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Maddi Hackbarth's Journey Leads To Head Coaching Position

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(Photo courtesy of Athletes Unlimited)

Maddi Hackbarth's journey has led her all the way to the head coaching level in college softball.

Hackbarth, who was a key player for Arizona State from 2018-2021, took over as the head coach at Central Arizona College earlier this summer. She served as an assistant coach at Central Arizona in 2022 and helped the team finish with a 49-8 record. The NJCAA Division 1 program is located in Coolidge, Ariz.

And that wasn't the only exciting thing to happen over the summer for Hackbarth, a former All-American catcher. She participated in the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited's AUX competition, finishing 21st on the leaderboard of 43 players.

In early April, Athletes Unlimited player Sam Fischer reached out to Hackbarth and asked if she wanted to play professionally with AUX.

“My response to Sam was, 'where do I sign?'” Hackbarth said. “I had to work out some details, mainly being back for my head coach interview at Central Arizona, and I started playing in early June.”

Hackbarth's journey to both her head coaching position and experience playing professional softball took somewhat of a non-linear route. 

As a sophomore in high school, she originally committed to play collegiately for Notre Dame, but eventually decommitted. During the Colorado Sparkler club softball tournament that summer, then–Fresno State head coach Trisha Ford saw Hackbarth play and invited her on a visit to campus.

“After I finished my visit, I was walking around the bookstore and told my mom I wanted to go back and tell Coach Ford I wanted to commit,” Hackbarth recalled.

But, one month before she was supposed to move in to start her freshman year at Fresno State, she got a call from Ford saying she took the head coach position at Arizona State.

“Obviously, this wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, but I took some time to talk to my parents and decided it would be best to fulfill my NIL at Fresno State,” Hackbarth said. “I really got to know and love my teammates at Fresno, which is why I decided to stay, and I was also going to play with my twin sister.”

Going into preseason that year, Hackbarth got hit in the head while catching, and four days later, she was diagnosed with a concussion. It took some time to recover, but once she was back, she never saw the field. At that point in time, she knew it would be best to start looking for another school to play at.

“Back then, there was no transfer portal, so I had to go to my compliance office and get a letter,” Hackbarth said. “In the letter, it talked about not transferring in-conference and the coach had the option to list three schools I couldn’t get recruited by, and Arizona State was one of them. I had to go through an appeals process. It took about five weeks total with a lot of back and forth. Eventually, I got to sit in front of a panel and had two minutes to speak and won the appeal.”

Hackbarth then went on a visit to Arizona State and committed that same weekend.

“My first year there, we went to the WCWS and I loved the level I was competing at, especially in the Pac-12,” Hackbarth added. “I also loved the sense of security I had with the coaching staff at ASU.”

Using her fifth year of eligibility at Arizona State in 2021, Hackbarth really stepped up as a leader and player for the Sun Devils. She was named a Softball America Third-Team All-American for her performance that season.

“Playing for ASU changed my life, and I know everyone says that, but I really mean it,” Hackbarth said. “Coach Ford is another mom to me and my teammates had a huge impact on me.”

After graduation, Hackbarth went on to coach in the Florida Gulf Coast League and then started a part-time coaching gig at Central Arizona, working primarily with the hitters and in the bullpen.

Now, in her new role at the helm of the program, Hackbarth will pull from her myriad experiences in softball to help propel her team.

“I am looking forward to growing the program,” Hackbarth added. “Shelby Davis, who is the former head coach and now athletic director, impacted my love for the game. I would love to bring her back a national championship from her favorite sport while she is an AD.”

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