challenge ahead. Her smart tactics got the Cardinal this far, and she’s not going to stop until Stanford has another World Series appearance under its belt.
“We should be competing for championships,” Allister said. “Stanford is hands down the best athletic department in the country. When you look at the successes of women’s teams here, those teams have won six national championships in the last three years. There’s no reason that softball shouldn’t be competing at that same level.”
The pieces of that puzzle are slowly coming together for Stanford year after year. Building a strong team is the first step, and for Allister, that all starts in the recruiting process. She looks to build all-around athletes, acknowledging that Stanford plays in a pitcher’s ballpark, and producing home run hitters isn't the ultimate goal for her program.
“When we are recruiting, we are looking for the best athletes we can find,” Allister said. “We want people that are five-tool players. We want them to defend, throw, all those things. We want to recruit our strengths, and we want people who can create runs with speed.”
Allister attributes Stanford’s success this season to the players on her pitching staff and defenders like Sydnee Huff, all who shined brightly in their recruiting days.
“I have been impressed with the journey throughout (recruiting),” Allister said. “I think whenever you are building a team, it has to start in the circle. If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have anything. And Sydnee Huff is just as dependable as they come. She is possibly the best defender I have ever coached.”
With the parity in the Pac-12 at an all-time high this season, the goal for Stanford was to stand out amongst the conference's other strong teams.
“I told our team at the beginning of the year, this is the most closely clumped our conference has been since I have been a part of it,” Allister said. “I have never seen the conference have so much parity. I think teams that maybe had struggles in the recent past are better.”
Allister’s top coaching tactic is to focus on Stanford and no one else.
“We just try to not get too caught up into what anyone else thinks,” Allister said. “To be honest, we don't care. Rankings are done by humans, and some pay more attention to what is actually going on across the country than others. We try to not put a lot of stock into those things and worry about ourselves.”
In what will be her 13th season coaching overall in 2023, Allister looks at Stanford now and remembers why she started. While the chase for championships can become stressful, she loves the big-picture rewards that come with the job.
“For me, when the players are happy, I'm happy,” Allister said. “To see them celebrate and to see their work and their belief be rewarded in that moment, that’s why you coach. They committed to a vision and belief, and decided to get after it. Their tenacity and competitiveness is impressive.”