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What It's Like For Olivia Watkins To Coach At Duke

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(Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Olivia Watkins is in the midst of her first year as an assistant softball coach at Duke University. Watkins, who was previously an assistant coach at Boston College and Dartmouth College, spent her first two seasons in college coaching at the University of Illinois as a volunteer assistant coach.

She is a 2015 graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she was a standout for the Hilltoppers. Following her college softball playing career, Watkins spent time playing professionally in National Pro Fastpitch (NPF).

For the Blue Devils, she works closely with outfielders, slappers and baserunners.

Read SA's full conversation with Watkins below.

Softball America: Why did you choose to join the coaching staff at Duke?

Olivia Watkins: I wanted the chance to contribute to a high-caliber program. Duke is one of the top universities in the U.S. and has a ton of name value, and for good reason. (Duke has) competitive admissions, excellent academics, championship-level athletics and a strong global presence.

Athletically, Duke has this atmosphere of excellence and competitive energy that brings out the best in me. I also learned very quickly that sporting events at Duke are not just attended, they are lived, loved and act as a base for school spirit.

I will also say the coaching staff as well. I have admired what Coach Young has built as a leader and as a woman of color, and I wanted to be a part of that. I also was thrilled about Coach Romero, whom I've grown really close with as well this semester. I've enjoyed working with them closely.

SA: What was the deciding factor for you when deciding to work at Duke?

OW: Ultimately, it was the chance to coach at a championship level. I love to challenge myself, and succeeding at something that you thought was going to be difficult or scary is super rewarding. I also knew that I could bring value to the program as well. So, I view joining a program like Duke as another way to challenge myself and see how much I could positively impact this great program.

But it was also the chance to be a part of something great, and I am super honored for the opportunity to learn and share my gifts with others.

SA: What was your first semester coaching at Duke like?

OW: My first couple of months here in Durham have been great so far. Everything, honestly, has surpassed my expectations. It's been busy, of course, but Durham and Duke University have treated me with the utmost kindness and care. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first semester here, and honestly, I can't wait for the future. I do feel like I have made an impact on others, and I've had the privilege of being impacted by some really outstanding people here as well. The team has been very welcoming, and our softball coaching staff is full of legends, who I'm thrilled to work with.

SA: What is your coaching style?

OW: In my experience, my coaching style is very different from many. I’m very relaxed, but have high expectations. It is hard to explain, but I was raised in a military family and having a single father who’s a military man, I feel like I adopted his chill demeanor and an unwavering will to be great.

But I’ve found the best way for me to accomplish that is by making genuine connections with the players and the team, and making sure that everybody understands what’s expected of them and what we’re fighting for. I care for the person first and really commit to build an individual relationship with them all.

SA: What are your goals for your first year at Duke?

OW: In my first year, I want to get to know the players and build trust among the staff, continue to work and grow as a leader, make those around me better and continue to elevate and enhance Duke softball.

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