Texas Tech's Sami Ward Up For Challenge Big 12 Presents
Texas Tech had a first-hand look at Loyola Marymount’s impressive upset wins over LSU and Michigan at last year’s Judi Garman Classic. Little did the Red Raiders know, they were watching their next head coach.
After five seasons as the leader at Loyola Marymount, Sami Ward was hired in October to be the next head coach for Texas Tech softball.
In their first meeting together, Ward and her new team conversed about what they had seen in each other at that Judi Garman Classic. The players' main takeaway was that Ward’s mid-major program was able to upset those top-tier opponents. Her response to them was simple: Loyola Marymount's team thought they could beat anyone, and there’s no reason Texas Tech can’t have that same mentality going forward.
“So often people are told, ‘You’re only Texas Tech, you’re only this.’ That’s not real, that’s not a real thing,” Ward told Softball America in a phone interview. “When we understand that as individuals we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, we can achieve anything...Having an attitude that you can do and be whatever you want. (Having a) mentality of achievement, competitiveness, finding a way to get anything done is so important right now.”
Building a program always has its unique challenges. Ward has plenty of experience with that. Along with her husband, Randy, Ward was the co-head coach for Academy of Art University, a Division-II program in San Francisco, and the head coach for Dakota Wesleyan and North Dakota before her time at Loyola Marymount.
To Ward, the most important aspects of coming into a different team are the connections that are established with players. Ward has an ideal mentality for her teams, but it can’t be implemented without trust existing between her and her student-athletes.
“It’s about building the relationships,” Ward said. “Everyone says that, but the reality is that it’s a long process. We are doing what we can to start to build those relationships, but it takes time if those are real relationships and that’s what we strive for.
“It’s really easy to tell people what they want to hear and say things you know they’ll like. When you have a real relationship, there’s honesty on both ends. I need their honesty and they need mine.”
Ward enters a conference that is home to a few of the sport’s best coaches. She’s fine being the underdog in the Big 12 to Patty Gasso (Oklahoma), Mike White (Texas) and Kenny Gajewski (Oklahoma State). Ward is certainly up for the challenge and it helps instill the mentality she wants into her program.
“It’s a super competitive conference with some of the absolute best teams and best coaches in the nation,” Ward said. “Just the opportunity to compete with those teams and coaches is going to challenge me personally, help me grow and challenge our team. It really gives us a chance to practice these ideas that we’re talking about that you can do anything.”
Brittany Miller and Randy Ward remain on Ward’s staff from Loyola Marymount. Both carry the underdog style that Ward enjoys. Not only that, but Ward says they are also both great at player development on and off the field.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with two of the best assistants I’ve ever seen,” Ward said. “We’re on the same page with all this stuff. It’ll be a lot easier for our team to get these messages we are talking about because they’re consistent.
“We believe in the same core values and the same things. It’s relationships, we have to check in with them, we have to care for them. They’re people and women first, then softball players next. All the lessons learned throughout the game coincide with being better women, better mothers, leaders, whatever they want to do with the rest of their lives.”
There are already players at Texas Tech who fit the culture Ward hopes to develop. Erin Edmoundson—who finished as Softball America’s 26th-ranked player in college softball following the 2020 shortened season—is one of them.
Ward will find more Edmoundsons for her program. She’ll welcome anyone to Lubbock who has a similarly gritty mentality.
“At LMU, we might not have had the most talented team, but we were able to find the best players to fit our system and our mentality,” Ward said. “I don’t think Texas Tech is any different. This is a school that has a little bit of an underdog mentality as well.
“It’s a perfect fit for myself, a perfect fit for my assistant coaches. I think we’re going to achieve some things consistently that will continue advancing this program.”