What does it take to turn mediocrity into excellence?
To turn “we’ll take it” into “that’s not good enough”?
Don’t ask Clint Myers, coach of the defending national champion ASU softball team. He’ll just tell you it’s his players.
“I believe that it’s all about the kids and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Myers said. “They buy into the program. They see themselves as special people, as lucky people. It’s them buying into one old guy’s philosophy.”
He’s got to be right, of course.
It’d be foolish to argue with a coach that guided his team to a 53-15 record in 2006 after it went 30-26 without him a year earlier. A coach that hasn’t missed the Women’s College World Series in his three seasons at the helm and already guided the University to its first NCAA softball title.
“We changed the perception just a little bit,” Myers said. “We tried to generate a perpetual tradition of greatness. We tried to change the mindset of how they perceived themselves. To have a certain amount of pride of what they were doing every year. We came up with the mantra ‘The time is now.’”
Indeed it is.
The program is receiving unprecedented attention from a newly founded booster club and has seen a significant spike in attendance since Myers came aboard. Myers said there were only four season-ticket holders when he took over, compared to the 400 there are now.
The impact on his players has also been undeniable.
“It’s everything he does,” senior outfielder Kaitlin Cochran said. “From practices to how he words things and communicates to you. It’s both motivating and inspiring. He’s a great man, a great family man and a great coach, too.
“We all look up to him as both as a coach and a father figure too.”
Before he was Coach Myers, he was Clint Myers, a catcher for the ASU baseball team during the 1970-1973 seasons. In his final two seasons, Myers and ASU finished as the College World Series runner-up.
“It has been a great opportunity to learn, to grow, to play,” he said. “It’s given me a lot of opportunities. That’s one thing about Arizona State. They take care of their own.”
After a three-year stint with MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals minor-league system, Myers began coaching in the Connie Mack League as skipper of the Long Beach Cardinals in 1975. This is when Clint became coach, and when “championship” became synonymous with “Myers.”
Since the Long Beach gig, Myers has coached at Casa Grande Union High School, Yavapai College, and Central Arizona College (where he coached both softball and baseball), winning titles at every stop.
His tenure at CAC resulted in seven National Junior College Athletic Association titles, with six coming in softball and one in baseball. He also won seven NJCCA Coach of the Year honors.
“Those were special days,” Myers said. “It just goes back to being able to relate to the players.”
But coming to ASU was different, as the Pac-10 Conference features the nation’s fiercest competition.
“I asked the question my first year: Why don’t we have a conference tournament?” Myers said. “And the other coaches all laughed and said, ‘We do. It’s called the College World Series.’”
Of the 25 Women’s College World Series, the Pac-10 has had one of its members in the championship game an incredible 23 times.
In the two years before Myers arrived, ASU went a combined 7-34 in conference play. In his first two seasons at ASU, the Sun Devils went a combined 24-18.
Even before his team dominated the country, they dominated the Pac-10, going 18-3 in regular-season play, including a sweep over rival UA.
So maybe you can’t always identify a single component to success. Sometimes all you can do is highlight the accomplishment itself.
Whether it’s coach Myers’ recruiting prowess, his exquisite knowledge of the game or just his winning attitude, it’s hard to say the coach has played a small role in ASU’s success.
“One of things we try and grind and teach here is that greatness is a way of life,” Myers said. “It’s a character trait. It’s something you got to believe and feel all the time. It’s a 24/7 mentality, and you can actually see these ladies accomplish it.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.