What It's Like To Go From College Softball Player To Coach
Ronnie Ladines is an assistant softball coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Prior to her current coaching job, she spent a year at Utah Valley University and two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Akron.
She spent four years playing collegiately at Kent State University, where she earned All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors and was a two-time All-Region selection. Her team also won a MAC regular season championship as well as a MAC tournament championship while she was in college.
Softball America spoke with Ladines, a 2017 graduate of Kent State, about her standout playing career and transition to college coaching.
Softball America: What led you to your current position at UTSA, and how has your experience there been so far?
Ronnie Ladines: My background in exercise physiology was a huge factor in getting hired at UTSA. This program is very invested in the biomechanics and the science behind softball. We use Rapsodo as a data tracking device to measure the spin and velocity on the ball. We can use high speed cameras from our physics department to get the slow-motion capture of how a ball is released out of a pitcher's hand. We are also able to use the biomechanics lab for 4D motion. Working here has been amazing because of the ability to expand my knowledge.
SA: What was your experience like as a player at Kent State?
RL: I loved every minute at Kent State. I was able to play under two different head coaches and four different pitching coaches, which allowed me to expand my knowledge of the game. Kent State taught me what it was like to be a team and that every single person was important, not just the nine playing on the field. The experience of playing in an NCAA Regional is something I want my own players to be able to experience. Kent State was also excellent about letting our team explore wherever the location we played at was.
SA: How did you become a graduate assistant at the University of Akron, and what was your experience like being a GA?
RL: The University of Akron is a rival to my alma mater, so the coaches knew who I was. Not being able to play anymore or coach the girls was a challenge. I was able to help as much as I could at practice by throwing live to the hitters. I also learned some of the tech side. During the games I was charting pitches. Learning under a new coaching staff was exciting and challenging. I loved learning new tactics to win. It took me out of my comfort zone because I was learning just as much as the players were. I enjoyed my time at Akron because I was able to pursue my master’s degree and stay close to the game I love.
SA: After Akron, you went to Utah Valley University. What was that experience like?
RL: Getting the job at UVU was a shot in the dark, to be honest. I was applying to every school with an assistant job available. Since my master’s degree was in exercise physiology, I was able to share my knowledge with the head coach, who also had a similar background. We were able to agree on a lot of ways to train pitchers for maximum output, which ended up being a large factor in how I was able to get the job. Due to COVID-19 and a head coaching change, that season was cut short. I was still able to learn a ton of different ways to coach and lead under two different head coaches.
SA: What are some differences you noticed going from player to coach?
RL: As a player, I was in control of each pitch and location, and I knew that if I messed up, it was my mistake. As a coach, not being able to control every scenario during a game is the most challenging part. When you must sit on the sidelines and trust that your practice plan has been good enough to develop a pitcher in a live scenario, it is tough. Over the last couple years, I have been able to give my players as much experience as possible during practice, so they are prepared for different scenarios in a game and know how to react.
SA: What is your long-term plan for your career?
RL: As of right now, I plan on continuing to pursue a coaching career in college athletics. I am fortunate to say that my job is my passion, no matter how time-consuming it is.