For Ohio State softball coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly, it’s not what her players do on the field that makes her most proud, but rather what they do when the gloves and bats are hung up for the day.
“I like to see their personal growth,” the coach said as her team was preparing to depart for this weekend’s series against Michigan State. “The fact that they are going to start their lives here is really rewarding to see.”
In particular, Schoenly is referring to the seniors on this year’s roster who, in just over a month, will be graduating and ready to face the post-college world.
Outside of softball, watching her players grow as humans and prepare for life after athletics is one of her favorite parts about coaching, she said.
“A lot of them are getting ready for grad school and med school and jobs,” Schoenly said. “They are ready when they graduate. It’s not a scary world, they are ready to go.”
Senior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly is one player her coach is particularly proud of. In her fourth year in the Buckeye system, Schoenly has watched the senior evolve both on and off the field, including O’Reilly’s most recent victory: acceptance to medical school.
“I wouldn’t be at this university if not for the softball program,” O’Reilly said. “I definitely would not have been able to meet the people I’ve met or networked the way I have. It is great to have been around these people every day.”
Playing a sport where her season consists of travel all over the country for games, O’Reilly said she has had her fair share of struggles.
“It has been really difficult,” she said. “But once you learn to organize yourself and get what you need to get done then it’s doable.”
However, finding the time to get schoolwork done is another story, as traveling to and from games serves as crucial team-bonding time.
Senior outfielder Caitlin Conrad attributed the closeness of the team to the amount of time spent on the road, noting that the bus can get pretty rowdy at times when the players take turns getting their “Bruno Mars” on.
“Road trips are always fun,” Conrad said. “The coaches really bring us together and we love to take turns singing at the front of the bus. ‘Uptown Funk’ is the favorite song right now.”
O’Reilly said there have been times, though, when steps have to be taken in order to get her work done.
“There is definitely an hour or two during trips where it is quiet because everyone is studying,” O’Reilly said. “But noise-proof headphones have definitely been an investment.”
Whether it be long road trips, schoolwork or Bruno Mars, both Conrad and O’Reilly said they believe the team has come a long way.
“I think our team is very resilient,” O’Reilly said. “We have 22 girls and only 20 travel so everyone is always chopping at each other to get on that travel list.”
Conrad added that it took a while for the team chemistry to reach the point it’s at now.
“The thing I’m most proud of is having so many personalities and a way to put them all together in order to have so much fun on the field,” she said.
These singing personalities will be taken on the road once again as the team is off to East Lansing, Mich., to battle Michigan State in a three-game series this weekend.
The Buckeyes go into the series with a 19-16 overall record and are looking to put themselves in the best spot possible come postseason play.
“Right now, we are just trying to hammer down and beat the teams we know we can beat,” Conrad said.